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Travels with Grace: Final Days in Mexico

Posted on November 5th, 2019 by

This week’s entry for our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace, continues her trip through Mexico. To read more of Grace’s travels, click here.

Sun. July 28. This morning (thanks to a man we met in the museum) we had a great treat. At 9 o’clock we went to Santa Maria Iglesia Santiago Tlatelolco where every July 28th is celebrated an all-day fiesta. The parishioners – mostly Indians – dress in traditional costumes with feather headdress, long hair, carry knives and other primitive weapons, beat on tom-toms and shake gourds filled with buckshot. Some wear grotesque masked, others play weird looking and sounding instruments. They dance rhythmically keeping perfect time to the music. Some look quite old but are still agile and graceful. The children join in learning from their elders, some on droll costumes and masks also. One of the young braves did the most remarkable toe dancing I have ever seen. When one group stops, another starts. This takes place on a sort of broad terrace at the side of the church itself which is handsomely decorated with flowers inside and out. Now and then sky rockets are shot into the air which explode with a deafening roar. But it seems a sheer waste to shoot them off in the daytime when only a puff of white smoke can be seen. This celebration is of a purely religious nature though its significance is lost on us. But when some of the visitors tried to take photos they got very excited and would not let them.

From here we went to the Charros Club on Ejército Nacional to see a typical rodeo. This takes place every Sun. morning in an arena which is a miniature of the bull ring. It is a most colorful crowd. In the center sit the senoritas in their beautiful embroidered China Poblano costumes. The Charros wear braided suits, wide silver belts, sombreros of felt of straw decorated with elaborate embroidery and often silver ornaments besides, with straps under their chins. They give a fine display of horsemanship (their mounts are exquisite and saddles and bridles of tooled and silver inlaid leather and heavy silver spurs) and they lasso young colts and twirl long ropes in Will Roger-style. Every now and then a platform is laid down on the ring and one of the Charros dances with a pretty senorita. We saw the dance in which they tie a knot in a scarf with their feet while dancing and another where they dance on the brim of a sombrero. During all this food and drinks are dispensed to the audience (these people are always hungry and thirsty it seems). At one o’clock it is over, and we returned to the Maria Cristina for lunch after which we took our departure for San Jose Perua.

San Jose Purua, Mexico, c. 1940s. Image via.

We have to go thru Toluca and a few smaller towns not before visited. The ride is beautiful as are all the rides in this country, tortuous roads with a new and more enchanting view after every curve. When we reached San Jose about 6 it was the most unexpected view which suddenly met our gaze. A turn in the road and there lay a most amazing hotel in the cup of the hills as tho it were carved out of a deep quarry. It is built in a circular pattern spiraling up the slopes, all white and red in its green setting. Tonight they served a buffet supper like they used to have on the ocean liners only more so with every known variety of hors d’oeuvre.

Aquaduct to Morelia, Mochoacan Mexico, c. 1940s. Image via.

Mon. July 29. This morning it looks even more beautiful here than it did last night. I am sitting out on the little balcony (each room has its own) facing the mts. which appear quite close and directly opposite is a water-fall which reminds me of the Bow Falls at Banff Springs, in fact the setting is very similar but with the difference that the vegetation is tropical. This afternoon we rode to Morelia capital of Michoacán, a beautiful ride over the mts. As you enter the town there is a fine old viaduct, which so often form a sort of boundary line to these old cities. There is a quaint fountain formed by 3 women in colored (majolica like) terra cotta in a kneeling position and forming a circle with their arms upraised to hold a huge platter of various fruits, on top of which are electric lights. We went into the Alameda, a very nice up-to-date hostelry, saw the university, library, cathedral, museum, and the home of Morello for whom the town is named. There are many picturesque courtyards or patios to be glimpsed through the heavy carved wooden doors, slightly ajar and the architecture and lovely iron grill-work are distinctly Spanish. Back at the San Jose Purua we enjoyed a bountiful dinner (the cuisine here is noted throughout Mexico).

