Finding the angel of Mexico City

Mexico City
Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

I arrive in Mexico City and through snarled Friday night traffic we make our way to my hotel.

Of course, Mexico City feels like a different planet to Merida. For that matter, it’s like a different world to Perth.  Just compare Perth’s 2,022,044 people to Mexico City’s 20,998,543.

People in Merida had warned me about Mexico City. They told me that people there didn’t speak English, and that crime was rife. When it’s the biggest city in North America you can see why it would get a reputation, and be viewed with derision or distrust.

I checked in to my hotel, showered, charged my phone, and set out onto the busy Mexico City streets to find the Ángel de la Independencia, a monument celebrating the start of Mexico’s war of independence.

I’d seen the angel from the taxi on my way in, and since it was nearby, figured why not? I had nothing else to do. It was too early for dinner, and I’d already spent enough time sitting around doing nothing over the past 48 hours.

I found the way there along a bustling street that felt like London’s Leicester Square. There are bars and restaurants and live music and suddenly: I feel lonely.

People all around me are celebrating Friday night with friends, and I’m on my own. Even if I went to bar I’d still be drinking alone, and besides that, they don’t feel like my kind of place.

El Ángel of Mexico City

Photo by Daniel Alvarez Sanchez Diaz on Unsplash
Photo by Daniel Alvarez Sanchez Diaz on Unsplash

Once I reach El Ángel, a random man in the street tries to accost me.

I have no idea what he wants, so I just ignore him. It’s the safest thing to do in a city like this, where you are very obviously a tourist, and alone.

I find a bench nearby where other people are sitting, and sit down to admire the Angel from a distance.

I don’t know if this is a public bench just as a place to sit, or if the other people are waiting for a bus. And as I sit there, I’m not sure what do next.

I set out to find the Angel, and I found it. This was not a very difficult task, it is nearly 50 metres tall and quite visible. So what now?

This is when I notice a tour guide selling tickets for a sightseeing bus. I enjoy a good tourist bus, so with broken, faltering English (people weren’t kidding about the lack of English in Mexico City) he explains to me how it works.

I buy a ticket to ride.

While I’m waiting for the next tour to start, I start to walk away so I can get a couple of photos of the Angel — and the guide runs after me to tell me that’s not where the bus leaves from! I reassure him, as best as I can, that I am coming back.

The bus ride quickly takes the loneliness out of things.

Sure, it was full of people all speaking Spanish, and none of them is alone, but it’s a shared, communal experience.

It feels less lonely than the bars. Furthermore, from my spot on the top deck I can watch the world go by and see the sites.

I don’t understand anything that the tour narration says, but it’s more about moving.

At worst, one is in motion; and at best, Reaching no absolute, in which to rest, One is always nearer by not keeping still.

I also have no idea how long the tour is meant to last, and if I am meant to just stay on board and do different tour loops. I figure that I’ll just stay on the bus until I reach the angel again.

Before long, it starts to rain and they close the roof. Then the windows steam up. Between the steam, the rain, and the Spanish commentary, I’ve no idea about anything. But I’m having a good time anyway.

By the time the tour takes me back to the Angel, the rain has intensified. It has turned into one of the heaviest storms the city has known — either that year or forever or something.

It’s impressive either way. And I have neither a jacket or an umbrella.

Finding Food in Mexico City

Mexican restaurant
Photo by Vitchakorn Koonyosying on Unsplash

Running as a group of gazelles through the wet streets, several of us run to the overhang of a nearby bank.

We join other people also sheltering from the rain. But it’s no good, this is just an island and the rain isn’t going anywhere.

Instead, I dodge the rain as best as I can to get back to my hotel and search for a restaurant the driver had recommended to me earlier.

All I remember being told about it was that it had Mariachi music, and I saw it was near a crappy looking place. So I navigate to that, figuring it must be within a block radius, so all I need to do is treat it as a wheel and circle around it.

My restaurant is as promised. There is live music (I’m excited to see mariachis, it’s just like my favourite film el Mariachi) and one of the singers is wearing a wrestling mask. I don’t know why.

I begin to wonder if this was such a wise decision after all. But hey the food is hot and the beer is cold.

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