Greenery is an Indispensable Element in Mexican Architecture

Without real knowledge in Mexican architecture, I am only conjecturing here. The prominent place greenery enjoys in urban curating reminds me of the colonial Spanish courtyards. But maybe it is a reflection of their harmonious relationships with nature before the Spanish arrival. Aesthetically this perfect blending of greenery with concrete makes Mexico City an idyllically relaxing urban space.

The four pictures below gives us a sample taste of this tranquil urban space. The top left is a soviet style complex for workers built in the 70s, while revolutionary Mexican ideals were on a high tide. Today the complex is still in residential use. The trees were so grand that their shades cover the whole small square.

Top right is the famous statue of the lady of reform in the city center. I took this picture during the gay pride parade. The trees are not dwarfed at all by the shiny office buildings nearby, nor by the landmark statue.

Bottom left is the famous studio for the couple of Mexican icon artists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahol. They had designed the cactuses around the house, demonstrating their pride for the iconic Mexican plant.

The bottom right is a corner of the UNAM contemporary art museum. It is famous in Mexico City for discovering many up-and-coming artists by first showing their work before fame caught up to them.


Thinking Back on Arrival

This is my third time in Mexico City. Therefore I didn’t start my summer language learning abroad with the thrill and excitement characterizing an exciting new journey. The first and second were both on spring breaks as a tourist. With the goals of significant progress on both language learning and sociological research for my PhD training, I was ready to dive right into work. And thanks to the help of mentors and friends, within the first week I arrived in mid-May, I started intensive language instructions of 5-6 hours a day during the day, and mingled with the Chinese entrepreneurs that I later intended to interview at night.

Everything seemed to be going well. I felt as prepared as being armed with the app GoogleMap while looking for a specific address. Following visual and audio instructions seemed like only natural and I was sure to land in the right place. All appliances were instantly kicked into gears and the assembly line was ready to roll out products.

All these are just typical signs for unexpected challenges. On the front of language learning, I found it very easy to quickly improve my comprehension on reading and writing, but listening and conversing with real people on the street is a totally different animal. It was like I didn’t have my brain and ears with me when facing a real Spanish speaker. The program I was attending had a fifty-year history of teaching foreigners Spanish. It was hosted by the most reliable and biggest public university UNAM, that had their own textbooks, full-time teachers on language instructions and supplementary lessons on Mexican history, culture and art. The quality of the program was superb,  I was motivated to learn. It just takes time to develop my ability to apply the language in real life, and I have learned to be patient with myself, which is not an easy thing to me as my friends would usually describe me as an “intense” person.

On the front of my sociological research, I also quickly discovered that there is significant literature that I was not aware of previously, written in Spanish! Customary in researching in English publications, I have declared to my advisers that my research topic is a niche rarely touched upon. It turns out there is a parallel universe, in another language. I felt relieved that I wasn’t an arm-chaired academic and actually got here on the field to take a look.

Of course none of this is possible without the generous support of the Language Center and their donors. Attached below is a photo I took while visiting one of the most famous modern art museum in Mexico City, Museo Soumaya. The artist chose to depict an atypical moment of a ballerina bending down to pick up her dance shoe. It captures my arrival with full confidence and preparation but running into fun challenges. More later on how these things turned out.