I just got back from an epic vacation with my family from Seattle to Mexico City. My husband and our two sons, ages 6 and 7, stopped in Los Angeles to visit our family and pick up my husband’s sister and her husband who joined us on the trip. We knew we did not want to stay in a hotel. We wanted to be able to hang out together for breakfasts, have room for our sons to play, a kitchen to cook in and space to get away from each other if we needed. My husband found the perfect rental. Two apartments with an adjoining patio in the heart of the historic district. The building used to be an old Catholic girls school and some old touches still remain.
My main focuses of the trip were to see Our Lady of Guadalupe and as much Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo art as possible. One of our first days we headed over the National Palace to see the Diego Rivera murals. The size, the detail, the research, scope and color of these murals are even more magnificent than I could imagine. It’s hard to take it all in. We were with these paintings for about an hour and a half and still did not have enough time.
As in most cities we visit, we take as much public transportation as possible. We have loved the subway in NYC, DC and Chicago. We used the subway the first few days and saw women and children moving towards a car in the front of the train. There would be a barricade with armed officers and a sign that read “Women and Children Under 12 only”. We took the subway out to the Basilica to see Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of the Virgin Mary on Juan Diego’s mantle which she appeared to in 1531.
The Basilica is huge and the crowds are immense. When we realized, we would have to jump into the sea of people moving in two different directions to see Our Lady, our group started to have second thoughts. Me and my oldest, who I’d say are the most neurotic and crowd phobic of the group, were determined to see it and pulled our group into the crowd. The sea of people were all very kind and even giggly, as we tried to politely move past one another. I came across a train of about 8 young priests. They had arranged themselves as a conga line, as to not lose each other in the throng. I mentioned to my son, how clever they were to put the tallest priest at the front to lead the way. A few of the priests spoke English, heard me and started laughing.
We finally made it to the display. There are several moving sidewalks in front of the Our Lady and she is framed about 15 feet above floor level. My oldest son and I were complete joy as we made the sign of the cross as we looked up at her. The colors are overwhelmingly brilliant and you imagine the Archbishop gasping as Juan Diego unfolded his tilma, revealing the image.
On our return trip on the subway, we discovered why there was a car for women and children only. We entered an already full car, when right when the doors were to close, 3 men entered the car and began pushing the crowd to make room for themselves. My husband and I were each holding a child’s hand as they were crushed by the crowd. My boys began to cry and I yelled back to the crowd, “You are smashing my boys!” Then realized I was screaming in English so I screamed out the only part of that sentence I knew in Spanish “Ninos!” My husband pulled my son from me, putting him in the corner with his brother, and made a shield with his body, pushing back. The crowd finally stopped pushing and the doors closed. It this hustle, my arms somehow ended up around a stranger, whose own hands were holding the bar above him. I was practically hugging him but couldn’t move my arms out of the crowd. I looked at him apologetically. “Está bien” he said and then kindly averted his eyes for the rest of the ride.
We now knew why there was a separate car for women and children. The next day my husband hired a driver to drive us around town. Happy to give you the contact if you’d like. But the subway story ended up being our favorite of the trip.
Next time, I’ll share about seeing Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul.