Destination Mexico City
PACK YOUR BAGS
One of my main philosophies in life is to take a trip once a year to somewhere entirely new. With all my personal history, years of running a tourism business, and love for global textiles and cultures — it is important to me to take some time once a year to check myself. To help myself see and understand the world beyond the constructs we live in.
The past few years I’ve taken wonderful groups of creative women to Morocco, a place close to my heart and family. We’ve been to special cities like Marrakesh and Chefchaouen, seen ruins of ancient powerful civilizations, visited natural wonders, met local artisans, tasted delicious cuisine, and bought beautiful objects and mementos to remember our time there.
These trips are an amazing opportunity to get to know other creative people in a setting unlike any event in your local area. It’s really all about being immersed and present wherever we are – whether that’s with our group of people who are getting to know each other in such a meaningful way, or the process of seeing life from another perspective.
This year I have the pleasure of teaming up with interior designer extraordinaire Guinevere Johnson, founder of Third Coast Interiors. An incredible designer and friend – Guin’s got a whole lot of knowledge about Mexico City to share. Having lived there for several years, teaching at universities, checking out the architecture, galleries, and food, and falling in love have given here plenty of experiences worth sharing. Together we’ll be leading a trip to Mexico City this coming October for Design Week Mexico!
Want to come along? Check out our packet full of information with all the juicy details.
HISTORY of MEXICO CITY
The history of Mexico City begins with the power of symbolism. The Mexica (aka the Aztec) people had a prophecy that said they would find their promised land when they saw an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus holding a snake in its beak. They saw that very thing on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico in 1325. At first what seemed like an unnecessarily complex place to build a massive city — Mexico City which was then called Tenochititlan — turned out to be one of the most magnificently designed cities in the world. The city was built on Lake Texcoco by creating a series of causeways and canals, as well as partially draining some areas of the lake to create roads and a grid system layout for the city. This created a unique environment that was a balance between being a convenient place to navigate for trade, and an easily defendable city. Another crucial piece of the puzzle was the balance between cityscape and farmland, which allowed Tenochititlan to have a bustling agriculture economy and feed its growing population. This balance of cityscape, nature, and farmland led Tenochititlan to become a center for politics, trade, and the military creating a booming empire.
Over the next several centuries Mexico City was transformed through changes of power, territory, and violence. Whether it was the Spanish toppling the Mexica (Aztec) empire, or the United States stealing a huge amount of Mexican land, or the fight for independence from colonizers, or the corruption of former Mexican presidents — it is important to remember that culture, tradition, and way of life are not so easily eradicated, and that every great city in the world is created through a fusion of peoples and cultures that survive through adaptation and change.
Mexico City, D.F., through all of these changes remains to this day a bustling metropolis that makes up a shocking fifth of the total population of Mexico. The city is famous for several major attractions including its’ main square commonly called El Zocalo, which features a towering cathedral called the Metropolitana, as well as the Castle of Chapultepec which has been used as a military academy, palace and museum over the centuries, and the Xochimilco aka Little Venice which is famous for its’ romantic floral boat rides in the canals. With most of the canals of the ancient city having been filled in long ago, the residents of D.F. get around by car, or their extensive Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro. Also worth seeing are the street markets like the Merced where you can get fresh produce, livestock, and delicious street food in a bustling sensory environment. Churches in every neighborhood attest to the huge influence both in D.F. and the country itself the Roman Catholic Church has. The population of D.F. like the U.S. has become a melting pot both racially and culturally, creating a nuanced reality where specific heritage is often systematically linked with various degrees of class and power. Some of the best known neighborhoods include Santa Fe which is known for being bougie, Coyoacan which is artsy and is home to the Frida Kahlo museum, Xochimilco or the romantic Little Venice, and Polanco which is known for its architecture and shopping.
NEIGHBORHOODS OF INTEREST
Check out our interactive map of CDMX HERE
Although El Centro, the Historic Center is only a four hour flight from Chicago, it feels that you are arriving in a completely enchanting other world. With a history that goes all the way back to the Aztecs, El Centro is full of important ancient ritual sites, combined with the cobblestone streets and architecture of the Spanish colonial period. Notable in particular are the massive central plaza called El Zocalo, the Metropolitan Cathedral which is an important site for Catholics, the National Palace which was once the seat of government, and the Templo Mayor which was the original Aztec temple of Tenochtitlan. Murals by Diego Rivera abound in the government buildings, Tiffany windows in the Hotel Ciudad and the magnificence of Spanish architecture abounds. All of the eras layered on top of each other is truly fascinating and really gives you a perspective of your place within the history of humanity. From the bustling streets, to the gorgeous rooftop views, we will soak in all the history this neighborhood has to offer.
Polanco is home to Design Week Mexico. Often called the Beverly Hills of Mexico City – Polanco is home to luxury shopping, chic home decor boutiques, galleries, embassies, museums, and the homes of the rich and famous. This is a great walking neighborhood, full of lush plant life, sidewalk restaurants, and local parks. Polanco is famous for having some of the very best Deco and Contemporary architecture in the Americas. In addition to the locals, you will also see many Americans and Europeans around.
La Roma is one of the hippest neighborhoods in Mexico City. It is home to artists, chefs, writers, and designers. Known for the French style mansions that blend in a beautifully disarming way with the Mexican 80’s architecture, you’ll definitely find yourself snapping pictures of the local homes. One of the major forces of culinary skill in city, La Roma is a great place to grab a bite, get a drink, or hit the club. In classic hipster tradition you can also find many galleries, cultural centers, and places to shop along the beautiful streets. Even with everything it has going on, La Roma is still one of the calmest and most romantic places in the city to take a stroll.
Condesa is sort of known as the place to be. Absolutely bursting with restaurants, you can easily find any cuisine and aesthetic eating experience you’re looking for in Condesa. Also worth checking out are the many boutiques and galleries the young fashionable hipsters have opened up along the major avenues of the neighborhood. Parque Mexico adds some green space with gorgeous Art Deco details to the area where the yuppies, students, and dog walkers can all gather.
Coyoacan was once a smaller city on the outskirts of D.F. that was eventually absorbed as the capital grew outwards. Because of that history Coyoacan has its own layout with its’ famous twin plazas, cobblestone streets, and single family homes leftover from the colonial period. A major tourist destination and a popular day trip from the center of D.F., it is worth seeing Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s home and studio, as well as the many performances, vendors, and restaurants booming during festivals.