Sunday in Mexico City

November 5, 2012 • 6:08 am

As expected, our morning and afternoon involved a lot of sightseeing and a lot of food. Our hosts from the local atheist organization picked up Annie Laurie Gaylor and me from our hotel this morning (Michael Shermer was flying back to the U.S. this afternoon), and took us to breakfast. Since it was at El Cardenal, the place I ate the other day, and it was 10 a.m., there was a half-hour wait. (There is never not a line there!) We took advantage of our time to walk around the nearby Zócalo, or plaza.

We showed Annie Laurie the Diego Rivera murals in the Governor’s Palace, and I took two more pictures (I have a gazillion of these amazing murals).  Click photos to enlarge.

This one, appropriate for Annie Laurie, shows the separation of church and state as embodied in Mexican law:

The inquisition in Mexico. Rivera was an atheist, and his murals are full of not-so-subtle denigrations of the Catholic Church. It’s amazing that they let him paint this stuff all over public buildings in Catholic Mexico!

The hosts asked to photograph Annie Laurie and I in the Governor’s Palace; I was pleased to have a picture taken with one of my atheist heroes (thanks to reader Lee for lightening the photo):

Beadwork for sale:

The western edge of the plaza contains a sad sight: a group of unemployed Mexicans seeking work, advertising their trade with signs placed in front of their seats:

Breakfast was a happier event. I started with hot chocolate again (they let me stir the pot with the mexican wooden thingie that foams the chocolate), and a sweet bread with preserved fig:

The main course, chilaquiles with beef, and a glass of tangerine juice (yum!) to wash it down. Oy, was I full!

After lunch we wandered back to the hotel so our host (treasurer of the atheists’ society), Gerardo Romero Quijada, could do a four-way podcast with Michael, Annie Laurie, and me. I’ll put up the link when it comes out:

After lunch we made a foray to the Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor, an important site in the ancient city of Tenochtitlan, and the city encountered by Cortes and his men when they arrived in the city in 1519 to begin their orgy of murder and destruction.  The ruins of this important temple, dedicated to two gods, were uncovered when an electrical company began excavating near the cathedral in 1978. Since then, much of the temples (there were 7, built atop each other as each one subsided in the swampy ground) have been restored, and many of the artifacts put into a fantastic nearby museum.

Here are some of the ruins (where, by the way, the Aztecs practiced their gruesome religious rituals of human sacrifice), with the Catholic cathedral behind.  One bloody superstition replaces another:

There are many beautiful objects in the museum; I’ll show only two. The first is an eagle carved in stone; it is about the size of a small table:

This, I was told, was the God of the Dead, Mictlantecuhtli, with his liver exposed. A website explaining the statue says this:

This statue depicts Mictlantecuhtli’s liver falling from his chest; the Aztecs believed that a person’s liver housed his passion, much like today’s society associates the heart with passion. The holes in Mictlantecuhtli’s head would have been filled with curly hair, which represented chaos to the Aztecs.

Note to Ben Goren: intestines are not sacred.

After a few hours of museum- and ruin-viewing, we felt a bit peckish, and were promptly taken to El Moro, the best place in Mexico City to get chocolate and churros, which are a kind of long, deep-fried cruller sprinkled with sugar. As you walk in, you encounter a team of four people squirting the dough into hot oil in a spiral, removing the cooked spirals, cutting them into segments, and sprinkling them with sugar:

El Moro is open 24 hours a day. You can choose among four kinds of hot chocolate (as well as milkshakes and coffee); I had the Spanish chocolate, which is the richest and thickest. It’s like liquid chocolate pudding.

This is a decadent treat. You can, if you wish, dip the churros into the chocolate.

Everyone loves churros y chocolate!

It would take me weeks and weeks to even begin to scratch the surface of the comestibles on tap in this wonderful city, and of course there are all the sights. This morning I go to Teotihuacan, the most famous pre-Columbian ruins in Mexico.

Oh, and for those readers who want to admonish me for eating unhealthily, please refrain as it will tick me off. I know this stuff is not good as a steady diet, but I eat like this only during short jaunts to foreign climes.

