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Mexico Travel - General Information
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
MEXICO CITY IS KNOWN AS SUCH ONLY TO FOREIGNERS. TO the Mexican it is simply Mexico, or sometimes, the capital. The city is ideal-in its climate, in its panoramic views, in its colorful sights. I am not exaggerating when I say that, once having nibbled at its corners, you will be coming back for a second helping-and a third, and a fourth.
Business Hours and Meal Hours
Most stores and business offices open at nine in the morning. The most convenient business calling hour is in the morning, at about eleven o'clock.
At one o'clock, everything shuts up tight, with the exception of a few places catering particularly to foreigners, and everything opens up again at three-thirty. In the interim, almost everybody takes time off for a leisurely lunch, and perhaps a siesta.
Businesses and stores close again at six-thirty, seven, or seven-thirty, and the "night life" begins. The fashionable places for cocktails fill up; the movie houses begin to draw the crowds, particularly for the seven o'clock performance, which seems to be the most popular.
Ordinarily people do not dine before nine o'clockoften later. The surest way of dying of loneliness is to go into a really good restaurant in Mexico City for dinner before nine o'clock. The one exception is Sanborn's, which caters especially to Americans, but is also popular with Mexicans. At seven o'clock, Sanborn's will be full of Americans having dinner and Mexicans having tea. By nine o'clock most of the Americans will have wandered off, and the Mexican dinner trade will be coming in.
Dinner at nine or nine-thirty is a much lighter meal than lunch. It is over at about ten-thirty or eleven, when practically everybody discovers that he is very sleepy-and so to bed.
The traffic system in Mexico City operates much like our own system-by means of green and red traffic lights, policemen, and one-way streets. There are slight differences, however. Here the traffic policeman always faces the traffic. When his side is turned toward you, it is an indication to "Stop." When he faces you, or turns his back to you, it is an indication to "Go," unless he turns with his side toward you while you are approaching.
Be very careful to watch the signs "Stop" and "Go." Remember that Alto means "Stop" and Siga "Go." When you see the sign Siga painted on the pavement, this is an indication that you can make a right turn on a red light. In some of the squares and circles, particularly the circles along the great Paseo de la Reforma, you will find white lines leading traffic far to the right around the circle. You cannot cross these lines.
You should observe the traffic regulations as carefully as possible for your own protection, although if your car carries a tourist sticker, you will find the average policeman inclined to make allowances.
Downtown Mexico City is composed almost entirely of one-way streets. The two that are likely to interest you are the Avenida Francisco Madero and the Avenida Cinco de Mayo. These are two great shopping streets which run from the Alameda to the Zocalo. Traffic on the Avenida Francisco Madero leads to the Zocalo, and traffic on the Avenida Cinco de Mayo leads from it. The Alameda on one side of the Old City and the Zocalo on the other are probably the two greatest sightseeing centers in Mexico City. The shopping district lies between them.
Streets in Mexico City have an annoying way of changing their names. The city is divided at the end of the Alameda by a long street, San Juan Letran, which extends from the south to the Alameda, where it changes its name and becomes Santa Maria la Redonda on the other side. The great street leading from the hotel district toward the center of town is the Avenida Juarez. This is the two-way street down the south side of the Alameda. At San Juan Letran it changes its name and becomes Madero; Independencia becomes the 16 de Septiembre; and Articulo 123 becomes Venustiano Carranza. The only way to keep them straight is to buy a pocket map of the city at any one of the good book stores. It will cost you about a peso.
There is an ample supply of good taxis, and the fares are low. The legal tariff is pasted on the right-hand window beside the back seat of the cab. At the time of writing, the rates are i peso per half-hour and 2 pesos per hour on weekdays, and 1 peso 50 centavos per halfhour and 3 pesos per hour on Sundays and holidays.
For a short drive, it is customary to make an arrangement with the driver. For a stretch of a few blocks, he will probably charge you 50 or 75 centavos.
Some of the drivers speak English, but not many, so if you mean to bargain with them, you will do well to polish up on your Spanish.
The Trolley and Bus System
Almost all the sights in and around Mexico City can be reached conveniently and inexpensively by trolley. The trolley cars are ordinarily huge affairs, operating with great dispatch and efficiency. You may find them rather noisy, since a great number are used for the transportation of baggage as well as for passengers, but not seriously disturbing. On many of the trolleys you will see a baggage car door in the center of the car. This indicates that the center section is to be used for the carrying of bundles and baskets-and most extraordinary bundles and baskets they are. The Indians going to and from the market pile the baggage space high with any kind of produce that could possibly be sold in a market, and while the effect is colorful and amusing, it is apt to be a little startling to the tourist. Cars without this center baggage car door are generally less crowded and much more comfortable.
The fares are exceedingly low, averaging 10 centavos everywhere inside the city limits. Outside the city limits the rates are also relatively low. Entrance is invariably by the front door and exit by the rear. In some cars the fares are collected directly by the conductor, who passes up and down the car; in others, the fares are deposited in a cash box in the center of the car. In all cases the responsibility is yours to see that the conductor is paid.
Of course, I admit frankly to a passion for trolley riding, so I may be prejudiced, but I did find it an excellent way to get around. I found the ride on the cars marked either "Villa Obregon" or "Tacuba" about as interest ing as any. They both cover very much the same route, but the Tacuba car is noteworthy as being one of the few in Mexico City which does not begin or end its run in the Zocalo. Instead of going to the Zocalo, it goes down and around the Merced market, and the huge cars turn themselves loose between vendors' stands on a route that you would think would be impossible to cover without either pushing stands over or squashing the vendor, or both.