Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mindscrapers: Santa Fe, Old Mexico

In this special edition of Mindscrapers, Kenny and I explored what must be the capitol of corporate architecture in Mexico. Located in the southwest corner of the city, the exclusive neighborhood of Santa Fe sits on top of a massive landfill.

More than half a century ago, this area was mined for sand to supply building materials for construction downtown. When the supply was depleted, the government decided to fill the empty mines with the city's garbage. The landfill reached it's capacity by the 1980's, and from this point on, construction and development ran out of control.

There isn't a subway station for kilometers, so we took a small green bus through the slums to get to this millionaire's playground. (The third richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, lives here.) Santa Fe is barely connected to the rest of the city. It's an island of angular office buildings, residential towers, and claims the second largest mall in Latin America.

This building is affectionately known as the "washing-machine".

We were dumbfounded by the lack of city planning. There's a string of high-rises along a highway with no streets in between and virtually no sidewalks. It's like the buildings just fell out of the sky.

And more are on the way!

To be honest, we got more of a "post-apocalyptic wasteland" than "attractive utopia" feeling from this ridiculous combination of steel, glass, and pavement. The only thing Mexican about it is that the giant hotel behind Kenny is called Fiesta. Santa Fe clearly calls attention to the dramatic economic disparity in Mexico. The bus ride from the subway station says it all.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

lentils with plantains

Semi-ripe plantains are an interesting and delicious addition to lentils. They provide a subtle sweetness and starch. The addition of lime juice confirms the tropical theme in this new version of something I cook all the time. Over the past five years I've learned there's tons of ways to approach lentils and brown rice, two pantry items I will always have on hand. I topped it with bell peppers and parsley, but cilantro would work.

Sautee chunked plantains and add cumin seeds, onion, then garlic. Stir in lentils, salt, and pepper. Add water, cover and cook until lentils are tender. Serve on brown rice with diced bell pepper, parsley, and lime.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

that orange building

You may recall that we live across the street from a "medium-sized orange building". I've been keeping tabs on it, because it seems to drastically change in color depending on the lighting conditions. (In terms of color-correction in Photoshop, I tried to be as accurate as possible to what I saw.)

Someone cut down that nice tree.

Mixed light.



Friday, March 12, 2010


Our new favorite way to drink tequila is the refreshing cocktail called a Paloma (Spanish for dove). It's tequila, fresh lime juice, fizzy water, and a small pinch of salt. Easy Margarita.

mystery solved

Until now, we haven't understood why there are so many full water-bottles strategically placed along the sidewalk and in planters. We noticed that sometimes they reserve parking spots, but most of the time they're nestled amongst plants. Our friend speculated it had something to do with slowly watering plants (the city has a major water shortage), but our teacher recently revealed to us a peculiar explanation. The bottles, perhaps with some tricks of light or simply their unnatural appearance, discourage animals from going to the bathroom where they're placed. Cats and dogs run free here, so it would be difficult to enforce any caca clean-up laws.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The Jacaranda tree, native to Central and South America, is in full bloom at this time of year. Like the cherry trees in DC, the blooming of the Jacarandas signals the beginning of spring. Relatively tall for an ornamental tree, they are striking in appearance with their almost unnatural looking blue-violet flowers. The trees are everywhere, and we're constantly being reminded to look up when we happen to walk over a carpet of fallen purple flowers. We first noticed the unusual tree in early February, and it seems that they haven't even reached their peak yet. These are photos of the one near our house.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


As you plan your trip to come and visit us, set aside a weekend for Puebla. It's the closest big city, about two hours by bus, and has the reputation of being the food capitol of Mexico. We ate enough Mole Poblano to last us a while (it's like eating gravy). Puebla is stunningly beautiful, densely packed with architectural gems, and a fun place to explore by foot. It's a little touristy too, but that's all part of the fun!

There are hundreds of churches like this one, all in different colors and styles.

We took the bus tour but got a little tired after the first hour and a half.

It could happen to you.

I liked the subtlety of this brick-job.

Out-of-towner poses with snowy mountains. Mexico City (or the DF as we call it) sits on the other side of that volcanic ridge.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Loud and Proud

This is a police motorcycle.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mindscrapers: Part 3

The Torre Latinoamerica is the most famous and historic skyscraper in Mexico City. (Does it remind you of anything?) For decades it was the tallest building in Latin America.

I went to the top floor on a particularly gorgeous afternoon and took some pictures. This one looks east over the Centro Historico and Zocalo, the city's main plaza.

To the west you can see more mindscrapers (including the current tallest building in Latin America) and the mountains that surround the city. You can also see our apartment. We live across the street from that medium-sized orange building smack in the middle of the picture.