The Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatépetl, the snow-capped volcano to the east
of Mexico City
Franciscan and Augustinians built a number of monasteries, now designated
Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. They are important monuments from the 16th
century and show, aside from their artistic merit, the extent and reach of the
evangelization of the continent.
Folk Baroque
The villages of Santa María Tonantzintla and San Francisco Acatepec in the state of
Puebla are highly recommended for their fantastical interiors and colorful exteriors;
they are five minutes from each other, twenty minutes from Puebla, and one and a
half hours from Mexico City.  Both are exquisite examples of the folk Baroque--that is,
the colonial style that was imported from Europe and radically changed by
indigenous hands and eyes. The meeting of European and American indigenous
cultures is nowhere more apparent than in these folk Baroque churches.
Héctor Barraza
All tours are customized based upon your interests. Please find sample itineraries below.
Centro Histórico
A walking tour of the Centro Histórico of Mexico City is indispensable to an
understanding of Mexico’s rich history and culture.  We will design our walk
according to your interests, but I would suggest that we start at the Alameda Park,
stroll to the Palace of Fine Arts (
Palacio de Bellas Artes), enter its magnificent interior,
continue along Madero Street to the House of Tiles (
Casa de los Azulejos), the Palace
of Iturbide, and on to the main plaza (
el zócalo), where the magnificent
Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace (with the Diego Rivera murals)
face two sides of the plaza.  We will continue to the Church of Santo Domingo and
the adjacent plaza with its Portal of the Evangelists (
Portal de los Evangelistas),
where scribes sit at desks equipped with pen, ink, paper and typewriters still assist
people to write letters and fill in forms.  Small manual printing presses produce
wedding invitations and other announcements one by one.  Down the street is the
Hostería de Santo Domingo, a traditional restaurant that dates back 1865 and
serves excellent
chiles en nogada, or you might prefer the beautiful restaurant Las
Sirenas (“the mermaids”) with its outdoor terrace overlooking the Cathedral and the
main plaza.
Colonia Condesa
As we walk along the avenues of this neighborhood, you will learn about its history,
including the economic circumstances of Mexico from 1910-1940 and the reasons
behind the peculiar development of this area. This neighborhood is distinguished by
examples of Mexico Art Deco, beautiful esplanades and parks, and has once again
become fashionable for its informal restaurants and sidewalk cafes.
A Walk in San Ángel and Coyoacán
We will stroll through these two former villages now enveloped by the city yet still
maintaining their small town atmosphere.  If our tour is on Saturday, we will begin
with the
Bazar del sábado (the Saturday arts and crafts market) in the Plaza San
Jacinto.  From there we will proceed to other colonial and contemporary sites in
colonias, including the Convento del Carmen, the food, vegetable and flower
markets. Like San Ángel, Coyoacán is a delight to explore, with a two lovely plazas
graced by vendors of ice cream, toys and folk art, as well as musicians, bookstores,
and restaurants.
Frida and Diego in San Ángel, Coyoacán, and Xochimilco
We will start at the  Dolores Olmedo Museum (Hacienda de La Noria).  Dolores
Olmedo was the great friend and collector of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and her
hacienda has been made into a museum honoring them. The grounds of the
hacienda are beautiful, and the collection of art is excellent.  In Coyoacán we will
visit the Blue House where Frida grew up, now a charming house museum. We then
proceed to the Studio Museums in San Ángel, the twin houses constructed side by
side for Diego and Frida by the Mexican architect, Juan O’Gorman. I suggest an
early dinner at the San Ángel Inn across the street from the Studio Museums.
The Palaces of New Spain’s Aristocracy, 17th and 18th Centuries
This unique tour emphasizes civil architecture, as opposed to religious architecture, of
the 17th and 18th centuries.  The nobility of New Spain constructed great mansions
that embodied a developing sense of cultural identity. Most of these residences are
the work of the finest architects of the time and reflect the economic and political
conditions of viceroyal Mexico.
