Facts & Figures: Mexico
Land Area – 761,606 sq. mi. (1,972,550 sq. kms.)
Population – 119,530,753
Capital & largest city – Mexico City
Monetary Unit – Mexican peso
Languages spoken – Spanish & 67 native languages
Government – Federal presidential (constitutional republic with a bicameral Congress: Chamber of Deputies and Senate)
A five-hour-and-a-half direct flight from Vancouver took us to the busy Benito Juarez International Airport on a “divine apparitions” pilgrimage to Mexico City just before the yearly feast day celebration on December 12th of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas.
After a night rest at the Hotel Plaza Fontan located on the main avenue of the capital city, Paseo de la Reforma 24, our small group of nine “pilgrims” headed to two of the country’s historically important cities, Cholula and Puebla. About two hours from the city centre, the city of Cholula is best known for its great pyramid, Tepenapa Pyramide, with the beautiful church, Nuestra Senora de los Remedios Sanctuary, on the top. Puebla, a colonial pre-planned city founded in 1531, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its history and cultural value of its architectural style. It is home to tile buildings and Mexican baroque churches particularly the Church of Sto. Domingo which houses the awesome Capilla del Rosario.
On day 3 we feasted our eyes on the main square of Mexico City, officially named `Plaza de la Constitucion` where the nation`s first constitution was proclaimed in 1813. Considered as the beating heart of the city the locals popularly call it the `Zocalo`, meaning `base`. Around the huge plaza are the `Palacio Nacional`(Presidential Palace), the Cathedral Metropolitana, various city government offices, shops, and extravagant hotels lining the arcade called `Portal de Mercaderes`. The tour continued through the Reform Avenue, the most important and beautiful avenue in the city and also one of the most famous in the world because of the important buildings and monuments that stand along it like the world-renowned Angel of Independence and the monument to Christopher Columbus. Our busy day ended at the Anthropological Museum, one of the world`s largest collections of archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico`s prehistoric Mayan civilization to the Spanish conquest.
The main highlight of our tour on day 4 is the visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tepeyac Hill, the site of the apparitions of Virgin Mary from December 9 – 12, 1531, to the native convert, Juan Diego. We heard mass in the modern basilica which has seven front doors and a circular floorplan so you can see the image of the virgin from any point within the church. The main altar displays the astounding `Tilma`, or sackcloth bearing miraculously the image of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe. Earlier we stopped at the ancient city ruins of Tlatelolco to see the `Plaza of Three Cultures` which symbolizes Mexico`s three periods of history: pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial and the independent `mestizo` nation and also spent several hours at the archaeological site of `Teotihuacan` to see and explore the three ancient pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon, the Temple of Quetzalpapaloti, and the Avenue of the Dead.
On day 5 we`re at the towns of Cuernavaca and Taxco. Just 50 miles south of the city, Cuernavaca is known as the `City of Eternal Spring` because of its stable pleasant temperature and abundan vegetation. Best known for its silver craft, picturesque Taxco, perched on a steeply sloping hillside, with its preserved colonial structures and cobbled winding lanes, is an ancient mining town.
Quite blessed we departed for Vancouver on the 6th day!