In the Historic Center

The view from the 30th floor of our hotel is fantastic! From this height, you don’t see the rough-around-the-edges neighborhoods, but a vast panorama of high rises set amidst many green areas and flanked by beautiful mountains. The day started well!
For breakfast, we walked to El Pendulo, a coffee shop set inside a bookstore in Polanco – a lovely spot. From there, we endured terrible traffic to the historical center of this town. Here is a question I can’t find an answer to: how is that in a city of so many poor people, there are so many private cars???
The historical center is huge and boasts many old and stately buildings – this had to be one hell of a city in its heyday. The city is a total architectural mishmash! Not only do the old colonial Spanish mansions cheerfully border Art Nouveau, beaux arts, modernist, modern, and simply ugly concrete buildings, the very same building often present a mixture of architectural styles. More often than not, it took so long to build them, that in the meanwhile, a new style became fashionable; and the structure was adjusted accordingly. Granted, if not beautiful, it is interesting to look at, has loads of history, and very lively. Also, it is surprisingly very clean and feels very safe. The number of policemen in riot gear armed with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests and shields is unprecedented! But it feels totally safe despite (or because) of their presence. I have been to Latin American cities where I felt very uncomfortable, but not here – people look perfectly nice, hardly a shady character around.
And beauty is to be found here also. It is hidden inside many doorways and courtyards. Several restored old hotels are insanely opulent, many restaurants have charming decor, and some brasseries, pastry shops, and stores retained their original art nouveau interior. I bought Mexican sweets in an old candy shop, out of a storybook, the one Frida herself once frequented!
Originally, I allocated half a day for the historical center but we ended up spending an entire day- there is so much to see here, and we didn’t even see it all.
Back to Polanco is like going to another country – the contrast is staggering! Polanco is an enclave of white people, while the rest of the city is inhabited mostly by brown-skinned descendants of the Aztecs. It’s like two cities in one! Or rather three cities: the third is the part where people from the first two cities never go: the third city is poor and drug-ridden, and very dangerous. But in the first two cities, people are living la vida loca, eat, drink, shop, dance, and make merry.

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