Mexico City, Mexico La Calzada de los Muertos

Stopped at the newsstand in SeaTac airport. A prayer, once more, to my benevolent corporate masters (now with new flavors) for safe passage on this, my final journey.

Danced at the Zocalo in Mexico City. Nice turnout. Lots of students and young families.

Also, a German.

The Zocalo is the third largest city square in the world. The other two are Red Square and Tiananmen Square. It actually feels a lot like those places. The Marxist vibe is a bit out of place.

Some folks suggested dancing with the traditional Aztec street performers just outside the square. They wear elaborate headgear with massive plumage. Forgot to take a picture, so I’m stealing one.

410184_mexico_dancing1

Dancing with them turned out to be tricky. Their dance is sacred and they are very sensitive about being mocked or exploited. I had a half dozen locals lobbying on my behalf, which was enough to get them in for one take, but when they saw the way we danced, it made their "blood boil."

At first there was speculation that they wanted more money. That proved false. It really was about respect and consideration.

They asked that we not use the footage. I apologized and told them I understood their point of view. We worked for a while to smooth things over.

They invited us to learn their dance. We did. They explained its history and meaning. We listened. They gave us permission to join them in a circle dance. It felt good to make amends, and it was one of those daunting and nervy experiences that this project delivers on a regular basis. But alas, circle dancing isn’t all that conducive to what I’m doing. I got a very proper and respectful clip of our backsides.

After the dance, I was planning to go up north to Teotihuacán. I mentioned this to a few of the participants and they offered to take me, so I made a day of it with David, Matus, Gabrielle, Antonio, and Diana.

David almost missed a turn on the way up. Matus shouted, "Izuierda! Izquierda! Izquierda!"

"Man, you guys really need a shorter word for ‘left’."

I visited Teotihuacán once when I was thirteen on a class trip. All I remember are the cruel steps leading up the sun pyramid. I don’t hear about the place very often, so I’d kind of relegated it in my mind as a fairly middling site that’s notable mainly for its proximity to Mexico City.

That was a false impression. The sun pyramid in particular is pretty damn spectacular. Granted, there have been some changes.

It’s the third largest pyramid in the world (another third largest). The second is only a couple hours away by car, but it’s buried under a mountain of dirt. The biggest, in Giza, is of course nothing to scoff at, but you can’t climb to the top of it unless you’re also willing to spend some time in an Egyptian jail cell. I have a harder time enjoying things that I can’t climb on top of.

Apparently new agey people really dig Teotihuacán. There was a circle of them up top with us reciting prayers they’d written about peace, love, and understanding. I’m inclined to poke fun, but whatever. I don’t see any harm in it.

I find it harder to restrain myself with the Mormons.

The main drag is called the Avenue of the Dead, which is a great name for any street.

One rather amazing and unanticipated consequence of making the dancing videos is that I have friends in just about every country.

Pic_002_2

David asked me, "What stereotypes do Americans have about Mexicans?"
"Hmm?"
"You know," Matus added, "what kinds of jokes do people make about Mexicans?"
"Uhh…well. Uh."
"It’s okay. We’ve heard them all."
"Um. How about you go first?"
"Well, there’s the one with an American, a Japanese, and a Mexican, and a genie grants each of them one wish. The American says ‘I want all the money in the world.’ The Japanese says ‘I want all the rice in the world.’ And the Mexican says ‘I want these other two guys to fuck off so I can take all their stuff.’"
"Haha. Yeah…"

Oh, man. I know what this is. This is a Curb Your Enthusiasm moment. I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth next, but it’s sure to be way worse than what he just said. This is bad bad bad.

…Okay, they seem to have shifted focus. Just stay quiet. Wait for them to forget about it. Move on to a different subject.

Phshhheeew!

Went out to an early dinner on the way back. The restaurant had pictures of movie stars on the wall. This guy is the Mexican John Wayne.

I think he kinda looks like the Mexican Earl.

