I went to Mexico City last week.
My friend Sara Djurich and I had originally planned to go to the state of Oaxaca for a wedding, but after some teachers went on strike and the police responded with bullets and tear gas, we decided maybe Oaxaca wasn’t the safest place right then for a pair of gringas to go.
So we skipped our connection to Oaxaca and left the airport in Mexico City’s Distrito Federal, or “Federal District.” Luckily, Sara has friends there, too.
I’ve been to the D.F. once before, but I was a missionary back then, not a tourist, and I’d never really explored the city.
For both Sara and me, this was the first time either of us had traveled internationally without being part of a group. I was nervous, but it proved to be another lesson in facing my fears. Just as I faced my fear of heights by going parasailing in the Dominican Republic last November, I faced my fear of solitary international travel by going to the D.F. with Sara last weekend.
Mexico City was beautiful. The city has a rich history, starting with the Aztecs in 1325 A.D. This ancient civilization believed their god would send them a sign, an eagle eating a snake atop a cactus, to show them the place they should build their city.
When the Aztecs saw the sign on an island in Lake Texcoco, that’s where they built their city, Tenochtitlán — right in the middle of the lake. Later in 1520, when Hernán Cortés and the Spanish conquistadors conquered the Aztecs, they turned Tenochtitlán into Mexico City.
Although the Spanish changed everything from language to religion for the native people, the Mexicans have not forgotten their roots. I saw the symbol of the cactus-sitting, snake-eating eagle everywhere in the Distrito Federal. The metro stations in particular had some nice history-themed mosaics.
On Friday, our Mexican friends, Jocelyn Tizapantzi and Tony Cervantes, took us to Chapultepec. Chapultepec is an area of Mexico City with a big park and zoo. Even cooler, it has the Monument of the Hero Children, which refers to when a group of military school students defended the city against U.S. invaders in 1847, and the Castle of Chapultepec, which used to be an imperial palace.
On the way home, we paused to take a picture in front of the Palace of Beautiful Art. But we didn’t linger, because a protest was developing nearby and there were a lot of police.
We had walked all day, and when Sara and I arrived at the house where we were staying, we went right to bed and slept like rocks.
On Saturday, we visited the LDS temple, which was built from 1979-83 and dedicated on Dec. 2, 1983. We also walked through the temple visitor’s center. The center had a whole wing dedicated to the history of the LDS Church in Mexico, as well as a beautiful replica of the Christus statue, sculpted by Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen. The original statue stands in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark, but another replica can be found in Salt Lake City in the North Visitors’ Center at Temple Square.
Personally, I love history, especially ancient history, so I was in history heaven the whole time I was in Mexico.
I was impressed by how much Tony and Jocelyn knew about their country’s history. They learned it all in grade school.
It reminds me of my own Utah History and U.S. History classes. Our country, too, has a rich history. More than 200 years ago, on July 4, 1776, 56 men changed the future of the entire world when they signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of the 13 American colonies.
Much has happened to our country and the world since then, but if I learned anything from my trip to Mexico last weekend (besides the fact Mexicans make the most delicious food in the world), it was to value one’s roots. The people who planted the seeds for our country valued freedom, and had the courage to defend it.