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Staff Travel: Mexico City

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe,

Every time the topic of travel is brought up in conversation, the first destination that comes to mind is Mexico City. People who don’t know me might ask, “Why?”, especially if there are so many other places to explore.  From the culture to the diversity of architecture, and incredible food, I don’t think I’ll ever finish explaining all the reasons why. Traveling to Mexico not only fills me with joy, but it’s something that connects me to my heritage.

Casa Estudio de Luis Barragan, Mexico City (Leija, 2021)

I still remember the first time I traveled to Mexico City.  It was 2019, and I had just started the journey in my architectural career. I became aware of the first Latin-American architecture exhibition of Zaha Hadid’s work that took place in the University Museum of Contemporary Art.  While visiting the exhibition, I took advantage of exploring the city and toured iconic places such as The Pyramids of Teotihuacan and La Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo.  This experience was wonderful, but given that I only had a weekend, it wasn’t enough time to fully explore all that Mexico’s capital has to offer.  I knew I had to come back since this experience only left me wanting to see more of the city and its rich history.  In 2021 I was able to return and discover more of the city’s experiences.

Pyramids of Teotihuacan, Mexico City (Leija, 2019)

Mexico City is well known for its brightly-colored buildings and folk-art that adorns the streets.  These colors play a huge role in expressing the Mexican culture through symbolism and the colorful aesthetic that unfolds from the inside of buildings with interior finishes, furniture, and embroidered clothing. Even though it’s easy to think of history as monochromatic, the use of color can be tracked from the pre-Hispanic times when the ancient civilization used natural sources such as plants and soil to create pigments.  These pigments were used to decorate beautiful garments, murals, and structures that can still be seen to this day on historical artifacts.  Since then, the use of color has influenced many designers and architects including Luis Barragan and Ricardo Legorreta.  Both created residential and commercial works of architecture in the 20th century that can easily be identified by their bright colors and style. Furthermore, color is an emblem to the Mexican culture used by many people as an expression of history and life.

Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City (Leija, 2021)
Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City (Leija, 2021)

Beyond being a colorful city, it is a place that expresses its history through the Baroque facades of religious buildings that were highly influenced by the Spanish conquest starting in the 16th Century.  Within this period, Spain’s monarch, Philip II had established city planning ordinances that lead to the development of Plaza de La Constitución , now known as the Zocalo.  The plaza was initially designed to serve as an open space for public use at the heart of the city and it is mostly surrounded by religious, royalty, and governmental buildings.  As the Zocalo became the example of design planning to other cities in Mexico, it is known to be the largest plaza in the country, and continues to serve the community through public, social, and political events.  This city planning ordinance played a key role in the Mexico City’s development by having plazas act as a core design element for future urban planning.

Historic Center, Mexico City (Leija, 2021)

Last but not least, we can’t leave out the gastronomy aspect of this region.  From street food to fine dining, every single dish was and is absolutely phenomenal.  One of the best experiences of this city is walking the streets that are filled with vendors and being able to order tacos from a food cart.  You must be prepared to stand and eat while the taquero is preparing your order.  If you’re lucky enough, you might find a stool to sit on by the cart bar, but the entire experience of fast eating while everyone places their order is a must.  It’s a very diverse and unique experience because the taquero establishes a horizontal level of relationship with all kinds of people from different social classes.  You’ll find yourself submerged in this moment where everyone shares a commonality, which is enjoying food.  All in all, I strongly believe there’s no other place that has owned taco-making quite like Mexico City.

Pastor and Suadero Tacos, Mexico City (Leija, 2021)

Ultimately, Mexico City is one for the books.  It’s a destination surrounded by a rich culture, architecture, and gastronomy that can truly be for anyone’s travel interests.  From a history that has molded the region, to becoming a place that is identified through its vivid colors, the diversity it offers in every aspect is incomparable.

Zocalo, Mexico City (Leija, 2019)


Robert, M. J. (1997). Architecture and Its Sculpture in Viceregal Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press.


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