Mynameisearl_main_2

Matus and Gabrielle took me back to my hotel just in time to catch the lowering of the absurdly giganormous flag in the Zocalo.

They march several hundred soldiers out to perform the ritual.

"Are you sure Mexico isn’t communist?"
"We are a democracy."
"Are you absolutely positive? Cause that looks pretty darn communist to me right there."
"Trust me. If I lived in a communist country, I would know about it."
"Yeah. I suppose you would."

29 Responses to Mexico City, Mexico La Calzada de los Muertos

  1. I would have loved to be there matt but it seems like you had a great time. Mexico is a great country. I already started my own trip, im in Madrid and heading for Sevilla tomorrow. I have never been happier than when im travelling. I love this and i can see why you like your job so much. Waiting for the vid.
    Cris.

    pd: Check out my own travelling blog if you have time, a comment would make me really happy! http://www.crisporlavida.blogspot.com .

  2. PLENTIOUS

    Congratulations on the restraint regarding the Mormons. You must run in to them all the time.

    Speaking from experience, I can tell you those guys are just trying to share something that has helped them be happy. Who cares if a happy life is the result of a delusion?

    Each person’s life is a mixture of true and false perceptions regardless of what bandwagons they ride on.

    Looking forward to the video. Will this be the last one?

  3. Simon

    I must say I agree with Crispor. It’s not every day that you see proselytist people from a faith respectfully standing on top of a monument to a completely diferent faith. Gotta hand it to the Mormons. At least the non-child-abuse-type ones. That Mexican John Wayne. Is that Pedro Infante, perhaps? The sad turn with him is that he died in a very Buddy Holly way. Plane crash.

  4. Teli

    Mexico is more socialist (around 20%) than the US, so coming from the US it is a fair comment to call the deprived economic freedom of your neighbours communism. You will take it back though when you see what’s happening a few miles east on Cuba.

  5. John Cook

    Great to see the pyramids again. Nice job with the Wal-Mart signage. LOL

    It seems like ages ago we danced with you in Toronto! Lots of luck with wrapping things up!

  6. Humberto

    On days like this (the day we danced with Matt) I can’t help but think once again how amazing the internet is…

    Thank you Matt, we had a great moment and we’re impatient to see how the final video will turn out.

  7. Renata MG

    I’m sorry to be posting it here, but my email wouldnt send you the message.
    I got a message saying that you’d be here in Brazil (São Paulo and Rio) for the next week.
    I just wanted to confirm that. If it’s true, I’d be glad to join. If not, just wanted to inform that there is someone out there pretending to be you…
    thx for the attention

  8. You know, I’ve been to the Zocalo twice and yet learned more from your post than I did from the people who took me there. Thanks!

  9. Erika Avilés

    You are such an arrogant and ignorant man.

    You may think that in Mexico people are going to rob you but at least is better than being attacked by terrorist every month…

    If you have those kind of prejudices about people and their countries you are really an arrogant man and that´s a shame, you had the chance to travel and visit places that most people only dream about going and you have the chance to meet people from different cultures but if you have such prejudices I´m not sure you deserve the chance.

    Honestly you should at least research a little bit about the countries you are visiting before going that way maybe you´ll be able to undestand their culture, traditions and the reason they do things. For example, the “ritual“ of the flag as you called it, has a meaning. First research the meaning of ritual, “A ritual is a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community by religious or political laws“ This is not a ritual is a ceremony where soldiers pay respects to the flag. The flag is taken everyday at 6 pm and taken to the soldiers headquarters as a sign RESPECT. They also rise the flag every morning at 8 am.

    I just started watching your videos and I thought it was cool but now I´m dissapointed, such a lifetime oportunity wasted on an ignorant man who doesn´t even try to learn from his experiences.

  10. Erika Avilés

    And by the way what you did to the pyramid with the wall mart sign only shows how little respect you have for other cultures. I don´t care if you are form USA, China, or any othe country or if you don´t respect not even you historical treasures but here in Mexico those pyramids are considered something precious and for many they are sacred.

