Well, we’ve been back in the States for a week now, but I still haven’t reported about the rest of our worldschooling trip to Mexico City—so sorry about that! Although it was wonderful, our trip didn’t exactly go as expected, and once we got home, we were surprised with some major plumbing issues (eek!), so I’ve basically been in catch-up mode until today.
If you’ve read my first update, you’ve heard about our family’s first week in the DF, but here some of the highlights of the rest of our time there:
1.) We delighted in a performance by the Ballet Folklórico de México.
It has long been a dream of mine to attend a performance by the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico and on this, our third visit to Mexico, I finally got to make it come true. The show starts out with a wild, near-deafening drum performance—the music accompanying a traditional indigenous dance—and unfolds over the course of two hours to showcase dances from every corners of Mexico.
Although I’m sure my husband would have enjoyed it, I decided to bring Xavi as my “date,” since this was such an amazing opportunity for him to be exposed to new art forms. He loved watching the lasso dance, in particular, as well as the stilt performers.
After the show, Xavi was thrilled to take a picture with some of the musicians who provided accompaniment. He loves mariachi music and would always request it whenever we took an Uber, but much to his disappointment, there aren't really any mariachi-only radio stations in Mexico City.
If you would like to watch a performance of the Ballet for yourself, there is a high-quality recording of it available on YouTube (the dancers start at 10:45 minutes in). You might even use these discussion questions to turn your viewing into an easy cultural learning activity—the teacher in me just couldn't resist:
- What are some of the different instruments that you notice being used? Do they remind you of any instruments commonly used here, or are there any that are completely new? Here’s are some helpful descriptions of the Mexican musical instruments that you’ll see and hear being played during the performance.
- What is your favorite costume that you see the dancers wearing? Did you see any examples of how they use their costumes to create visual effects in (many of) the dances? You’ll find more about traditional Mexican clothing—much of which is featured in this performance—by clicking on that link.
- What distinctive movements do you notice in the dances? There are many different dance styles included in this performance, so here’s a handy guide to traditional Mexican dance that can help you explore these further with your children.
2.) We rode burros at the Tío Pépe Granja Didáctica.
One of the reasons that we wanted to return to Mexico City for this worldschooling trip was to connect with old friends, and we were so happy to have many opportunities to do just that. On our last weekend in the city, we spent an entire Saturday at the Tío Pepé Granja Didáctica, a teaching farm located about 45 minutes from the city center.
We toured the farm with a very knowledgable and enthusiastic guide, who not only taught the kids about each of the animals, but helped them interact individually with each one. Xavi and Felix got to experience feeding all kinds of creatures, from turtles to goats to sheep! They also got to ride on burros and ponies, which was a highlight for both of them.
I mostly enjoyed spending long, relaxed hours with our friends—a true luxury in contrast to our busy, tightly scheduled American weekends. Even though as a family, we strive to keep our schedule fairly light, our time in Mexico challenged me to think more creatively on how I can make space for more intentional and unhurried fellowship. Is it even possible where we live, in the frenetically-paced DC? I’m not sure yet, but I have plenty to consider as I refine our schedule for this year.
3.) We cruised through centuries-old canals on a trajinera.
Visiting the floating gardens of Xochimilco was another travel dream of mine that we got to make come true on this trip—and I’m so glad that we did! We took a weekday morning to visit Xochimilco (since it’s more of a party atmosphere on the weekends), and we rented a flat-bottomed boat known as a trajinera for a tour of the the city’s historic waterways.
In case you didn’t know, Mexico City was originally constructed one top of an intricate web of canals and lakes—and naturally, boats were the primary method of transportation in this environment. The waterways of Tenochtitlan—as the city was called prior to the Spanish Conquest—were so technologically advanced that they even impressed Hernán Cortés, as he noted in his second letter to the Spanish King:
This great city of Tenochtitlan [Mexico] is situated in this salt lake, and from the main land to the denser parts of it, by whichever route one chooses to enter, the distance is two leagues. There are four avenues or entrances to the city, all of which are formed by artificial causeways, two spears' length in width. The city is as large as Seville or Cordova; its streets, I speak of the principal ones, are very wide and straight; some of these, and all the inferior ones, are half land and half water, and are navigated by canoes. All the streets at intervals have openings, through which the water flows, crossing from one street to another; and at these openings, some of which are very wide, there are also very wide bridges, composed of large pieces of timber, of great strength and well put together; on many of these bridges ten horses can go abreast.
Our family enjoyed a two-hour tour floating along those same ancient canals, which have been preserved in Xochimilco, and talking with our rower, Beto, about the area and his life. Beto sweetly taught Xavi to propel the trajinera by pushing the rowing stick along the bottom of the canal, which got us this adorable photo.
As you float down the river, other boats come by with vendors who will sell you anything from roasted corn or quesadillas (all prepared on their tiny boats!) to silver bracelets and flower crowns. There are also floating mariachis and marimba players. We stopped at a riverside restaurant to order lunch and then ate as we floated along, and it was truly a unique dining experience!
By the way, if you are looking for activities for young kids in Mexico City, this is one that I recommend with reservations. Part of the reason that we did only the two-hour tour is that I could only handle so much anxiety about my toddler constantly trying to throw himself overboard. There are no safety devices whatsoever on the trajineras, so they require a lot of hands-on supervision for little ones.
And that's it! Now that we’re home, we’re settling into a new routine to get ready for our homeschool year, which starts next week. Over the next few weeks, I’ve got some exciting stuff planned here as well: new posts about our family’s curriculum choices for this year, reviews of new homeschool Spanish curricula, and more! Thanks for joining us in our family’s adventure to Mexico City—I've really enjoyed sharing it with you!