Tues. July 30. This morning at the hotel I met Rabbi Clark from Pine Bluff, Ark. who knows Rabbi Coblenz[??] and he introduced me to the hotel’s chef, a very jovial man, a refugee from Vienna, with whom I conversed a little in German. At 10 we started for Mexico City arriving there about 1, took a last look at its beautiful wide avenues, monuments, parks, public buildings and regretfully turned our backs on this fine metropolis with its nearly perfect climate and continued on to Zimapan. This country looks rather bleak and barren after what we have seen in the last few weeks. Arrived in Zimapan a little after 4. Tonight is beautiful and balmy with a young moon and many stars in the sky (they look so close) and after dinner we walked around the courtyard and talked to some of the natives. We have 2 rooms and bath in a sort of auto court.

Sierra Gorda Hotel, c. 1940s. Image Via.

Wed. July 31. Left Zimapan at 9:40. A long last trip to Victoria. Stopped at Tamazunchale and El Mante for gas. Saw the usual groups of natives selling things along the road, fruits, pictures, buts of crystal, leather belts of cow hide and alligator. Arrived at the Sierra Gorda Hotel at 5:45. Outside the hotel they were selling something new tonight, varicolored string hammocks. They carry the most amazing loads on their backs. When we ate in the dining room at the Maria Cristina they used to stand outside the door and display their wares, one minute the flower vender, then the man with feather brushes, all sizes and lengths of handles, then a man with little carved wood trays and boxes, another with bright rugs, blankets, jackets and shawls, another with pottery, another with laces and linens and so on.

Gran Hotel Ancira brochure cover. Image via.

Thurs. Aug. 1. Left Victoria at 10:50. It was very hot but we ran into a shower on the way which cooled us off. Yesterday we went thru the banana belt (and bought them on the road) today we’re in the orange belt and likewise bought some to eat on the way. The country thru which we came today looks much richer and the homes more prosperous than those we saw yesterday. Arrived in Monterey at 1:30 and after getting our room at the Gran Ancira we rode around the city and went to Sanborn’s for dinner, not as big as the one in Mexico City but very attractive and the waitresses wear the same uniforms of striped cotton long skirts, white blouses, fringed shoulder capes in different colors, and headdress to match the skirts. After dinner we looked around their shop where they sell different Mexican novelties and I bought an inexpensive luncheon set. Then we walked around the block and looked in all the shops which are interesting because they are so different from ours.

Reynosa, Mexico, c. 1940s. Image via.

Fri. Aug. 2. Left Monterey at 9:15. The ride to Reynosa was flat and uninteresting thru dry and rather barren country. This border town is small and not nearly as busy and exciting as was Laredo. The American Customs officers took our oranges out of our Sanborn lunch boxes (I had eaten 2 tho before they came) but they didn’t find our cactus pears which Milton had picked on the way. We got thru the customs quicker than on our way down and the minute we were over the border we noticed a sudden and remarkable change in everything. The land was richer, the orange groves irrigated, the houses of [frame??] but much neater and cleaner, no cattle wandering across the roads which are wider and faster. At Pharr, Tex. We put 10 cents in a slot machine and got a big thick sealed paper bag filled with crushed ice for our tea which had gotten warm and we enjoyed our lunch of sandwiches, eggs, potato salad, cactus pears, pickles, and delicious cake, eaten at the side of the road. We passed many orange groves and cotton fields, palm and oleander trees and rode thru a number of small towns including Premont and Kingsville (there is an Alice and a Ben[?] Bolt in this section) and arrived at the Robert Driscoll – a very large, modern and beautiful hotel – in Corpus Christi at 5:45. Tonight we listened to some beautiful music played by a lady entertainer (from 8 to 10:30) on the clavivox, a combination organ and piano (elec!).

Robert Driscoll Hotel, Corpus Christi, c. 1940s. Image via.

Sat. Aug. 3. Sat in the hotel lobby all afternoon reading and almost froze from the air conditioning. On the street it was like a furnace. But after dark we took a nice ride along the waterfront. It is quite a bathing resort. Lots of hotels, courts, amusement parks, speed boating etc.

Jack Tar Court Hotel — Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston, Texas, c. 1930-1945. Retrieved from

Sun. Aug. 4. Left Corpus Christi about 10, stopped for lunch at Bay City at Walgreen’s drug store and arrived at Galveston at 3. The roads are wonderful, many live oaks hung with Spanish moss, lots of palms, deep pink oleanders, crepe myrtles, cotton fields, etc. The approach to the city is thru a very pretty residential section. All the streets in Texan cities seem to be very wide and clean. We are stopping at the Jack Tar Motor Hotel. The dining room is like a mad house. After dinner we went out on the beach, then rode around to see the bright lights, a regular midway.

