HOME: The city that has it all

Erika Paola is excited to return home and eat chilaquiles with her family in Mexico City (Alex Dascalu/AQ)

Erika Paola is a third-year human rights and English major from Mexico City. She likes to travel, watch movies, eat chocolate and read.

I lived in Mexico City for 19 years and even now, I haven’t seen everything the city has to offer. The city is so large you’d be impressed by the number of monuments, parks, restaurants and museums that preserve our culture and traditions.

I don’t feel like I’m in the city when I visit Xochimilco Lake, even though it’s in the south of the city. Visitors can ride the trajinera, a colourful boat, around the canals like the Aztecs used to. When you ride the tranjinera close to the Day of the Dead, torches light the perimeter of the canal and boats park around an island to set up for the play, La Llorona.

On the Day of the Dead, my family puts up an alter, ofrenda, in our house, with pictures of deceased relatives, food they liked, candles, chopped and colourful paper, personal objects and cempasuchil flowers. The smell of cempasuchil is strong enough to guide the dead from the other side to come and visit their living family.

Most of Mexico City’s history is located downtown. The main square, El Zocalo, used to be the Aztec’s capital, Tenochtitlan.

Every year, El Zocalo holds an independence celebration on Sept. 15. The buildings surrounding the perimeter are decorated with bright lights. At night, the president gives the speech of independence and rings a bell, just like Miguel Hidalgo did to start the independence movement in 1810.

A few blocks away from El Zocalo, I remember begging my parents to go to the Fine Arts Palace to see the opera Turandot when I was six. They said I was too young to go and I might not understand it because the opera was Italian, so I could barely read the translated subtitles in the upper screen.

In the end, I loved it. I didn’t understand a word but I loved the passion of the opera singers and the visuals of the stage. 

Located in the centre of the city is the Chapultepec District which is the largest district in Mexico City. Chapultepec Park is the Central Park of Mexico City. My family and I used to have picnics on Sundays and feed crackers to the fish and ducks swimming in the lake.

My favourite tourist destination is Chapultepec Castle.

I love walking around the castle because every angle has a different view. My favourite side is where I can see the skyscrapers at the perimeter of Reforma Avenue. It looks like the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Angel of Independence and the Monument of Revolution stand out like Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.

The nightlife of the city is at Roma and Condesa. The districts are rich with bars, nightclubs and restaurants with international and national food. My high school is a few blocks from Condesa. I used to go out with my friends for sorbet or to El Merendero, a ’60s themed restaurant. I miss having the opportunity of lots of options for food in one single place. I could choose Italian, Japanese, vegetarian, Argentinian, or just go for tacos.

In the west is Polanco’s district. It’s my favourite place to go to the movies, visit the aquarium or go to one of the malls to have lunch with my family. It’s great because if one place is full, I can go to another one. My dad works a few blocks away from the mall so my favourite memory is reuniting with him at the end of the day.

I look forward to going home and eat chilaquiles with my family again.

HOME is a bi-weekly column where people from different countries can express what home means to them. If you would like to write for this column, please send an email to [email protected]