Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reflections on the Trip

After more than a month in Mexico City, tomorrow I will return home.

In some respects this trip was disappointing.  Because of the illness of his father, Alejandro was not able to spend too much time with me.  Also, I was also looking forward to the Day of the Dead events in Mexico City... but the only one that retained its charm for me was the "Alebrije Parade".  The crowds were still relatively small, perhaps because people know that the "alebrijes" will all be on display for several weeks along the Paseo de la Reforma.  The "Procession of the Catrinas" was delightful last year, but this year about half way through the procession the rains came.  I had spent more time waiting on the street than I did watching the event.  The "International Day of the Dead Parade" seemed a superfluous copy of the main parade, and I still have no idea why they called it "international".  I spent a couple hours standing on the street waiting for the parade, and the crowd was enormous.  I heard that there were more than two million people along the route.  The light and sound show in Chapultepec Park held during the evenings of Day of the Dead weekend was mediocre, and, once again, there was a crush of people.  By the time that November 2nd came around I was tired of the crowds, and I didn't even attend the big parade.  Last year there were 1.5 million spectators.  I can only imagine how many people there were this year.

When the city government started promoting the Day of the Dead about four years ago, many traditionalists complained that the holiday was being commercialized.  I, however, defended the parade and other events as great fun and family friendly.  Unfortunately, the events have become a victim of their own popularity.  The crowds have become just too massive for the events to be truly enjoyable.  I am beginning to think that the Day of the Dead is not the best time to visit Mexico City.  

Fortunately, the post-Day of the Dead visit by my cousin Gail and her friend Annette went smoothly, and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy their time in Mexico City.   I was not worried that Annette would be intimidated by the big city since she lives in New York.  But Gail seemed unfazed by monstrous Mexico City; she said it reminded her of Chicago.  Most of the time we traveled by Metrobus or subway, and they seemed fine with public transportation.  Neither one of them felt unsafe at any time.  

The only misadventure that we had was a taxi ride from the Anthropology Museum.  When we were leaving the museum Annette tried to connect with Uber, but she lost the connection.  Against my better judgement we took a taxi.  I have read that the taxi drivers at the museum prey on the tourists.  I asked how much the fare would be and he said that it would be 250 pesos depending on traffic.  The driver took the route with the worst traffic... the Circuito Interior.  As we crawled at a snail's pace, the meter kept going up.  By the time we reached their hotel the meter was at nearly 300 pesos, an outrageous price seeing as we paid less to go from the airport to the hotel when they first arrived.  However, that was not the worst part.  When Gail and Annette paid him, he said that the 200 peso bill they gave him was counterfeit, and handed it back to us.  Indeed that bill felt different, and did not have the usual watermarks.  We gave him another 200 peso bill.   Afterwards I thought about it and realized that the driver had pulled a scam on us.  So that they would not have to bother with ATMs, I had sold pesos to Gail and Annette prior to the trip.  I had checked the watermarks on all the bills that I had sold them.  The biggest notes that I had sold them were 200 peso bills, so they could not have received that false bill somewhere in change.  Obviously, the "pendejo" had pulled a sleight of hand (I admit that I was not watching him carefully) and had pulled out a false bill.  I have never been scammed by a taxi driver in Mexico before, but I will never, ever take a taxi from the Anthropology Museum again!

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