  11. Emanuel

    Que onda Matt, gracias por visitar México una vez mas, a mi me hubiera gustado salir en el video pero ya ni modo, espero salir la proxima vez que vengas XD.

    PD: No somos comunistas ¬¬

  12. Alfonso

    Erika I agree with you. It’s a shame that Matt just take the opportunity to travel all around the world to show all of us how poor and idiot the culture (?) of his country can be and what the consequences of filling your brain with McDonalds and stuffs like those could be.

    I think this is the consequence of not having a culture that takes you to show respect for the history and culture of any country.

    Thanks for posting like that Erika.

    Erika estoy de acuerdo contigo. Es una pena que Matt solo tome la oportunidad de viajar por todo el mundo para mostrar lo pobre e idiota que la cultura de su país (de verdad tienen???) puede ser y cuales las consecuencias de llenar tu cerebro de McDonalds y cosas como esas.

    Creo que esto es consecuencia de no contar con una cultura que te lleve a respetar la historia y cultura de cualquier otro país…

    Compatriotas y personas que estuvieron o quieren estar con Matt….. no apoyemos a éste idiota en su labor tan mal aprovechada ni sean objeto de sus sarcásticos comentarios.

    [email protected]

  13. Lindsay

    Relax guys, all he did was comment on the raising of a flag.
    By the way, I think you should learn to respect the American culture too, we love Mcdonalds and Wal-mart so when you dis it like that it pains me (Alfonso!)

  14. Daniel Landa Jr.

    Dude,

    As a Mexican born in the United States and raised on the Rio Bravo side of the border. I understand Erika’s, Emanuel’s, Manuel’s and Alfonso’s point of view.

    As an American of Mexican descent born and also raised on the Rio Grande side of the border. I see and sense where you are coming from.

    I guess you may also have a sardonic commentary for the ritualized burial of those killed in Iraq fighting for unenlightened, mono-linguistic, prepotent, voluntarily ignorant and probably like-minded fellow americans…..and of course freedom.

    Had I read the commentary prior to forwarding your videos to my friends….I seriously doubt I would have done so.

    Which is not to say they are not very well made…..However, as for myself, the feel good effect of your videos just isn’t there for me anymore.

    Lastima …look it up.

    I guess what appalled me the most was the fact that you had Chilangos interloping for you with the Aztec dancers.

    Chilango – derogatory term for a Mexico City stereotype

    As for the Wal-Mart sign, you are aware Wal-Mart attempted to build a subsidiary, Aurerra, very near, within eyesight of Teotihuacan.

    Chikens*** wouldn’t dare build a Wal-Mart in it’s place.

    God forbid the VA permit the tearing down of Robert E. Lee’s home and build a proper Wal-Mart in Arlington.

    My advice….Stop watching Fox noise, Lou Dobbs and that Beck guy on Headline News.

    Or better yet….Drop Strident and get on Murdock’s payroll.

    And FYI, Mexico may have been left-leaning under the PRI party dictatorship of 70 years,

    Yet, this same party had the Estados Unidos de Norteamerica’s back during the Cold War.

    Much to the vast right wing’s frustration, disdain and contempt.

    How you may ask?

    The PRI hierarchy came to a hands off agreement with Castro.

    Clearly, with Washington’s tacit approval.

    Where in essence the term’s were, you don’t mess with us and we don’t mess with you.

    To prove this point, Cuba attempted to interfere in Mexico’s 2006 presidential elections.

    Six years after the PRI’s downfall.

    Moreover, Ronald Reagan himself not only lent money to a clearly corrupt Mexican Administration that had defaulted on it’s loans,

    But also granted amnesty to undocumented Mexicans….or illegal aliens….tomayto, tomauto.

    But then again, your attitude is not entirely your fault….it’s the school system’s.

    Let’s be honest. Manifest Destiny is by no means a fascist doctine.

    Right?

    As for your escapade in Cd. Juarez’s underbelly. If you look like a duck and walk like a duck then my friend…..guess what?

    You are going to be treated like a duck.