Came thru the Acadian and Evangeline country full of swamps and bayous. They say this is good for trapping country. Furs are their #1 industry, including mink, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, possum and skunk.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


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Travels with Grace: Puebla and Mexico City

Posted on October 29th, 2019 by

Now that the Jewish High Holidays have passed, we’re getting back to business as usual – including our #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace! This week we continue following along on her 1940 trip through Mexico. To read more of Grace’s travels, click here.


Cholula, Puebla, c. 1940s postcard. Via.

Sun. July 21st. Left Mexico [City] at 10 on the way to Puebla, a very pretty ride. We rode thru the quaint town of Cholula (35,000) with 365 churches, the domes and spires of which dominate every square inch. We had a delicious lunch at the Colonial Hotel in Puebla and here I ate turkey with the famous mole sauce and enjoyed it very much. Just before reaching Orizaba we descended nearly 4,000 ft. in less than 5 miles and at the beginning of the drop we paused a few moments to enjoy the most magically beautiful view of a mt. circled valley that I have even seen, positively breath taking. At about 6 we reached Fortin [de las Flores], the most tropical vegetation abounding in the vicinity. We see coffee growing for the 1st time and all kinds of wonderful flowers. Upon arrival at the Hotel Ruiz Galindo we are met by young girls who hang leis of gardenias around our necks. The swimming pool in front of our rooms has mounds of freshly-plucked gardenias floating on it. These are raked off at night and fresh ones put on in the morning. Baskets piled high with them stand on the tables and in fact everywhere.

Hotel Ruiz Galindo, Fortin, Veracruz, Mexico, 1940 postcard. Via.

Mon. Ju. 22nd. This morning Mrs. Parks brought me 3 beautiful orchids in a banana box (they are shipped away in these) so with orchids pinned in my hair and on my shoulder I went out on the terrace to eat my breakfast of papaya, midget bananas, pineapple, cactus pear, lime juice, oatmeal, eggs, toast and coffee with a basket of gardenias on the table and a view in front of me like the backdrop of an opera set. Rugged mt. tops outlined against an azure and gold sky, a tropical garden in the foreground with many varieties of palms, cacti and magnificent flowers and at my feet the gardenia covered pool. I had to pinch myself many times as I have been doing in the last few weeks. After breakfast we visited another hacienda in the neighborhood and then drove to Cordoba where we visited an even more interesting garden with more species of flowers and trees than I can remember.

In both these gardens the gardeners took us around telling us the names of everything and in the latter one he showed us cards of visitors pinned to the wall from every part of the world, divided into countries and states. In the Md. Section I saw the card of Moses W. Rosenfeld who was here last winter. This man also plucked many different flowers for us to take away and before we left he offered us blackberry and orange cordial and apple cider champagne. We rode along the little river bubbling over its rocky bed to the little power house where it is harnessed into current. Mr. Piña thought this one of the “sights” but to us it looked like a miniature!

Hotel Garci Crespo. Via.

After a delicious lunch at the Ruiz Galindo again served on the terrace, we rode over to Tehuacán to the Garci-Crespo where we had excellent accommodations. We walk around to see the beautiful swimming pool with little pools around it for amateurs. There is a pretty island reached by a bridge on which palms and tropical flowers are growing and ducks and swans live among them. We also go down a long slanting tunnel cut thru the limestone to the mineral spring which gives this place its renown. I am told the Avila-Comacho family owns the place together with a large cattle and poultry ranch adjoining and that they have made a fortune from the bottled water which is sent all over the country. This hotel is very spacious, well designed and tastefully appointed. We get a good view of the snow-capped Orizaba today.

Panorama of Puebla, Mexico, c. 1920-1940s. Via.

