Independent CDMX routes: the South

Note: If you find this to be useful, we will continue to share routes that we find interesting and easy for you to follow on your own. There is so much to see in Mexico City!!

MetroBus has its own dedicated lane

Metrobus Line 1 is a very convenient way to go from the area around Metro Insurgentes (Zona Rosa, Condesa and Roma neighborhoods) and farther south  to the Saturday art and handicraft market (Bazar Sábado) in San Angel, and to the beautiful UNAM campus (called Ciudad Universitaria), and even farther south to the oldest pyramid of this region, Cuicuilco.

To use the Metrobus you need a special transport card, which you can use for the metro (subway), the light rail (the one that goes to Xochimilco), and the Metrobus. These cards are sold at some subway stations, but unfortunately not at MetroBus stations.  HOWEVER even if you are not able to get one, you can always do like the locals and stand outside the entry, offer the ones going in to pay them cash, so they swipe their card and let you pass.  It is 6 pesos per person, per ride.

For more information on the Mexico City metro and metrobus system, please see this excellent explanation by Laura Bronner of the Eternal Expat. Please be aware of your bags and pockets (also front pants pockets, for men!) — we have some excellent pickpockets in the city, and the crowds getting on and off the bus provide a great opportunity for them.

READY TO GO? The stations listed below, are along Line 1 of the Metrobus.  Zoom in to see each station listed. This line goes along the longest street in the Americas, Avenida de los Insurgentes, usually just called “Insurgentes” (pronounced “in-sur-hentez”)

The stations Hamburgo and Insurgentes are good for exploring the Zona Rosa. From there, all the stations from Durango to Chilpancingo will take you to Colonia Condesa and Colonia Roma (on the two sides of Avenida Insurgentes).

Walking in beautiful Colonia Condesa and Roma

There is a station right at the famous Poliforum Siquieros, but unfortunately the building was slightly damaged in the 2017 earthquake and is closed while being fixed. Farther south, you could get off at the station Parque Hundido if you want to check out this popular park. I do think it is worth getting off the bus at the station Teatro de los Insurgentes, to admire Diego Rivera’s mosaic mural on the outside of the the building.

Diego Rivera’s mosaic mural at Teatro de los Insurgentes

At La Bombilla station, you are a close walk to Bazar Sábado. This Saturday market has a large section dedicated to painters selling their own work, and a smaller section, stores and street vendors selling handicrafts and contemporary crafts. Here you have a map: Really the Bazar starts from where it says Plaza del Carmen, along the little green park, up the street and past Plaza San Jacinto, all the way to little Plaza Tenanitla. Try a wonderful variety of food and drink at the gourmet food market Mercado del Carmen San Angel, right at the beginning of Plaza del Carmen.  Although it has a 10 am opening time listed online, most of the vendors are not fully set up until closer to 11 or 12, and lasts until around 5pm in the winter or 7pm in the summer

It is a close walk from MetroBus La Bombilla to Bazar Sábado in San Angel

Bazar Sabado starts at Plaza del Carmen, goes along the street to Plaza San Jacinto and all the way to Plaza Tenanitla

Home = not-home

View from my window, Shiraz

I have just returned from visiting my parents in Iran.  Spending these weeks in Shiraz where I grew up, is a complex experience for me.  The country is now commemorating 40 years since the revolution that ousted the Shah and millennia of monarchy.  This means I am also commemorating 40 years since leaving Iran.  Many things have changed in these 4 decades, and others remain the same.  Walking up Eram Avenue, I recall some of the sidewalk tiles — without any conscious effort on my part. My body suddenly vibrates, I look down and am flooded with the memory of the design of these tiles!  Looking at the mountains outside the window gives me a sense of peace and belonging.  This is home, in a way.

And yet, I only lived in Iran for 10 years.  I speak Farsi haltingly, I can hear how I sound like a child.  Even though my face is about as Iranian as you can get, people think I am foreign. Is it my white hair, unlike the dyed hair of Iranian women?  Is it my body language?  A young woman rushes towards me outside the Bazar and asks with a smile “photo? photo?” only to have the smile disappear with embarrassment when I respond “sure!” in Farsi  (mental note: next time just go with it and answer in English).   Walking down the streets, parks and markets is a constant source of surprise and joy, as well as confusion and recognition. This is home and yet not home.  I have the great good luck to explore new neighborhoods in Shiraz with friends who are starting exciting new ventures like food and market tours, street art and neighborhood revitalization efforts in ancient parts of the city.  My enthusiasm helps nurture them, I hope, as their efforts help nurture my own feeling of hope for this country where I was not born but where my genealogical roots run deep.

It takes almost two days to return to Mexico City, also my home yet not-home.  I have lived in Mexico for 27 years, longer than anywhere else.  It is home, with my now-adult son and extended tribe of friends and family, with the life we have built together.  And yet I am still unable to greet a roomful of people with the ease and fluidity of a Mexican.  I am still unsure, do I go across the room and shake each person’s hand individually, or just greet the crowd across the room with a smile and nod of the head? It still is a clumsy moment for me.  I miss the mountains of Shiraz, my mother’s cooking, the sayings and turns of a phrase unique to the Farsi language (jaye shoma khali!).  But when I am in Iran, I miss the irreverent joy for life that is part of everyday life in Mexico.  I miss the spicy salsa, tacos in the street, the respect for the other’s space and privacy that makes me feel free here, in a way that I never felt in all my years in the US or Iran.