    In any event, what in the hell makes you believe a duck will be treated any better in his own pond?

    Bear this in mind the next time a hubris minded Immigration and Customs officer gives you a hard time because he or she not only has the power to do so.

    But also holds a bias against privileged, fortunate son traveller types as yourself.

    I know, next time why don’t you dance to the Music of “Proud to be an American” in front of all US entry points and Border Patrol Checkpoints.

    I am quite sure they will be more than happy to join in with you.

    Hey at the very least you’ll feel safe in your own country.

    Sincerely,

    Daniel Landa Jr.

  15. PRW

    I am a Mexican so I hope that validates a bit more my comment.

    Matt: I read your post and then the comments and then your post again, and again. I most say there is NOTHING disrespectful about it! Mexican Guys and Gals stop the over sensitive nationalism feeling! Let the men express his impressions! For god sake!

    Yeah the Wal-Mart thing was not particularly brilliant but is just a silly joke!

    About the communist comment, oh well to tell you the truth I wish we had a communist party like Spain’s government. I don’t think the capitalism is working very well, do you? And the current president in Mexico is awful!

    I think Mexico is a Third world country with a lot of potential and and a lot of corruption. Is not the safest place on Earth, believe me! But is very nice and Matt recognizes that.

    Final note: Matt’s video is a GORGEOUS VIDEO, the guy is amazing and I just can’t stop watching his videos. And he is making something beautiful so do not take it on his great video!

    Another final note (lol):
    Lindsay, there is a difference about McDonals and Teotihuacan. Specially because Teotihuacan is not only Mexican’s heritage but ultimately is your heritage as well and you should recognize is part of your culture. Whereas McDonals is not.

    Some of us are communist but shhhhh 😉

  16. Daniel Landa Jr.

    Oh….and by the way Matt,

    Don’t even get me started with your comments regarding
    DON Pedro Infante.

    Jason Lee is a very good actor. A favorite of mine and can
    also sing.

    Just like Pedro Infante.

    However he is destined, like the rest of us, to pass away three times.

    Once….when our vital functions cease

    Twice….when we are buried

    Thrice….when we are forgotten

    Pedro Infante has yet to be forgotten…and like John Wayne, quite possibly never will.

    To this day, Don Pedro Infante’s date of death, April 15, 1957, is commemorated and reported WORLDWIDE.

    Even on news heavy days.

    John Wayne may have garnered an Oscar, but the mere mention of his name doesn’t necessarily bring a smile to evryone’s face.

    Mention Pedro Infante to any Mexican, whatever her or his citizenship maybe, and guess what?

    Sincerely smiling,

    Daniel landa Jr.

  17. Hey Matt, seems you’ve encountered the serious side of the Mexican soul. Some Mexicans are so oversensitive about their country. We are happy to criticize everybody else (cracking chistes -jokes- on the USA is a national sport), but won’t take anything on us. In particular about those absurdly giganormous flags put there by -Mexicans never remember that- the most despised president of recent times, Carlos Salinas.

    I don’t see any big offense in your post. It’s all jokes, as most Mexicans love to crack on ourselves. And I loved your videos. Next time you come to Mexico -or wherever in the world we meet-, I’ll be happy to dance with you without feeling that my national sovereignty is in danger.

    Cheers!

    PS: Just a last note: No wonder Mexico seemed socialist to you. From a US point of view, what’d be the difference between Canada, France and Australia, and Cuba?

  18. Alejandra

    you know im Mexican and its pretty damn cool that you’ve been here hahaha and it was so funny the thing that you say that our mexican actor looks like mexican earl hahaha but you know but you know i think its kinda true 😀 you’re awesomeeeeee 😀

  19. Alejandra

    you know im Mexican and its pretty damn cool that you’ve been here hahaha and it was so funny the thing that you say that our mexican actor looks like mexican earl hahaha but you know but you know i think its kinda true 😀 you’re awesomeeeeee 😀

  20. Alejandra

    you know im Mexican and its pretty damn cool that you’ve been here hahaha and it was so funny the thing that you say that our mexican actor looks like mexican earl hahaha but you know but you know i think its kinda true 😀 you’re awesomeeeeee 😀

  21. Lieve

    It is completely shocking to see how stupid patriotism is flourishing all over the world. Nearly every page here is filled with people cursing and choking over some silly sarcastic or ironic remark of Matt.

