Went down the DF, Mexico, Cuidad Mexico, whatever you want to call it, to relax and have a vacation, visit with our dear friends, eat tacos, and find urban pig farms. I got to do all of these things except one.
We took a red-eye flight, arrived at Benito Juarez airport at 6 in the morning. Amazingly, Nick picked us up, cup of coffee in hand. The first thing you notice about Mexico City is how many people there are. In every corner, in their cars and on the highway, selling fresh squeezed juice, making quesadillas, protesting, celebrating: people. I found it terrifying and overwhelming.
But then I remembered my beehive. When you open an active hive, the bees will want to defend their colony and to do that they will sting you. In order to avoid stings, you should use a smoker, but you must also remain very very calm. There’s a place I go in my mind when beekeeping, and so during my time on the streets of Mexico City, I would go to that same place. Calm, almost out of body. Then the altitude–7,000 feet–starts to get to you. Then the polluted air starts to get to you. Don’t get me wrong, though, I loved the DF!
Mainly because we were lucky to stay at Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker hostel filled with peace activists. It was the former home of the muralist Orzoco, and was very tranquil. Nick and all the volunteers at the casa would make breakfast and then out Bill and I would go. Every corner of the DF has something going on. One day in a park, I came across a pseudo-bullfighting ring where old men pretended to be bulls (they held a pair of impressive horns) and other men practiced their matador skills.
Or, in a market we stumbled upon a hand-cranked machine that crushed entire pineapples into the most delicious juice ever (then poured into a plastic bag with straw, cost: 50 cents). Almost every street has a line of taco/torta/quesadilla stands, some made with blue corn. The main market–the Merced–hosted 4 city-sized blocks worth of produce, botanicas, and housewares. The mole area alone was awe-inspiring.
But I did want to see some urban farming. So I hooked up with the lovely Lily, one of the founders of an urban garden in the Plaza Roma in the middle of the city. One day we were there for a barter fair, where people traded stuff they made or found, I made some cards and got some homeopathic propolis digestion aid.
It was interesting because I noticed that most people (on the street at least) did not eat vegetables besides potatoes, cilantro, onions and tomatoes. I guess if you were an urban farmer, you could grow those things. However, urban farming in DF is much more difficult than in Oakland, I found. One problem is soil. There are horse stables (the police ride horses in some parts of the city) but you need a car to schlep it. Lily said the taxi drivers don’t enjoy a bag of manure in their car either. Also, there is very little open space. The mayor of DF is supposed to be encouraging more urban farming but most of the abadoned lots and buildings are off limits for farming. Stupid rules.
Also, even building supplies are in short supply. A crate like this one is a rare find. People don’t throw stuff away like in the US, so there’s little scrap wood either. It made me realize how lucky–and rich–our people are in the States.
On our last day there Lily hooked me up with a guy who was helping with the pig farms. I took a long Metro ride (designed by the French, it’s an amazing subway, goes everywhere and only costs ten cents to ride anywhere) out to an area away from the center of town. I knew I was in the right ‘hood when I heard roosters crowing. But, alas, my guy wasn’t there and when I called him I forgot that I didn’t know how to speak Spanish and couldn’t figure out where he was. Big bummer, but I had a plane to catch, so off we went, back to the airport. Only nine days: not enough time to see most of the DF and the pigs. Guess I’ll have an excuse to go back, hopefully soon.