This article is from the July 1997 The Mexico File newsletter.
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In Mexico City

About That Volcano

You expect the world's second largest city to have a few obstacles to overcome on a daily basis. It comes with the territory. That's why man created city governments, to tax us as much as they can without being recalled and to stumble upon solutions to the problems that we, the good citizens, have no clue as how to solve. They formulate plans to pick up the garbage, fill the potholes, and attempt to make life a blissful passage of time for its citizens...a formidable endeavor.

Because of its size, Mexico City has a monumental task...and considering the complications, they do a pretty remarkable job. But they could really do without the threat of being consumed by a fire-spewing mountain. It just seems a little unfair. Why couldn't it be somewhere else, like Death Valley for instance?

Scientists estimate that Popocatepetl (Popo) was formed some two and a half million years ago and last had a devastating eruption just prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century. Since its reawakening in 1994, Popo is now releasing about 10,000 to 50,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide gas every day. That means that it is a "very active" volcano, one that could have a major eruption. The government is saying that there is only a ten percent chance that it will do so. Although it lies 48 miles from Mexico City, a major eruption could cause some serious problems, although not as devastating as it might be for the small villages at the base of the mountain. Last month, Popo emitted a spectacular explosion, spitting out burning rocks and ash that the winds pushed as far away as Vera Cruz.

No one in Mexico City seems too concerned about Popo, and really, what could they do anyway? Not even city government can stop a volcano.

It Ain't the Beach

If you're going to Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta or any of the other beach resorts and are stopping in Mexico City for a few days (which you should do), don't forget that shorts and sandals are not appropriate attire for the city streets. It’s a dressy place and if you don't want to advertise the fact that you are an ill informed tourist begging to be hustled, you should dress accordingly. Some of the finer restaurants require a coat and tie for the guys and dresses for the ladies. L.L. Bean sells comfortable, lightweight clothes that are great for travel and dressy enough for most situations. Remember too that at 7,200 feet, you need a warm sweater or jacket in the winter and a rain parka or jacket in the rainy season of June through September.

Take the Kids

Mexico City hotels and restaurants are very child-friendly. Mexicans love kids and are always willing to accommodate families. Some of the major museums and sites have children's programs, and there are numerous parks and playgrounds which are just right for the kids.

The recently opened Papalote Children's Museum allows adults only if they are accompanied by a child, but it is nevertheless a big treat for both children and adults. The museum is totally interactive, a place where the guest both learns and is entertained through a variety of touching, smelling, hearing, and manually-manipulative exhibits. It also has a giant-screen movie theater for showing IMAX movies. It is located in Chaputepec Park (Consituyentes No. 268) and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is 7 pesos. Telephone: 224-1259.

Two museums located near the popular Zona Rosa are a treat for families visiting Mexico City. Ripley’s Believe It or Not (Londres 4, Colonia Juarez) is always a treat for children (regardless, it seems, of which tourist-oriented city one happens to be in). And The Wax Museum of Mexico City (located adjacent to Ripley’s at Londres 6, Colonia Juarez) features wax figures of Mexican political and cultural leaders, as well as those from around the world. Where else would one see Pancho Villa, Miguel de la Madrid, Dracula and Michael Jackson in the same place? Both museums are open weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Admission is 20 pesos. Telephone: 546-7670.