July 13, 2024

The big advantage of shopping the capital city is that you can find goods from all over Mexico, though they’ll be more expensive.  The greatest concentration of tourist shops can be found in the Zona Rosa – pricey leather, jewelry, handicrafts and souvenirs abound.  Plus there is a huge trade in fake designer labels, none of which look remotely genuine. Some good crafts can be found at the government subsidizedFonart shops – a smart place to check prices before you venture into the maelstrom of the markets.

Every area of the city has its markets that stock food and essentials intended for the neighborhood.  In many ways, they are the lifeblood of community in Mexico, kind of like Main Street USA.  They are abundant and well worth the time; just be prepared to haggle a little. La Merced , at  La Merced Metro is the city’s largest market, contained (barely) within a collection of huge modern buildings.  From 6 am – 6 pm daily, you’ll find almost anything you could conceive of finding in a Mexican market..  At the corner of Luis Moya and E. Pugibet, there’s a small daily market that sells nothing but flowers – loose, bushels of petals, in enormous arrangements, even paper and plastic.  There are two interesting markets in Coyacan, just up from the main street north of Plaza Hildalgo:  while the daily market specializes in food, the Sunday market takes over the entire plaza with essential souvenirs such as tipico clothing and the ever-present Mayan Marcos dolls.

A lot of the obvious nightlife in Mexico City is fairly tame, however, modeled on the European version of dimly-lit discotheques.  Two attractions however, stand out for even the most jaded of queens – the mariachi music at the Plaza Garabaldi and the Ballet Folklorico.  Finding other forms of live music can be frustrating and ultimately disappointing:  most places play rock and Latin, while good jazz is impossible to find anywhere.  The nightclubs concentrated in the Zona Rosa tend to mix it up a bit, often offering early- and late-night themes.  There are a few dedicated queer bars, but don’t expect any type of big-city style, they tend to be on the squalid side, aimed at the backroom crowd.  The venerable Dolce Vita seems an exception, catering to the so-called beautiful people, replete with velvet ropes. Mixed clubs are more in abundance and generally offer a happier night out:  try Mekano at Genova 44 or Urano at Hamburgo 123.  Venues may have a relatively high cover charge, but that usually includes a couple of free drinks.

The English-language Mexico City Times generally has good listing of weekly events throughout the city and is available at any newsstand.  The flyer Ser Gay can be found in and around the Zona and offers a local’s guide to the nightlife

The evening gatherings in the Plaza Garabaldi are not for the faint of heart.  Each night you’ll find hundreds of competing mariachi bands, in all their tight, silver-studded charro finery and vast sombreros, to play for anyone among the wandering crowds who’ll pay them.  You may also come across norteno bands from the border areas, or the softer sounds of marimba musicians from the south.  Wander around and get your fill.  Should you want an individual serenade, pick out a likely looking group and negotiate your price.  At the back of the square is a huge market hall with stalls serving simple food, a change of pace from the pricey bars that surround the square.  Ballet Folklorico is an internationally acclaimed compilation of traditional dances from around the country, elaborately choreographed and designed in a style that would fit right in on Broadway.  Seeing the Ballet at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where the theater is an attraction unto itself, is a treat.  Tickets, however, can be hard to come by.  Book a few days in advance through the box office (512-3633)

Mexico still suffers from a paucity of gay-specific accommodations. What little there is is widely considered “unhygenic”.  However there are a wide variety of mainstream hotels among the thousands that populate this city that you can choose from.  Beware however, that many hotels do not allow you to bring home guests.  Stranger still, many of the larger chains that boast executive floors feature floor guards -  Benecio del Toro in Traffic comes to mind.  The wary should be so, your every move is accounted for by men who seem just the other side of savory.  Hotel Nikko (Campos Eliseos 204, 525-280-1111) is one of those hotels.  But gazing out your 45th floor window into the park you tend to forget such things.  The beautiful Majestic (Madero 73, 521-8600) sits along the Zocalo.  Its seventh floor restaurant makes for a panoramic breakfast view, plus it’s a bit cheaper and more conveniently located than the chi-chi Zona Rosa establishments.  You’ll never go wrong at a Four Seasons and the  hacienda-style building along Reforma is no exception (Reforma 500; 011-525/230-1818) Gillow (Isabel La Catolica – 518-14-40) passes quite nicely for a luxury hotel.  It features large (by Mexican standards) rooms, an in-house travel agency and a great restaurant.

Speaking of food……for anyone raised on a steady diet of Southwestern, Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex or Burritoville, the taste of authentic Mexican food may come as a slap to the face.  The use of corn is abundant, its smell  pervasive, there’s no getting around it.  It may cause more intestinal distress than the water, nevertheless, it is the main attraction.  A meal on the aforementioned Majestic Hotel’s rooftop is a necessity, especially as the ravishing sunset flirts along the parade of colonial buildings that surround the Zocalo; Cafe de Tacuba (Tacuba 28; 512-8482) is home to one of the country’s top bands, hence the eponymous name. Though the excellent food comes at a price, that hasn’t stopped folks who’ve been packing it in since 1912.  Cicero Centenario (Londres 195; 553-3800) was once one of the city’s shining stars on the continental scene; a series of lost chefs have left it severely disabled.  The faded glory of what once was is severely overpriced.  San Angel Inn (Diego Rivera 50 616-0537) is a very popular, upscale restaurant in a beautiful old hacienda.  be sure to call ahead for reservations.  El Tajin (Miguel Angel de Quevedo 687, Coyoacan; 659-4447) features specialties from Veracruz.  Fish dishes such as Huachinango a la Veracruz and Mojarra al Mojo del Ajo make it worth the extra effort in finding the place.from the archive

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