Saturday March 26th - 10:13 PM
As the plane began its descent over Mexico City the sun blinded me as I looked out the window. Mountains surrounded the valley we were destined to land in. As we neared the airport, and drew closer to the world below, us tiny tin rooftops began to scatter themselves among the green leafed trees. With each passing minute the roofs grew in higher and higher density until the only trees left could be seen where people had chosen not to build houses. Mexico showed why they were host to some of the largest favelas in the world - there were no limits to where they would live.
When Toronto was designed it may as well have been designed on graph paper. Straight lines on a grid as far as the eye can see, space dictated by income and plotted land. Mexico City may as well have been designed on a topographic map of the sea. A large amount of curves and hills in the land did not limit the growth of the city's expansion.
The view quickly became a constant vision of tin roofs and scattered trees flowing over the warped land like waves in the ocean. The roofs grew closer and closer together until main roads spliced through the bronze clutter, and even then the roads were clearly designed to accommodate the houses, not the other way around.
Anxious as ever, I was first through security and to the baggage claim where we took our transport to the hotel. Stationed twenty minutes away from the airport, our hotel was what you could call a scenic ride from the airport. Paint peeled off each building we passed as we neared the hotel, the roads surprisingly clear as Easter weekend drove the inland residents to the coast for the week.
Upon arriving and checking in the group was exploring within the hour for adventure, culture and cervesas. Walking east a group of us decided to explore the streets towards the historical districts of the city. Beautiful old buildings shone in the sun as the open concept streets were flooded with the city's citizens.
It was clear that both history and transportation were key in maintaining the city. As we passed the Revolution Monument and the Palacio de Bella Artes in the historic district the wide streets were separated into multi-lane streets and separate lanes for bikers. Most corners were stationed with local police officers, both for safety and to maintain the ever flowing traffic. Citizens crossing at police-less corners were constantly engaged in a game of chicken with the cars of the city.
We stopped at a local bar to re-energize with tacos and tequila only to fully take in the scenes around us, watching how the city moved and ticked. Countless sellers of goods were stationed around the busy streets. Stands or not, people were selling anything from cupcakes to homemade Cheetos to t-shirts.
It was clear that these stands are not just a way for those hard on their luck to make a peso, but they were an integrated part of the city. Everywhere we walked from the business districts to the parks, food and good stands lined the streets serving both the tourists and the people who worked in the city. I buckled and picked up a luchador mask at one of the many stands.
As we wandered through the streets families and children splashed in the park fountains while the youth of the city gathered to rollerblade and listen to music. Passing by the old churches and shops we had reached an upscale area of the city. Known shops like Starbucks and Adidas drew people in to do some local shopping and take in familiar food. But after a full day of walking I had seen little to identify this city as one entrenched in soccer.
Home to three teams in Liga MX, I had seen a number of Club America, Cruz Azul, and Pumas jerseys but little memorabilia from the shops and stands. The only thing that had caught my eye were the local news stands. The Canada Mexico game from the previous night was on the front page of every major news outlet. A fence maintained by a shopkeeper showcased six newspapers covering the local game, one that simply read "Miel de Maple" - I am unsure how "Maple Syrup" made the title, but it was clear the country was relishing the sweet victory.
The night reached its conclusion with the Voyageurs from the west coast arriving and the collective group hitting bars and closing out the hotel bar. While the trip is truly based around the soccer fixture the night was spent with Canadian soccer fanatics laughing, conversing and dreaming of a better future for soccer in Canada.
No longer limited by twitter or a message board, the drinks flowed and stories were shared of past trips for those with a passion of Canadian soccer. The final drink was finished around 1am and we all caught sleep for the adventures ahead. A luchador match and bar crawl was on tap for Sunday and the group was ready to press on.