One of the things I love about Mexico City is the presence of random scenery, sometimes not coinciding with the typical image we have of this city, even for those who know it. Considering it’s the second largest city in the world, and both the most beautiful and ugliest city I’ve seen (within a kilometer or so of each other), both exciting and boring, monotonous and ever-changing, it’s no surprise that there is no “rule” about what kind of interesting scenes you’ll find at any given moment. As a complete side note that I feel like sharing, with a probable population of approx. 400,000 gringos it’s the largest community of Americans outside of the USA.
That having been said, the three pictures I’m sharing today are fairly typical to the city, and rather un-random. But they caught my attention for different reasons. So here they are:
|A former church-turned-museum – the Borough Office for Benito Juarez (near Tacubaya, at Parque Lira)|
This is a very common scene in Mexico – an abandoned old church that his been restored far better than many that remain in actual use; the reason is that they have been converted to museums, giving all levels of government, private foundations, artists and the public a vested interest in restoring them. This particular church was built in 1906, consecrated by a representative of the great Pope St. Pius X. It was used to serve an adjoining community home – for street kids, I believe – a building which is now a city office. When the home went out of use some 40 years ago, the church went out of use with it, and was soon turned into a museum.
I found out this information at the demand of my 4-year-old son, who was insistent on knowing why there was no mass being held, and why the church was filled with colourful sculptures of dragons from Mexican folklore instead of saints. After asking the lady at the desk, and passing the story on to my son, he began to sob loudly. When he finally calmed down enough to talk, he asked me if we could go find the priest (meaning the one responsible for this church building) and give him money so he could turn it back into a church and have mass there again.
I see this as an “old” church, but in relative terms, it’s very new, and served as church building for a brief 60-70 years. It reminds me of the time when I was visiting a village near my wife’s grandpa‘s farm; when I asked him about the “old church” on the town square, he corrected me and told me that the church wasn’t old; he remembered seeing the completion of the church as a child, meaning it was no more than 80 years old – a very recent innovation in the village.
|A crucifix with rosaries in a bus|
This is actually a fairly mild example of bus decoration; drivers will include anything from crucifixes and saints, to poster girls, and sometimes even both side by side. I’ve seen a few buses with statues of
. This driver had only the crucifix and rosaries. Rosaries on the rear-view mirrors of taxis and other cars are pretty commonplace. I can’t speak for this driver, or make generalizations, but I know a number of people who will show many outward signs of Catholic faith like this, but are fairly uninterested in mass and even anti-clerical. My brother-in-law, for example, will cross himself when he sees a church building or sacred image, or when he hears of that someone has died, and he commonly asks people to pray for him (to God or to the Virgin Mary), but my wife can’t remember once that he’s attended mass. He doesn’t think much of priests or pastors either – and even less of other churches. So, he’s definitely not atheist, and most certainly couldn’t count as Protestant, but does he count as a Catholic? I think he would say so, and I think, in some sense, I would agree. But it falls outside of our usual northern paradigm where its not likely that someone who has stopped attending church would continue showing outward signs of religion, with strong dedication.
|The Coca-Cola Building (or “Ermita”) in Tacubaya|
This building is a famous landmark in the heart of Tacubaya. I don’t know if there used to be more buildings like this one, but from what I’ve seen, it’s unique in Mexico City – I haven’t seen any others of this style. It was build in 1925 (from what I gathered from a quick google search) and is, as I like to point out to my wife, the “Future of the Past.” When they build it, I’m sure they thought it was what the future would look like – a future that, of course, never arrived. If I understand correctly, the name “Ermita” comes from a previous building on the site, which was a small chapel. (“Ermita” means “Hermitage.” – see
; both are in Spanish, but they have neat historic pictures of Mexico City even if can’t read the descriptions.)
I think the back is a theater, or was a theater, at least. Right across the road from this building is the only store where I’ve bought running shoes since I’ve lived in Mexico; they have great prices on New Balance. I save my running-shoe shopping for my annual visits to the city.