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La Condesa blooms through the chill
By Tracy L. Barnett Posted in Latin America, Mexico, Mexico City on January 8, 2010
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IMG_0049 My first 24 hours in Mexico City couldn’t have been more colorful. A cold front has settled in here, as well, with temperatures dipping into the mid-40s, and since there are no heaters, people are huddling over soups and hot coffees in the open-air cafes. Except for a few golden hours yesterday morning, a drizzly grey pall grips the city. Still, the flowers are blooming and a general air of cheerfulness has made headway against the gloom – especially on Wednesday, Dia de los Reyes, a Mexican holiday celebrating the arrival of the Magi to visit the baby Jesus.


My first evening found me in Cafe La Boheme, a charming cafe that was serving Rosca de Reyes, a seasonal specialty featuring candied fruits and a delicious cream filling. I found an internet signal, a cup of cappucino and sat down to enjoy my rosca and e-mail. Just as I prepared to leave, a local musician by the name of Sergio Fernandez Pavón took the mike and dedicated his performance to the great Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa, whose recent passing created a vast void in the Latin American folk music scene. I was hooked. The next two hours held music and poetry, laughter and comraderie and a little boy with a little guitar to match. An altogether excellent first night in D.F.


Thursday started bright and early with a breakfast in La Condesa with the Angelica Foundation´s Ana Paula Hernandez, a human rights advocate who has been working with indigenous people on land rights and environmental issues. I´ll write more about Ana Paula later; meanwhile, here´s a tour of the beautiful Condesa.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The high point, however, came on Thursday evening, when I went to get a haircut at a trendy little boutique salon in La Roma, a neighborhood bordering the very chic La Condesa. My stylist, Miguel, was very charming and was doing his best to give me a much needed hairstyle when the lights went out. Not just in our salon but down the entire street.

We sat there for half an hour in the dark, trading jokes and stories, and finally I decided to seek another hairdresser to finish the job. I greatly underestimated the professionalism of this group; I was told quite firmly by a very muscular and tattooed hairdresser down the street that I should let the original stylist finish what he had started, since it would be impossible to know what he had planned to do.

I sighed and went on a search for tacos; my half-cut hair did not diminish my pleasure at finding a bustling everyday festival of outdoor eateries, each with its own savory specialty, surrounding the Chilpancingo Metro station. For 50 cents I chose my favorite – the pineapple-tinged smoked pork tacos al pastor,  with fresh cilantro, onions and a squeeze of lime – and was not disappointed. I stood side by side under the plastic overhang with other diners, taking respite from the drizzle in the bright and cheery outdoor cafe, watching the kitchen magicians do their work, and felt thoroughly happy to be here.


I made my way to the famous La Espiga bakery, where people stack trays high with their favorite pan dulces (sweet breads) and chose a tiny fruit tart for Miguel. I headed back in the drizzle, just in time to deliver the pastry and collect the end of my haircut before closing time.

I´ll let you be the judge: How did Miguel do?


La Condesa Mexico Mexico City Sergio Fernandez Pavon

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    1. Yes – an interesting (if perhaps unrelated) followup to my last visit to DF, when the electrical workers’ union was marching on the zocalo by the thousands, promising the country would experience more blackouts because of Calderon’s privatization of the power supply. It’s all very politicized. Everyone has an opinion, but facts are a little hard to come by.


    1. Gracias amiga! Yes, I am really going to have to watch my calorias down here! The Rosca WAS divine… but for the record, I only ate half and shared the rest! 🙂

  2. This kind of thing always reminds me how fortunate we are in Los Estados Unidos to have reliable electricity and running water – and how much we take it for granted!! The first day of school here in Austin, the heat wasn’t working at one of the high schools so they sent everyone home. I’m sure our pioneer forebears were laughing in their graves and whispering, “wussies.”
    Looking forward to your next post, Tracy!

    1. So true! We’ve gotten a little soft, I’m afraid… Although I don’t want to leave the impression that there’s no electricity and running water here in DF – mostly the power grid works fine, the water is hot and it’s a thoroughly modern society. It’s just that they don’t have heating systems in place because they don’t need them.

  3. Look forward to reading more of your posts. I’m sure that you mention somewhere in them any security concerns. Mexico is the land of my ancestors; I love it. I live one minute away in Brownsville. I pray for peace there. Beautiful land and country! Thanks for the gorgeous pics.

    1. Thanks for reading, Courtney! I’m not focusing too much on security concerns in this blog because every story I see about Mexico in the US media focuses on that. I think it’s a little overblown and while there have been some problems with narcotrafficking-related crime in some sectors, it doesn’t generally target foreign travelers or those who aren’t in some way engaged in activity related to that. Petty theft and crime are a problem here as they are in most major metro areas. But for the record I left my cell phone in a taqueria yesterday and the folks there practically chased me down to return it. So I think it’s important to keep things in perspective!

  4. What a fabulous start to your journey! What I love best is YOUR love for this place, and the people. You help us all appreciate the beauty of the place and people. Yes, thank goodness here in the US we get to read something that helps us all feel connected to our neighbors, as a kind of family, just over the border. Not just some frightening place with a corrupt government and devastating murders. Thank goodness for your commitment to the new media and emphasizing what is best in our human family. And hey–that haircut looks great! I love you! Tami

    1. LOL Claire: The half-hairdo would have been a better pic, it’s true! I need to be quicker on the draw camera-wise! Tami: Thanks for your encouraging words! I love you too!

  5. Hello Dear, you seem so close, thanks for the story and the pics are great. Might have to get a real camera…. The slide show didn’t show all the pics that were at the bottom afterward. But I was glad to look at them too. You are a delight and I (and we) love you. You = beautiful, before and after the haircut.

  6. Hey, I try to give you my comentary. I don´t speak english very well.
    I liked your report from México. You catched the true México, food, people an environment. ¡You are great!. Also there are poor areas.
    I hope you come back.

    1. Gracias Araceli! Lo agradezco mucho. Los chilangos me han tratado muy bien, y me encanta tu ciudad. Sé que hay problemas, pero todo el mundo tiene sus problemas, ¿no?
      Puedes leerme también en, donde escribo sobre el movimiento verde en latinoamerica. Tiene una version en español – un poco mas fácil para tí!
      Saludos cordiales, Tracy