    Is it really, really, really so hard to see that Matt has no message in this blog? That it is no ‘Final Review of the Countries and Cultures of the World by His Majesty the Globetrotter, Matt Harding’?
    Can’t you really really really not understand that Matt’s only message is in his videos?
    Not only can you read that between the lines on every page, but sometimes he even literally says so.

    If you want to receive a message, watch the videos.
    If you want to read some sarcastic travel-stories, read the journal.
    If you want a review of your country or an in-depth rendering of your culture, go look elswhere.

    Sarcasm implies that you seem to be saying rude, ridiculous generalities, with the clear understanding that they are not serious. It is a kind of humour that rides on exaggeration or even stating the opposite of what you mean. It takes some experience to get familiar with. As you can read in the Japan-page, the Japanese culture for instance might not be familiar with it.

    If you mistake the sarcasm for the message, you’re not only making clear you don’t understand the sarcasm, but you also miss the point and are bound to be disappointed and frustrated or even insulted. And you are going to post something in anger, which makes you very, very ugly. Nobody is beautiful when screaming their guts out, full of hatred.

    But what is worse, and a real shame, is that you will deny yourself the beautiful message. The message you felt when you watched the video.
    That message is true and real, no matter what or who Matt is. Because the message is not about Matt. The message is about all of us, and this beautiful, gorgeous blue planet. It is about the child in us. The child that has not yet learned that some people have drawn fake lines across the blue planet, to cut it in pieces. The child that has yet to learn how to be proud of the piece it was born in, and how to hate the people born in other pieces.
    Don’t we all feel the pain when Matt’s video reminds us of the knowledge, deep down inside, that these divisions are a lie? Isn’t that why we are touched? Isn’t it because we suddely see the scam? Don’t we suddely see we were fooled into believing we have to fear and hate each other?

    We know we are all one and the same. Deep down inside.
    That’s the message.
    And somehow, initially almost unconsciously and unintentionally, Matt was able to capture it in a video. Why press him to express the same thing in the same way in his journal?
    Matt does not think he has something to preach. So in his journal there’s no preaching.
    Matt likes sarcasm. So in his journal, there’s sarcasm.

    Matt does not claim to have something important to tell. No deep insights in cultures or countries he visited to share.
    Matt only likes to spread the happy feeling his videos apparently bring about.

    So, what do you think? Is it logical then to start a fight?

  22. Genial el video

    y pues si en realidad los mexicanos somos muy vistosos XD

    lo de comunistas es en ratos donde la gente se cierra a otra ideas oh comienza a insultar como el tipo de aki arriba, pero bueno a esta gente procuramos ignorarla

    a ver si en tu otra vuelta te anima a visitar

    Fundidora, oh la Macroplaza en Monterrey Nuevo Leon Mexico.

    Que estes de lo mejor en estas fechas, y felicidades por estar en el TOP 10 THE YOUTUBE.

    Desde Mexico

    Fer

  23. angel

    ja ja ja you´re so hilarious
    i´m from Mexico, i think it´s a great country
    sometimes not,,
    why did you took a photo of a german???
    that killed me ja ja ja

    i hope you can come again

  24. Alejhandro (bijhanus)

    I agree with Mexicans here posted. We are not a bad culture, you need more information of the places you visited before you go. please respect us.

  25. Diana DV

    So yeah, I have to say that I agree with the people above; you need to respect a little more, we as mexicans are like.. SUPER SENSITIVE.. and will always stand up for those things that represent who we are.
    You truly did inspire me matt,
    But just by looking at what you write…
    Now I don’t even know what to think about anymore. :/

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