And so I celebrate these bonds with my homes/not-homes. I am grateful to be able to go back and forth between each place, grateful to have the opportunity to live this life and to share it with you!

Related links:

Persian Culinary Tours has a page on Facebook and Instagram, where Ava shares recipes and information about Iranian food.

Follow the work of artist Adel Yazdi on Instagram. He is the artist in the featured image in this blog post, and an integral part of the artistic and architectural revitalization efforts in the Narenjestan Ghavam neighborhood of Shiraz.


Dualidad, by Rufino Tamayo

After some years in Mexico City, I begin to recognize the particular seasons here – not just seasons of nature, but seasons of activity.  In the US, the hum of human activity around Christmas starts when people start to buy their presents or house decorations. Here in Mexico — where half the population lives under the poverty line, and over half the population earns their living from the informal economy — the buzz of activity starts after the house parties on Sept. 15, to celebrate Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16.   After that big bash, many people hit the streets to start buying the raw material to MAKE the presents and decorations, to sell to friends or at work or in street stalls, so they can make the money they need to celebrate Christmas and to buy presents for their kids. The subways get fuller, traffic gets heavier, sidewalks swell with even more people walking, rushing to get home with their bags full of supplies to make ornaments.

This buzz of activity becomes more intense from December, when people start getting their aguinaldo , or Christmas bonus.  This is an awesome benefit protected by law in Mexico but also common in informal jobs.  Aguinaldo is equivalent to at least 3 weeks of your normal salary.  People with “real” jobs, blue and white collar workers, university professors and business executives, often get much more than that.  Even those who sell things on the street put out a little piggy bank, a “cochinito”, for their customers to cooperate what they can, for their aguinaldo.  And people do cooperate!! Yet we cannot forget that duality is at the center of life here… seen in everything from the qualities of Mexican pre-hispanic deities to the human nature we see in this season

.  People work hard, cooperate with each other, celebrate, re-affirm ties of work and friendship.  But also in this season there are robberies, trickeries and a multitude of ways that some clever scoundrels find to milk the aguinaldo cow.

The seasons of each place, so different and so fascinating, across the world…

Dia de Muertos

Visit Mixquic for Día de Muertos?  Not with us!

I love love love Day of the Dead, it is my favorite Mexican festival and sums up what I most treasure about Mexico’s attitude towards life and death.  However, I loathe and despise going to Mixquic for Muertos. Even 20 years ago it was a giant tourist festival, with the locals being a very small minority and masses of people from Mexico City and other countries coming in to watch the few locals celebrating their dear departed ones.  

To really feel Dia de Muertos, you need to go where the outsiders are the small minority, where the vast majority are the locals having their very personal interaction with their dead.  We can do that, but not at Mixquic.

Until just a few years ago, Dia de Muertos was not much celebrated in Mexico City any more. It  used to be celebrated primarily in smaller cities and indigenous villages, but then international tourism began to get more and more attracted to this festivity and the city began to do its own Muertos activities.  These are public events, exhibitions and parades, and then it all exploded with the James Bond movie Spectre, and still more with the movie Coco. Now the city puts on the parade just like in the movie. Parades are fun and the art exhibitions are beautiful!  We enjoy them, even as we keep in mind that these have little to do with the very personal and intimate tradition of welcoming back your beloved, of celebrating their memory and your love for them, for a little while each year.

Dia de Muertos and Halloween are not at all the same thing.  There is nothing scary or spooky about Dia de Muertos. But scary and spooky is also fun, and Halloween is a great festival!  These represent polar opposites as far as the relationship that we the living, establish with death. Death as permanent companion to life, and Death as the terrifying end to life.  

Our philosophy

While you are in Mexico City, we aim for you to see and feel the vibrant chaos, the cacophonic symphony of colors and sounds, the unending efforts of people to live full, creative lives and to resist pressures of all sorts to turn us all into docile, unquestioning sheep. We will not show you a rosy-colored exotic country, nor the paralyzing drama of helpless poverty — both of these are creations of the system and by no means describe what is happening.  Rather, we seek to expose you to a small part of the many-sided reality that is neither black nor white, neither evil nor good, always evolving, always alive.

We are interested in contributing to an encounter between you and what is going on around you, for you to go beyond the surface to the reality that is unseen or ignored by the media, and by the powerful.  Beyond the surface, real people find ways to survive and grow.  Here you may find great aggression or great warmth, but you will always find creativity.

In your time here, we hope you will perceive the ways that people live, so different from your own ways but made understandable by your guide. We hope you realize that there are also other ways to BE, in your own places of origin.

In all our places of origin, we can find people modifying their world, confronting challenges with creativity and imagination and resisting injustice – always alongside the simultaneous and painful history of divisions and violence between allies and friends. Our offer is to open a window for you to glimpse the specific experience of Mexico, very close to and yet very far from your own world.

And so it begins…

I am happy and excited to start a new chapter, that of blogging.  Most posts will be short and sweet, like today’s.  But I warn you that the NEXT one will be looooong as I share with anyone interested, the philosophy which guides my work at Journeys Beyond the Surface.

Usually I will be sharing my little daily discoveries with you, the unexpected adventures that happen as I wander around, near and far.  One constant in all my adventures, is my bolsa de mandado, my Mexican market bag.  Cheap, machine -made with plastic threads, widely available, so very durable, the bolsa de mandado is my versatile and hard-working companion, every day.   And so, when friends urged me to start a blog, I knew that this was the image that best represents my journeys: my beloved bolsa de mandado.

I hope you will join me!