After Mexico City, Puebla is Mexico’s most Baroque city, preserving over 2000
colonial monuments of artistic and historic interest, including the Cathedral.  Beyond
the high Baroque religious art and architecture, the city is famous for its cuisine.  
Recipes “invented” in Puebla include
mole poblano, chiles en nogada, and
chalupas.  The array of restaurants serving traditional poblano dishes runs from
informal (la Fonda de Santa Catarina) to formal (the patio of the Camino Real
hotel, formerly a monastery). A great favorite of the local residents is the dining room
of the Hotel Colonial. All are within walking distance of the main plaza.  
Please see the following site for a tour of Puebla and environs that I helped organize
for the Houston Seminar:
Houston Seminar Puebla Tour
With great gardens, restaurants and a delightful climate, Cuernavaca is a lovely
side-trip from Mexico City.  Like Puebla, it has well preserved colonial monuments,
including the Cathedral and the Borda House.  The Palace of Cortes is a must-see,
with murals by Diego Rivera celebrating Mexico’s indigenous heritage and its
Revolutionary heroes.
Xochimilco:  The Floating Gardens and the Dolores Olmedo Museum (Hacienda de
La Noria
The floating gardens of Xochimilco, islands created by trees rooted in shallow waters,
were engineered by indigenous peoples long before the arrival of Europeans in
1521.  Among the floating gardens wind a network of canals with festive gondolas
that allow visitors to explore nature in this area. We will also visit the pleasant plaza,  
16th century church village of Xochimilco, and if you wish, we can proceed to the
nearby Dolores Olmedo Museum (
Hacienda de La Noria, meaning “water wheel”) a
former hacienda with fabulous grounds and a noteworthy collection of paintings by
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  An outdoor café provides a nice resting spot, with a
small but tasty menu of Mexican dishes.
Artesanías (Arts and Crafts)
The Baroque continues to flourish today in the form of arts and crafts in many media:
 trees of life, woven and embroidered textiles, painted and sculpted ceramics and
pottery in different regional styles,
alebrijes (fantastical animals carved in wood or
sculpted in paper maché),
calaveras (paper maché skeletons), miniature scenes
and figures, intricate beadwork and lacquered wood, painted scenes on
(bark) paper, etc.  These present day arts and artisans extend the history of Mexican
indigenous and colonial artistic practices, and they enliven and renew
centuries-long traditions in culturally significant ways.  Depending on your interests,
we will visit areas where these products are created:  Metepec for trees of life,
Puebla and/or Dolores Hidalgo (Guanajuato) for
talavera (painted ceramics),
Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca) for textiles and rugs.  In Mexico City, we will visit folk art
shops, markets, and museums, in particular the Museo de Culturas Populares in
Coyoacán and the Museo de Arte Popular in the center of  the city.
Four Museums in Chapultepec Park
The National Museum of Anthropology, The Museum of Modern Art, the Tamayo
Museum, and the National Museum of Mexican History are all within walking
distance in Chapultepec Park, the first three along beautiful Reforma Avenue, the
last a castle with a commanding view of Chapultepec Park.  The Museum of
Anthropology is world famous for its collection of prehispanic artifacts, murals, and
edifices, and is a must-see.  Depending upon your interests, we will visit the other
museums and stroll in Chapultepec Park, the “Central Park” of Mexico City.
Teotihuacan (Pyramids), Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Acolman Monastery
Approximately an hour away from Mexico City, we find one of the great centers of
indigenous Mesoamerica. “The place of the gods” appeared between 200 and 150
BC, reaching its pinnacle between 200 and 500 AD.  We will stroll along the Avenue
of the Dead to the pyramids of the sun and moon, which you can climb if you like.  
We will pay particular attention to the sculpted heads on Temple of Quetzalcóatl
(the plumed serpent) and Tlaloc (god of storms, rain, water).  We can combine the
pyramids with a visit to the Basilica of Guadalupe and the lovely rural 16th century
Augustinian monastery of Acolman.  Alternatively, and depending upon the level of
your interest, we can make two separate day tours.