Postcard from Mexico City: Crazy about dogs

A decade or so ago, most dogs one would see in Mexico were barking rooftop guard dogs or skulking strays. In Mexico City, as in the United States, dogs have moved from that earlier working role to assume positions as cherished members of the household.

Crosswalks don’t feature adults holding children by the hand but show man walking his best friend. People appear to select their dining destinations by seeking the most pet-friendly patios.

Pet pampering is prevalent. As is school. Dog walkers and trainers fill the sidewalks of Parque Mexico in the Condesa neighborhood with their charges. Their canine pupils are required to abide by a strict honor code. Leashes lie on the ground as the dogs fail to break rank by leaping up to chase after even the sassiest of dogs parading by.

The lofty position of dogs actually is rooted deeply in Mexico’s past. The primary proof of this is the xoloitzcuintli, the ancient breed of dog known as Mexican hairless and often referred to as xolos. Clay figures of them were found in ancient tombs of Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecs where they were placed to fulfill their sacred duties of navigating their masters through the threats posed in the treacherous underworld. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were fond of xolos, and the grounds of the former hacienda of Dolores Olmedo still serve as a breeding preserve for numerous prized xolos who seem eager to socialize with a statue of one.

We think one would have to get to know a xolo well to fall in love with one….

Postcard from Mexico City: A street art sampler

Our headquarters during our stay was in Roma Norte, but we wandered afoot a far piece from there. These snapshots of street art were gathered during those ramblings.

My grandmother, Thelma Virginia Tarrall Williams (1899-1999), did not believe in keeping her hands idle. She lived a long, long time so had plenty of time to crochet. Afghans. Afghans for her children, her grandchildren and even some of her great-grandchildren before retiring her needles. Aside from one that burned in our house in 1975, most of the coverlets probably still exist, cherished as family heirlooms.

Whenever I see a contemporary take on knitting or crocheting, such as the one cloaking the tree trunk above, I think what fun Grana would have had liberating her craft from the confines of domesticity into public spaces. I can almost hear her chuckling with pleasure over transforming a tree for all to see.

The serendipitous pleasure of encountering street art lies in the exuberant freedom of expression of its creators.

Postcard from Mexico City: The place of coyotes

Brought into submission by the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan in 1428, the Tepanecas who lived in the ancient village of Coyoacan, the place of coyotes, remained resentful of their conquerors.

This historical enmity served the Spaniard Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) well. Retreating from revolting Tenochtitlan following the death of Moctezuma II (1466-1520) from unnatural causes, Cortes lost close to 900 men before arriving at Coyoacan. Fortunately for the Spaniards, they were welcomed as allies against the Aztecs. Coyoacan served as the conquistador’s headquarters and briefly as the capital of New Spain as his conquest of the Aztec empire was completed.

This early Spanish occupancy led to the beginning of construction of the parish church of San Bautista, completed in 1552, the third oldest parish church in Mexico City. The town remained independent of its expanding neighbor until finally its absorption into the federal district in 1857.

The central colonial plazas of Coyoacan are charming, an attribute not lost on those living in the center of Mexico City. On weekends, unfortunately when we chose to visit, traffic jams clog the arteries leading in and out. The quaint historic center is overrun by approximately 70,000 visitors. Advice: Visit on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday if possible.