The Diego Rivera works in the Dolores museum are of the more intimate kind - sketches, paintings, preparatory drawings for murals. With a deft eye and quick stroke, he could capture the essence of a hawker in a marketplace. The museum itself has a very homely feeling about it: you would come to the end of a room, about to turn back, when a door would be opened by a smiling attendant, you'd be let out into a verandah surrounding a courtyard with flowering trees; you walk around to the next room: "Buenas tardes", softly wishes the attendant there. Among all this, a Compaq-sponsored scrabble competition in one patio struck a very discordant note.
While this museum was a treat, the only disappointing place we visited in Mexico was also in Xochimilco - in fact, it's what Xochimilco is known for. The Aztecs found here a huge lake, drained parts of it and started farming in the rich boggy soil; with time, more and more of the marsh was drained, so what used to be a lake was reduced to a network of canals, which now seems to be Mexico City's favourite picnic spot - on water. Extended families and big groups hire boats, spending the entire day on them cooking, eating, singing. Serving them are sundry gondola-riding vendors: bands of Mariachi singers, sellers of beverages, souvenirs, photographers, all drawing their boats next to yours to solicit business, some even boarding yours uninvited.
As for the canals, we found them as interesting as, well, irrigation canals -
clean, non-smelly, to be fair. The boats are garish and colourful, if that
makes it worth the trouble. The picnickers spend the entire day floating through this
vast maze of water - we spent two hours: I dont know if that makes a substantial
difference. Be aware that the rates given in Lonely Planet and posted at the
jetties are to be strictly enforced - a little laxity, the smallest hint
that your Spanish is weak, and the gondolier will fleece you.
Moreover, his ploy will be to park at a jetty along the way, and convince
you that the market there is of utmost interest and worth spending a good
half an hour (which will come out of the time he's supposed to give you a
tour of the canals).
Next Chapter: Museo Anthropologia