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A new side to Mexico City that you should explore

Adriana Setti

Christian Palma, Ana Hop, cc_Kyle Magnuson, Jaime Navarro, Giselle Galvão, Divulgação

Amazing shops, architecture, restaurants: Mexico City has a (beautiful) side that goes way beyond the pyramids and the folklore

 

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While the women of her day followed the trends of European fashion, Frida Kahlo (1907-1945) scoured various regions of Mexico for traditional fabrics and trimmings to put her look together. Now a posthumous ambassador for her country, she has become a timeless style icon, influencing such designers as Jean Paul Gaultier and Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons). “Frida used to get dressed with the intention of constructing a personality,” says Hilda Trujillo, director of the Frida Kahlo Museum, where visitors can see the artist's dresses and accessories, as well as her personal belongings and paintings – which are just as striking as her distinctive eyebrows. Just like the artist, the capital city which was once the center of the Aztec empire sets its own trends. Proud of its past, Mexico City is today one of Latin America's most vibrant metropolises, a reference in culinary arts, design and other creative fields.

 

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With such diverse attractions as pre-Columbian ruins and the Museo Soumaya – a building covered in titanium modules and filled with works of art by Diego Rivera, Monet and Rodin –, the capital was picked as the number one travel destination to visit in 2016 by the New York Times, which named it the most progressive metropolis in Latin America. “We are dedicated to making the city the most interesting place in Mexico,” says Ceci Palacios, director of the trend spotting website coolhuntermx.com. “And we have a lot of cultural and artistic baggage from which we can take inspiration to create new things.”

 

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The real dimension of the proportions of this megalopolis of 22 million people (at an altitude of 6,560 feet [2,000 m]!) turned more palpable with the inauguration of the colossal model installed in the new Futura CDMX cultural center. Paradoxically, in the midst of the immensity, the geography of what is of interest to tourists is easy to map. A large part of the new additions pop up in the axis formed by the colonias (neighborhoods) Roma and Condesa. On the other side of the beautiful Bosque de Chapultepec, the city's answer to Central Park, is luxurious Polanco, a region rife with designer hotels, international name brands and the headquarters of local brands like Pineda Covalin – the designer represented the country at the 2015 World Latin Trends, which combines collections inspired by Latin American identity.

 

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“Here, everything that comes from abroad arrives a few years late,” says movie producer Gabriela Nieto. “On the other hand, we are reinventing traditional Mexican food.” The engine behind this revolution is Enrique Olvera. At the head of the restaurant Pujol, he holds the number five spot on the ranking of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America according to Restaurant Magazine, followed by another Mexican compatriot, Quintonil, run by Olvera's pupil Jorge Vallejo. Both houses offer innovative renditions of the strong Mexican tradition. The same blend of tradition and avant-garde works to spice up the cultural scene. In February, the city hosts Zona Maco, one of the most important contemporary art fairs in Latin America. And when it comes to museums, you can see the most cutting-edge work at MUAC and Museo Tamayo.

 

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The key to understanding the importance of the heritage that holds sway over all the creative fields is in the Museo Nacional de Antropología and Zócalo, home to a 16th-century cathedral erected atop the Templo Mayor of ancient Tenochtitlán. Nearby, at the Secretary of Public Education and the old San Idelfonso school, you can see works by venerated muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The muralism tradition is alive and well on the city's walls. The 3-mile [5 km] course of the new Mexicable cable car passes by an outdoor art exhibit which, once completed, will feature 50 murals and 128 painted houses by 20 artists.

 

LATAM has direct flights to Mexico City departing from Santiago, São Paulo and Lima.