Back from Ecuador, I'm waiting in Mexico City for Laura's return flight from Seattle. I walk over to the Plaza de la Constitutión for a look at Christmas festivities. Commercial buildings face two sides of the Zócalo, covered with huge holiday decorations...
...that light up at night. Newspaper El Universal says the displays surrounding the plaza mayor use 80,000 colored lamp bulbs.
On the Zócalo I wander through snowy attractions, part of a program the city calls "La Magia de la Navidad." The centerpiece is the pista de nieve—the ice skating rink. Largest in the world at 200 by 100 feet, up to 400 people can skate on it at a time.
Other attractions include a ski slope that kids slide down on rubber rafts, tables full of snow for making snowmen, and a rink for motos de nieve—snowmobiles.
A large tent houses la guerra de nieve, a day-long snowball fight. Lines for this attraction are the longest: children wait for hours for an opportunity to pelt each other with snow. For most, this will be their first winter experience.
The line between private enterprise and government affairs blurs. Eighty percent of the funding for La Magia de la Navidad comes from private sources, paving the way for commercial attractions such as Toon's Land, "Where dreams come true." I'd say it's more like "Where we sell toys based on cartoon characters."
Domino's Pizza operates an outlet on the plaza, feeding festival goers with archetypal Mexican food.
As if all this isn't enough, a group of teenagers demonstrates, exacerbating traffic jams caused by street closures around the Zócalo. This group's complaint: their school has no water.
Every day, somewhere in Mexico, demonstrators shut down a road—a hallowed tradition.
The Metropolitan Cathedral seems lonely and forgotten amid all the activity. This is the biggest time of year for the Church, but nobody is paying it any attention.
Not everything is about winter sports or commercialism. The largest of the lighting displays depicts Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus—perhaps the lone reminder in all of the Zócalo that la Navidad celebrates the birth of Christ.
La Magia de la Navidad still exists, but perhaps not on the Zócalo. I find it in the posadas, in singing the old carols, and in my heart.
To all of you, Felíz Navidad.