Tues. July 23rd (it really out to have been Fri 13th). The 1st thing this morning Milton and Mr. Piña came to our door to tell us the keys to the car were gone. Mr. P says Milton lost them and M. declares Mr. P. took them out of his pocket. As I didn’t have another set with me we had to get a locksmith from the nearest village and it took him all morning to make a key for the ignition for which he charged 2 pesos. We wanted to get an early start for Puebla, where there was much to see but we didn’t get there until 3 o’clock and then ran into a violent rainstorm. We did however visit one of the tile factories and saw the young boys take large chunks of clay, beat it out into pancakes, cut it with a wire the size of a tile and put a design on it and bake it in a kiln. We also watched the potters with their wheels making cups and vases. They gave us each a miniature urn on a little tile for a souvenir which a girl in another room painted for us, but mine later got broken. The rain prevented us from doing anymore sight-seeing after we had seen and admired the beautiful blanket and rugs for which this region is noted as well as some of its famous onyx-ware.

On the way back to Mexico City the women were on the road selling delicious looking peaches and other fruits just as they had on Sunday and their stands were protected from the rain. The little donkeys wear coats of palm leaves to protect them also. Meanwhile the air in the car was getting thicker as the feud between the 2 men deepened. We were afraid for a while that we would run out of gas as Mr. P. would not leave the tank filled in Puebla saying the gas was inferior and M. said it was better to have poor gas than none at all. It was disagreeably cold coming over the mts. We saw a big truck lying on its side at one of the curves (they claim at least 2 trucks a day are lost on these mt. roads) and as it grew later and later I feared we would not get accommodations at the Maria Christina. We did succeed in getting gas at Rio Frio to my great relief and when we reached the hotel we got the last room they had for the 3 of us, not so good but infinitely better than sleeping in the car. Mr. P. came to our room and said since Milton would no longer allow him to drive the car he regretted that he would not be able to continue guiding us (he broke my pocket mirror in Fortin, worse luck for him) so with many protestations of esteem and admiration and asking us each for our address we parted amicably.

“Man, Controller of the Universe,” the recreated version of “Man at the Crossroads” by Diego Rivera. By Gumr51 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wed. July 24. This morning Mr. Reyes took us to the natural history museum where we saw many interesting specimens of animals, insects, fish, minerals, etc. The gorgeous butterflies and birds charmed me most and we saw part of a mammoth’s skeleton that was exhumed near here when they were building one of the mt. roads. From here we went to the museum of fine arts to see a magnificent contemporary exhibit of paintings and there we saw the celebrated Diego Rivera mural which was painted for Radio City but destroyed because of its communistic implications. Then Rivera reproduced it here. On one side Mr. Lenin is calling on the workers of the world to unite, Mr. Trotsky also has a prominent position. Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. is clearly portrayed in a group of effete capitalists and there are a group of strikers in N.Y. with the caption “we are hungry and want bread.” Other captions are in English, Spanish and Russian. It is a vigorous and blatant work. There are other large murals and the whole 2nd floor has a very red hue.

Hotel Reforma, Mexico City. Via.

We then visited the Reforma Hotel in modernistic design throughout and very American atmosphere (although much smaller. I like Maria Christina better) and here we got sodas at a typically American fountain. The hotel is crowded and bustling like a railway station. I treated myself to silver combs at one of the shops here. Then we went to the National Pawn Shop run by the govt. (they get 2% a month on loans and take everything imaginable.) The prices on the various merchandise seems very high to us especially on electrical appliances. They have sections for rugs, jewelry, porcelains, house furnishing, etc. Private individuals are forbidden by law to lend money on securities but I’m told many take a chance since they can easily get a high rate of interest. The govt. also holds auction sales several times a week at the Pawn Shop in various depts. And gives the owner the difference between the commission and the sale’s price. Every day tickets are sold on the st. for the National Lottery. Last week one of the guides won ½ million pesos. Tonight, we went to see the National Dances at Riveroll’s?? a most entertaining and artistic performance by five Mexican artists who gave traditional songs and dances from each Mexican state. Afterwards we all drank tequila. The master of ceremonies, an American, was very friendly and jolly, the girls extremely pretty, some of them threw gardenias from their baskets into the audience and I got one. Afterwards the audience was invited to dance when the floor was cleared and the prima donna of the show danced in her beautiful China Poblana costume with some of the men and graciously sang a few extra numbers. We got lost on the way home but after a few inquiries in limping Spanish we were put on the right path.

Lake in Chapultepec park, 1940. Via.

