Days are running out. I actually walked into the restaurant used to people speaking Spanish, or used to me not understanding what anyone's saying. A quieter day, but perhaps the most profound of what has been an immensely human, social trip. Some time to actually explore the city, to realise how enormous it truly is. I walked from the historical centre, down the entire length of the Reforma down to the Chapultepec park, which is a huge complex of forests, avenues, museums and most importantly a zoo. In the last month or so alone I've been to Edinburgh, Bratislava and now Mexico city zoo. An institution which reveals the character of the people of the city. It was day of the dead, the family day, so it was packed with kiddles, but the whole feeling was very respectful towards the creatures. I saw brown, black, ice and Panda bears! and Axlotls. A charmed two hours.
I then walked a ring around Chapultepec, found the avenue of poets, which features busts and memorials to Mexico's famous poets and was adorned with skeleton paraphernalia for the weekend. I cut out of the park and spent a few hours walking south, exploring la Roma and the Condessa. I walked all the way back to the hotel from there, coming back via the Madero pedestrian road and seeing the teeming thousands of families and fancy dressed revellers. The atmosphere was very warm and some of the costumes are truly amazing, and funny. Parents seem to be practising a mild form of child abuse by dressing their young, many babies wrapped in bandages as mummies.
In the evening Amanda de la Garza was amazingly generous to pick us both from the hotel and drive us an hour outside the city to a small town in the mountains to visit a famous cemetary and witness an authentic day of the dead celebration. It was a humbling and moving experience. Winding through the steep cobbled roads of the town we followed an almost hidden path to the cemetary, a place we would have never found in a thousands years without Amanda. The walk to the gates were lined with brightly lit food stalls and joke shops. Hundreds of people were dressed for the occasion, but inside the cemetary, lit by hundreds of candles, with live musicians playing, with families sat around the graves of their loved ones, eating, talking, joking, it felt we had entered something entirely new and yet wholly welcoming. The atmosphere was like the music, upbeat in rhythm, profoundly sad in content. Many sat alone on graves, other families sat around dioramas and flowers and food on the graves. To witness an old couple look on to the grave of their child, covered in toys, left us silent. It's an experience I will remember forever.
On our return we ventured into the carnage of the Madero to see the thousands and thousands who poured into the city centre to celebrate. Some of the costumes were violently gory, others funny, but it was so packed you could barely move. I felt completely relaxed, there was no violence in the air though people had been drinking all day and we let the mass tide of humans carry us on.