Strictly speaking, Coyoacan is not my home town. But it is the nearest place to my home that’s always worth visiting. A ten minute drive on a good day. Coyoacan is often described as ‘bohemian’, and has been attracting new residents and tourists for a mighty long time. Both Frida Kahlo and Trotsky lived, and died, here. You can wander through their former abodes, now museums, and have a charming glimpse into the past. Trotsky’s home is, they say, exactly as he left it. He left it via a nasty assassins wound to his head. I’ve looked for blood stains on his desk, but, alas, can see none.
We haven’t visited much in the last year and a half or so. Ever since we turned up one quiet weekday evening for a meal and found most of it fenced off, paving tiles ripped out and a general state of destruction evident. A grand renovation project was underway. We knew this wasn’t going to be a quick job. And we were right. But we returned yesterday for a stroll to inspect the progress, if any. And were pleasantly surprised to find that it appears that they have finished!
Sort of. A year before they started on the paved areas, they began painting the church. They started with the tower. Mysteriously, they also finished with the tower. Did they run out of paint? Did locals protest at the renovations? Did someone in authority change their mind half way through? Or will it simply be finished ‘manaña’? Who knows. The paint has run and aged on the tower nicely anyway.
The bandstand remains intact. Not that I’ve ever seen a band play there. It’s more usually used by teens to gather and chat, but I’m sure they put it to use for festivals and celebrations of importance. Another local tradition, El Jarocha coffee house is still alive and well. Expect to queue here for some time on a weekend evening for one of their special brews. Or go to any of the numerous coffee shops that fill Coyoacan. This is, after all, the place to come for a meal, a drink or a gossip.
On the weekends this fountain, the centrepiece of one of the two main squares, used to be surrounded by temporary stalls selling traditional (looking) clothing, beads, necklaces, incense sticks, fake CDs and lots and lots of tourist trash. As night fell, the teens would gather and the aroma of marijuana would often catch the breeze and your attention. During the reconstuction, they moved the stalls away. I imagine they are back again now.
But there’s been a price to pay for this renewal of Coyoacan. The balloon seller is fine, holding onto his stock of birthday balloons, Valentines Day balloons, Christmas balloons. Depending on season. There are Disney balloons when there is no season. And he was here before the renovation anyway. But to turn a fine old building into a Burger King? Terrible! But it happens everywhere I guess. It was always only a matter of time…