Ciudad de México: Metro y Zócalo

Mexico City airport
Back on Saturday, October 27th, I left on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for a history conference. I was terribly harebrained in the lead-up to leaving Ketchikan—and after I left. To wit, I forgot my passport when packing and my savior girlfriend had to bring it to the airplane. Then, after staying with cousins in Seattle, I forgot my phone with them.

The next day, however, I had quite the success in comparison to the previous screw-ups. I made a plan for what I'd see in la Ciudad de México (Mexico City) and I accomplished it entirely.

an orange Mexico City metro train
After arriving at the airport, I went through immigration and had my first "dumb American" experience when I started talking to the agent in Spanish but quickly misunderstood what address she told me to put on the form. (I speak very little Spanish.) After that I went through customs, and it seems the random search selector spared me.

a rare large metro station sign
Once I'd bought some pesos, I left security and looked around the terminal, finding what appeared to be a long-term protest against airline corruption, sitting across the way from places like Starbucks, 7/11, and Cinnabon.

Giving up on the idea of checking my suitcase to Oaxaca—a good choice, since it was at a different terminal—I set off for where I thought the metro station would be. There was very little signage to lead me there, but I made it, and paid a mere three pesos (about 25¢ US) for a one-way ticket. Here are a few of the things I noticed, different from other metros I've been on:

a mural based on Mexican history
in one of the stations
1. There was quite a bit of underground walking to do.

I didn't mind it too much, since I was energized and happy to ride a metro so cheaply, but there was a lot of walking involved when I transferred between trains. There also weren't any escalators at all—a major difference from the DC Metro.

2. I don't think I saw a single other tourist on the system.

I don't think I saw another Anglo-looking person the whole time I rode the metro—which was six rides, four transfers, and a lot of time altogether. I can't say I didn't take some pleasure from that observation, and I spent my time observing all the "locals" around me. (Who knows how many were Mexican visitors.) One contributing factor to my experience may have been that it was Sunday, so more locals were off work and taking the day to go out with their families.

musicians in the train
3. People came on the trains to sell things and perform!

I was surprised when it happened the first time, but I looked to the other passengers and they didn't pay these people any mind. People came on the trains and passed out advertisements, tried to sell candy and trinkets, or performed music for the (inescapable) listening pleasure of everyone.

The last musical group I heard (see left) was actually pretty good, and they got several coins from the passengers once they'd finished, unlike all the previous would-be entrepreneurs. I believe the duet chose their train very strategically, since it was a long ride between the two stops where they got on and off. The song was well-timed too—just long enough to be satisfying, and short enough to leave time to collect coins before they got off at the next stop.

El Zócalo

My destination using the metro was Mexico City's zócalo—the city's central square. Apparently it's one of the largest squares in the world, and it has a super-sized national flag to back it up—bigger than any flag I've ever seen. I saw Mexico's national cathedral, (see below), their National Palace, (where the executive is housed), and a whole bunch of people. I didn't really do anything besides take photographs, but I enjoyed the "being there" experience.

Zócalo de la Ciudad de México

You can't really say you've been to a place if you just go through the airport. Even though it was quite short, my day trip into the center of Mexico City gave me a real experience of the place. After taking the metro back the way I came, I had plenty of time back at the airport to struggle to reach the other terminal, take a fitful nap, and read some of my book—Insurgent Mexico—before flying off to Oaxaca.

Note: All photos are my own. Feel free to use them if you want, but please credit this webpage.