Surviving Costa Rica – Boys Go to Mexico City: My friend Michael (crusty old surfer) Mazzoni and I had been planning a trip to visit the Mexican pyramids for quite a while. It’s no mean feat considering my weird music schedule, among other things … like wives, visitors and good waves.

We were therefore very proud of ourselves when we actually secured a date, some good Aeroméxico flights out of San José, and a booking for three nights at the Hotel El Salvador in the historic district of downtown Mexico City.

It now hangs in our bedroom
and scares the hell out of the maid.

A couple weeks later found us landing there and looking for a taxi for the 40-minute ride from the airport to the hotel. The fare would be $200. What you may not know is the (gringo) $ sign is also used as the symbol for the Mexican peso, which meant the actual cost was only about $11. Pretty cheap compared to what you’d pay in Costa Rica.

This was our first of many taxi experiences in Mexico City, with varying degrees of success. Some drivers were better than others, and quite a few, but not all, were pretty honest.

After checking into our hotel, we went out and flagged down a very cheerful and helpful guy who charged us what we later learned was quadruple the usual fare. On our return trip later that night, the driver had no clue where our hotel was. Ditto, the guy who took us to the National Museum of Anthropology, quickly went from being not really sure where it was but nonetheless headed in the right direction to being hopelessly off course, with the police rerouting him this way and that. We finally arrived at the museum about 50 minutes later. To compensate, driving back to our hotel took about 15 minutes and our return trip to the airport 20 minutes.

Other Surviving Costa Rica Stories

Presidents I Have Know
Dogs (and Cats) I have Known
RTV: My First Inspection Adventure
San Jose
Earth Day Alternative
Six Things to do in Tamarindo you Won’t find in Your Guide Book

According to plan, we signed up for a tour the hotel arranged to the Pyramids of the Moon and Sun during our first full day. Michael and I joined a group of German, English, Dominican, French and South Carolinian fellow adventurers and headed out for the pyramids, about an hour from Mexico City with a few stops en route.

We had a great guide who gave us her “Aztec” name, Uixtochihuatl, but said we could also call her Anne. Our first pre-pyramid stop was for a silver jewelry demonstration, after which we were invited to hang out for another 30 minutes in case we wanted to buy something. I told Uixtochihuatl I was more interested in finding a painting for our new house so she took me around the corner to another spot, where indeed I was able to purchase an “almost” Frida Kahlo portrait. It now hangs in our bedroom and scares the hell out of the maid.

On we went to the pyramids, while Uixtochihuatl regaled us with heartwarming stories about how babies were sacrificed to the rain gods because their crying was especially effective for bringing rain.

We finally arrived at Teotihuacán, where the pyramids of the moon and sun were built about 1,900 years ago, way before the Aztecs adopted them for their own. The pyramid of the Moon was somewhat smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun, which is the third largest pyramid in the world.

Michael and I climbed to the top of the Moon and considered ourselves lucky not to have died on the way up. We could see the much larger Sun pyramid in the distance and decided it might be prudent to skip that one. Just being next to it was fabulous enough.

The pyramids were built for constellation-related religious rituals. It wasn’t until much later after Aztec assimilation that they  were used for the more historically familiar purpose of human sacrifices.

Uixtochihuatl and her associates, as well as Mexican citizens generally, take great pride in the long and varied history of the pre-Spanish Indian civilization. They share an equal disdain for the Spanish and the very unpopular Hernán Cortés.

The next day was spent at the aforementioned anthropology museum. I could spend at least another 500 words describing this trip highlight, but I’m already over my Howler word allotment. Suffice to conclude that a good time was had by all, we made it back home safely and I’ve finished this column!

The Howler Magazine