YOU Travel Whangarei's Adventure Consultant, David Moss, is travelling through Las Vegas, Mexico and Cuba. Here is his latest trip - In the footsteps of Cortés, Mexico City
Aeromexico 481, from Las Vegas to Mexico City was more than just a flight - it was a time machine, because to walk the streets of Mexico City is to literally walk the very footsteps of Hernán Cortés, the vile Spanish Conqueror of Mesoamerica.
For a city of twenty one million people, I had expected Mexico City to have the hustle and bustle of Shanghai (population twenty four million), and the traffic congestion of Bangkok (population nine million), but not so. Our transfer into the city took only forty minutes, and was a smooth and easy ride. The whole casual pace of the city belies its size.
Our hotel, the Best Western Majestic was converted into a tourist hotel only eighty-three years ago, and for the 200 years before it was the residence of wealthy families. The fittings, the style, the feel of this elegant 3 star hotel, from the bright spiral tiled staircase to its airy rooftop restaurant hark back to its opulent past.
The old metal double windows of our room open up directly over the Zocalo - the original city square. From four stories up we can literally see history unfold.
To the left, the Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de Mexico. This is a Catholic church that Cortés himself had commissioned to be built over Aztec temples some 400 years ago.
Directly in front of us, the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), on which site was an Aztec palace that was torn down and the materials use to make the ruling seat of the victorious Spanish.
To our right, various ministerial buildings including the Antiguo Ayuntamiento (built in 1532), where the current Mexican government meet.
On our first day we took the obligatory tour to familiarize ourselves with the city. To get an understanding of the extreme vintage of this place, you need to know a little of their past. We got a short history lesson of the last two thousand years!
Here is a bit of the history our amazing tour guides shared with us:
From around 2000BC there were many tribes of the area, but the four main indigenous peoples were Aztecs, Mayans, Mixtecos, and Zapotecas. The Mayans were great builders, and constructed many temples, pyramids, and shrines. The Aztecs were the last to come to power, and adopted and added too many of the Mayan buildings. This was the "Pre-Colombian" period.
In 1519 the Spanish explorer and plunderer, Hernán Cortés, landed a small army of 600. With his body of steel and his thundering hooves, the locals revered him as the new coming of their great god Quetzalcoatl (the creator). For the next few hundred years, Cortés and his successors proceeded to forcibly "civilise" the new world, placing Cathedrals where pagan shrines once were, and spreading their colonial beliefs and diseases until some two million indigenous people had succumbed and died. This was the "New Spain" period.
In the early 1800's the colonists rebelled and in 1821 gained independence from their masters in Spain. This was the "Independence War" period.
The country then entered the "Mexican Republic" period, but did not find peace. Mexico's northern states (current day California, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), came under attack from white settlers heading Southwest, eager to gain new land and resources. With indigenous Mexicans being slaughtered or evicted from their homes, the Government sent General Santa Ana north with the Mexican army. Santa Ana was defeated by the Western usurpers and the northern territories conceded to the USA.
Shortly after the American/Mexican war, the French invaded seeking reparation for loans that cash-strapped Mexico had defaulted on. The French "intervention" (read "Invasion") and occupation lasted for six years with the Austrian, Maximillian placed to rule as Emperor.
In 1910, the people once again rebelled, and the Mexican Revolution was won in 1911 with the ousting the tyrannical dictator President Porfirio Díaz.
I recommend booking yourself a historical tour through this beautiful place!
In the historical centre of Mexico City, travellers will be amazed by the variety of ancient cathedrals and churches, and dazzled by the everyday architecture that the Spanish and French occupiers left behind.
Local tavernas are abundant, and serve cheap local delicacies. Enchiladas, Quesadillas, Chilaquiles, Tamales, and of course plenty of guacamole and tacos on the side!
Each main dish will cost around NZ$10 and a local brand beer about NZ$3.50. If you are like me, and have no real experience with Mexican cuisine, it's just a case of trying everything and seeing if you like it!
(Oh, and don't forget to leave a tip. 50 pesos, about NZ$4.50, should be fine).
Buenas noches for now!
Click here to follow David's next adventure to Mesoamerica.