This trip occurred in 2014. I had written these posts a long time ago on a different computer which I just gained access to again. I hope you enjoy Mexico as much as we did. It is a wonderful place to visit and live.
We agreed to check out boat rides on the advice of friends. It took about an hour and two trains to get far enough south to the canals. The specific district was named Xochimilco and they had gondola style boats to take you through the waters to see small islands. People apparently lived on small parcels of land in the middle of these canals and some had decorated their land exotically.
If you’ve ever heard or seen pics of doll island, this is where we were heading. Some guy had hung hundreds of plastic, baby parts all over his land, giving an already creepy area a near hell like status. We all noticed this area felt a lot different than the City. Much smaller, a bit less people and we stuck out as tourist a lot more. We found the launching pad for the boats and discovered that all were available, no one had rented a boat yet so we’d be the only ones out on the water. Also no one would know we went out at all except the couple guys milling around the dock, drinking beers. After discussing with locals the logistics and cost, we all felt significantly spooked to forget the whole affair. It wasn’t tourist season, they explained but they had one guy that would take us out. Would he take us back is what we all wondered.
We got out where we switched trains, it was hard not to notice the immense futbol stadium, Estadio Azteca from the window. I’d never seen a live futbol match and had heard how crazy but fun they were. We investigated and were subjected to many scalpers the entire way to the ticket counter. The match was later in the early evening so we had several hours to kill. We picked up tickets and headed back to the train. We had another top site to see, El Angel, and it was closer to where we were at now vs. Zocolo.
This stature was the symbol for Mexico City and appeared on TV shows and other programs to indicate where they took place. The statue itself is a tall column with an angel on top, rising up in the middle of a huge four way intersection downtown. Crossing the street to get to El Angel is not for the slow or faint of heart, cars are constantly whizzing by from all directions and traffic signals are a suggestion at best. You just saw an opening and ran for it. You can walk around and through the base. I learned that tickets were available to enter all the way to the top of the statue. A special pass and permission from the police was needed so we weren’t able to see the view.
We continued walking, ultimately to another train station, but with the goal of seeing things along the route. We took a break inside a wonderful park. Trees, futbol, and food were all around our table as were what seemed to be a gallon bottle of Coke at another family’s picnic. Further up a steep roadway was a castle that now housed the City’s history museum. Chapultepec Castle was its name, but they charged admission for a tour. We didn’t think we’d have enough time to see the castle, eat and train back in time for the game. A wise choice we realized upon arriving at the train station. Every car was packed and we had to wait for a couple trains before we could board. It was shoulder to shoulder all around, adding extra heat to an already hot environment. It seems the heat got to one person as the train sat a long time at the station. A police officer showed up and side carried a guy who had passed out off the train. I’d say we sat on that car sweating for about 20 minutes before I realized what was going on.
On the train to the stadium, I was near a young girl who put on makeup the entire ride. In the time I boarded to the time we got out at the stadium she went from a little girl to woman. I wasn’t sure what her profession was, it could have been anything as most products are pitched by women, seductively dressed in short, short skirts and full make up. Didn’t matter what it was, phones, gum, trinkets, they all used females as saleswomen. Many guys would stop and talk, maybe some would buy but these ladies dressed to receive your attention. I sure hope she was just selling something safe, like phone plans.
They take tailgating to another level in México! Hundreds of people milled around out front of the stadium grilling meats and corn, selling beer and playing carney style games. We stood and watched while we waited in the security line to get inside. I noticed they made everyone raised their hands and patted everyone down, searched purses and confiscated items. I saw several guys’ belts taken, likely due to their big buckles, but they let me keep mine. We kept walking around and around, up and up, on a concrete ramp until we were at the top level where our seats were. Stepping out into the arena was a sight I’ll never forget. I’ve never seen so many people inside one place and the noise, my god it’s the loudest thing I’ll ever hear! Thousands of people cheering and singing different songs at the same time at the top of their voices, a band played along with both. Sheer cacophony!
We made our way to our seats, in a not too crowded section, there were a few empty seats around us, making getting in and out much easier. The game was already underway, as was drinking. There didn’t seem to be any limit on beers, so long as you could physically say what you wanted, they sold you a beer. I bought one and settled in to watch the spectacle unfold. The premium box seats were at either goal and surrounded by a chain link fence. In fact, chain link fences were all over the stadium. It separated sections and fans of different teams. These games were not for sitting in the opposing teams section, they would probably beat you up or physically remove you. The air was thick with tension, that was for sure. Behind each goal was a section just for police in riot gear. Surrounding the ledges on most sections were more riot police, with shields and batons. The home team was called the Americas.
Things were going well during the first half, but it was 0-0. During halftime some very loud, drunk guys behind us began walking around to others in our section. They chanted a lot. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I hoped they were just singing special fight songs. I decided to turn my attention to the cavalcade of people parading onto the field.
They turned the goals into breadboxes to advertise a bread company, many banners and other sponsor swag was on display. I couldn’t believe there was a way to get more ads at a sporting event, but yet here it was. Everywhere you cared to look had an ad for something on it. What’s this, a couple guys were walking down seats into my area. They said in broken English, ‘drink cup,’ and preceded to hand a cup with a hole in the bottom. My friend translated they wanted me to chug beer from their cup. I put the cup with a hole to my lips, mind you they’d been going around to other guys for awhile so my lips weren’t the only ones to have been here, and poured beer rapidly into the cup. I chugged as fast as I could but didn’t fully get it all down, a bit dribbled onto my beard and shirt. Everyone around me cheered! I was relived and humbled, most people are friendly if you give them a chance, and I wish more people, including myself at times, realized this.
Things intensified on the field after the halftime break. The Americas fans chanted ‘puuuuuuuuuto,’ whenever the opposing team’s goalie kicked the ball. They were calling him a pussy, thousands of people, kids, everyone. After a bit I noticed a commotion behind the goal. Several people were yelling down to another section. I saw beers fly, well I hoped it was beer, more than likely it was pee in a cup, raining down onto most people in the lower section. A man tentatively scaled the chain link fence but didn’t make it all the way to do anything, just yelled up at them. Surprisingly, no one intervened.
The Americas scored the lone goal of the game to win and the place erupted with cheers.
We rushed out as soon as the game ended though a lot of people didn’t move. Once we made it outside the stadium, the reality of the situation was driven home. Several police surrounded a bloody headed guy, his arms behind his back. They made it to some stairs and he took a deliberate tumble down them. For sure, if you were arrested for intoxication, fighting, the police here ensured you felt your mistake physically. A bit later we saw another guy get batoned to the ground, not sure why. I began to worry about the train situation. How long would we have to wait, there were thousands of people? Luck was again with us as we didn’t even break stride and walked onto an express train that would take us towards Zocolo. I felt a great relief as the doors closed and we pulled away from the chaotic scene at the stadium.
It was quite the end to a great stay in the City. We had decided to split up our trip between Mexico City and Guadalajara, the most time spent in the City, three days, four nights. Our flight was very early and we had to leave even earlier to catch the train to the airport. That was the rub, car traffic was unknown. The train left very early, but its arrival time was much more accurate. I was as happy and as tired as could be when I laid down onto the top bunk that night. I’d survived and had a great time in Mexico City, a place several people discouraged me from visiting due to the violence. I felt that danger is everywhere, in whatever city you live in, there is somewhere that you could get shot, stabbed or kidnapped. I figured if any of these happened, doing it experience a new city is the best place for it vs. just making a wrong turn into a seedy area at home.