25 thoughts on “Sunday in Mexico City

  1. Sorry, just a very minor quibble: Teotihuacan is not an Aztec site, it was abandoned long before the Aztecs appeared on the scene. I just felt I should point that out, being one of those rare instances when there is something posted on your website I feel I am actually knowledgeable about. For those interested, the wikipedia article you link to gives a good short summary on the site. Enjoy Teo.

  2. Oh man that cup of Spanish chocolate and the churros looks amazing. Damned right I’d be dippin’ them churros in there.

    Great photos in this post!


  3. “Her voice is low and sweet –
    And she’s a’ the world to me;
    And for bonnie Annie Laurie
    I’d lay me down and dee.”

  4. my husband and I regularly make spanish style hot chocolate by making cooked chocolate pudding and using twice the milk required on the package. With a little cinnamon and cayenne, it’s the perfect thing for a cold evening.

  5. How could anyone scold you for eating such awesome food? I can’t get my brain to move past, “Where can I get some?”!

    1. It would be one thing to eat like that all the time, but the man is on vacation.

      I eat healthy and exercise, and I would eat most of that stuff if I were on vacation. Part of being on vacation is trying local specialties.

  6. Rivera was an atheist, and his murals are full of not-so-subtle denigrations of the Catholic Church. It’s amazing that he let them paint this stuff all over public buildings in Catholic Mexico!

    Excuse me, Jerry, I’m trying to make sense of the sentence: but don’t you rather mean “they let him paint this stuff all over public buildings” ?

    There was a time, in the 1920s and ’30s, especially during and after the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles, when the post-revolutionary régime in Mexico was fervently anti-Catholic and earned the distinction of no less than three hostile encyclicals from Pius XI. Rivera’s anti-Catholic murals were quite in tune with the party line.

    Graham Greene wrote about that period of Mexican history when he was trying the mantle of the Catholic zealot for size, notably in The Power and the Glory, known to John Ford buffs as The Fugitive.

    (Sorry if I’m picking nits where there may be none, but I’ve spent two days and two nights proofreading my part of a book on Compositional Data Analysis in archaeological geochemistry, and the typesetters managed to botch every single damn equation and formula. So I’m still in grumpy adversarial proofreading mode, sorry if I get you wrong. (And no, they don’t dig LaTeX or any of the good stuff, I converted everything as PostScript and PDF and RTF, and they still botched it.))

    1. You have my sympathy. It really is infuriating when people insist on typesetting maths without using LaTeX.

      I’m trying to work out what archaeological geochemistry is, though. Or do you mean geochemical archaeology, which is more obvious and would clearly involve a lot of compositional data?

      Back on topic, there’s a small but rather good Mesoamerican room in the British Museum, but those photos make me want to see it all in situ.

      1. I’m trying to work out what “geochemical archaeology” is 🙂
        I’m confident about the geochemical analyses; I’m reasonably confident about the CoDA, if I get to do it myself; not so much about the archaeology.

        But indeed, back to the main topic: I wonder if Jerry gets to hear echoes of Mexico’s anti-clerical past.

        1. Looks like we’re talking about the same thing (using geochemistry in archaeology) but labeling it with different terms.

          Now what does that remind me of here…….?

  7. “there were 7, built atop each other as each one subsided in the swampy ground”-JAC

    “All the kings said I was daft to build a castle in a swamp, but I built it all the same just to show ’em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp”

  8. So, the Morons were right — Jesus really did come to the New World…in the form of Mictlantecuhtli!

    Went to Hell, judges the dead, intestines falling out of his chest…how could anybody miss the connection?


  9. Those Churros look a lot like ‘Chinese donuts.’ And the Wiki link suggests the Portuguese got the idea from the Chinese.

  10. I’m glad that you have enjoyed your stay in my country and I’m thankful for your kind support to the mexican atheist community. If you come back try pozole for meal 😉

  11. There is a fascinating movie waiting to be made about the politics and art of the Mexican muralists, particularly as they intersected with Trotsky, his affair with Frida Kahlo, his ostensible friendship w/ Rivera, and his escape from attempted assassination at the hands of the Stalinist Mexican muralist Siquieros.

    Thanks for posting these wonderful photos!

  12. I strongly recommend to all that you read The Conquest of Mexico by Prescott. Brilliantly written.

    The conquest mainly involved Cortez co-opting the various states in that area to fight against each other. Very interesting story.

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