Phillip Smith

Mexico: Day Three, Mexico City. Pedestrian Sunday, Flash Mob, and The Zocalo.

The Zocalo, Mexico City. Photo: Phillip Smith

It’s Sunday. The last two days of exploring have taken their toll. I give myself a pep talk and manage to get outside around noon. Today’s mission: The Zocalo – the main square in Mexico City’s historic centre.

Google Maps says that it’s forty-five minutes from Zona Rosa. I figure I’ll walk there, wander around for the afternoon, have some lunch, and try to navigate the subway back. I set out in the direction of the Angel of Independence; from there I should be able to follow Paseo de La Reforma, a six-lane main artery of downtown Mexico City, all the way downton.

I arrive at La Reforma expecting the vehicular mayhem that is common to such large avenues, but instead find that it is filled with bicycles, people on roller blades, and random salsa classes. It seems that Kensington Market’s “Pedestrian Sundays” is not such a novel idea, nor nearly ambitious enough. Each Sunday in Mexico City, La Reforma is closed to vehicle traffic and is transformed into a playground for people. I walk down the centre of this huge avenue all the way to the historic centre.

A short pit stop at the Palacio de Bellas Artes is made more enjoyable by an impromptu interview. A group of five local students ask if they can interview me on camera for a school project:

“What is your name?”

“Where are you from?”

“What do you do there?”

“What is your favourite thing about Mexico?”

You never know when you’re going to get your fifteen seconds of fame.

Interview complete, with appropriate compliments paid to Mexico and its people, I’m off again. Cultural perceptiveness may not be my strongest skill, but – as I wind my way toward the Zocalo – I’m noticing that an ever increasing number of people are, um, not wearing any pants. At first it’s just a few here and there. Then more and more people appear wearing only underwear on their bottom half. It’s a jarring – but not entirely unpleasant! – sight. What is going on? I’m keen to investigate.

In the final block before the small street open into the massive square pedestrian traffic has come to a stop. Ahead is what appears to be a protest. A large crowd has filled the block and is chanting loudly. The chant grow louder and louder and then – suddenly – break into boisterous applause and cheer. The apparent cause of the cheer: a person waving their pants from a window above the crowd.

I push my way through. I want to know what’s happening. I’m now surrounded by people with no pants. The pantless mob randomly descends on those people still wearing pants and chants in Spanish “Take them off! Take them off!” (or something like that; admittedly, my Spanish isn’t great). If the person strips, the crowd goes wild. I find a few pantless warriors on the edge of the mob and enquire “Que esta pasando aqui?” Flash mob.

Having arrived at the Zocalo without having to remove my pants, I duck into the Hotel Majestic and head up to their rooftop restaurant, La Terraza. I sip a beer, take in the view overlooking the entire historic square, and snap a few photos.

The area and streets around the Zocalo are filled with vendors of all kinds. Some streets are so densely packed that it makes walking almost impossible. There are many performances happening simultaneously. It’s a swirling, noisy placed filled with bright colours and every smell imaginable. Definitely worthy of more than a few short hours of exploration.

It’s time to head back. I’ve read about a place – Plaza de Computacion, an indoor market of electronics – that I want to find on route to the subway. I head down Eje Central Avenue, a large busy street with lots of vehicular mayhem, and pedestrian mayhem also. Eje Central is not a pretty street. It’s busy and loud and the sidewalks are full with street vendors. I find the Plaza de Computacion. It’s a multi-floor market of mostly cell phones, video games, and pirated music and movies. A bit of a let down, but worthy of a quick tour nonetheless.

With the metro station Salto del Agua in sight, I make my escape from blocks and blocks of bustling commerce back to the relative quiet of Zone Rosa.

A quick stop at the local taqueria reminds me that I don’t like Dos Equis that much.

A sore throat sends me off to bed early.

Tomorrow morning I journey to Oaxaca.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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