Thurs. July 25th. We slept late then got box lunches and went to Chapultepec park and enjoyed this beautiful playground all afternoon. It has everything, all sorts of sports, playgrounds, swimming pools, zoo, hot houses, restaurants, drives, walks.

Fri, July 26th. Went to the bank early and from there to the Palace of Fine Arts to see the native arts and crafts which are fascinating. Wonderful embroidered costumes from all the provinces, serapes, rebozos, carpets, things made of glass, tiny objects (about 20 in a walnut shell), materials made of maguey fiber beautifully colored (all the colors are vivid and yet beautifully blended). There is a collection of samplers the like of which I have never seen. Ornaments of block[?] tin, carving in cork, wonderful pottery of every kind and color, bead work, ornaments of clay, of onyx and the horns of cattle fashioned into artistic and useful articles. We took another look at the paintings and sculpture and then we went to San Angel Inn for a lovely lunch in delightful surroundings a flower filled patio with tinkling fountain, shade trees, and an orchestra playing while we ate.

Sat. July 27th. We sat in the hotel garden all afternoon. Talked to some of the guests, the Misses Kaufman from Kansas City, among others. Igor Stravinsky and wife (he conducted the orchestra and the Opera House last night and it was a sell-out) and the movie actor Sokolov, who takes character parts and his wife are staying here.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager



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Travels with Grace: Culture and Art in Mexico

Posted on September 24th, 2019 by

This week’s entry for our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace, continues her trip through Mexico. To read more of Grace’s travels, click here.

Aztec Sun Stone at the National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City, Mexico. By Juan Carlos Fonseca Mata – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mon. July 15. After going to the bank to get some money we visited the National Archeological Museum where we saw many interesting things, the star attraction being the famous Aztec Calendar Stone which the guide explained minutely. The idols and other relics of the Mayan and Toltec civilizations were most interesting. As we were leaving, I ran into Bessie Moses from Baltimore who recognized us first. We saw the main retail district, the federal prison, the Government Palace and Senate, for the Federal District a sort of Civic Center, then we rode out to Teotihuacan where we saw a very old monastery, a farmer’s market was in progress here and then to the Pyramids, a unique monument of ancient times similar to the Egyptian pyramids.

Temple de Quetzalcoatl, Teotihuacan, Mexico, c. 1940s vintage postcard. Via.

Here we visited another smaller but even more interesting museum, with fine pictures, pottery shards, stones of all sorts. We ate our Sanborn lunches here and Milton climbed to the top of the Pyramid, 360 steps, and said the view was wonderful. On returning to the city we visited the Basilica of Guadalupe credited with miraculous cures. I have seen finer churches but never one with such a profusion of magnificent flowers banked on the main altar, their fragrance mingling with the aromatic incense was really something to smell.

Palacio De Cortes, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, 1930-1940s. Via.

Tues. July 16th. Started at 10 for a trip to Cuernavaca a very pretty and interesting ride over the mts. reaching an elevation of over 10,000 ft. Cuernavaca is a beautiful resort city reminding me in many ways of towns in the south of France. The flowers are luxuriant and there are many beautiful hotels. We visit the old Palace of Cortez where we see many beautiful pictures by Diego Rivera and Tarascans and hear a band of young Mexicans play Straus waltzes and Spanish airs. We also saw the room which the Emperor Maximillian used as an office with beautiful pictures of himself and Carlotta and their court.

Hotel Marik Plaza, Cuernacava, Mexico. Via.

We then go to the Hotel Marik where we are the guests of [Baltimorean] Lillian Greif for lunch. She and Beulah Reitzenstein seem very glad to see us. After riding around to see the country club and various places of interest (an old bridge with ornamental foundations and 2 huge Spanish laurel trees was a particularly attractive spot), we continued on our way to Taxco, a perfectly fascinating town built on the side of the mts. Here are the govt. silver mines and the town is governed by the National Dept. of Monuments. All buildings have to conform to a standard color and architecture which produces a pleasing effect. We visit the silver shops and the Cathedral and walk along and ride over the winding cobbled streets with many views thru arcades, patios, and cliffside gardens a perfectly fascinating place which reminds me a little of the hill towns of Italy only much warmer and more colorful.

Hotel Rancho Telva, c. 1940s. Via.

We come to the Rancho Telva a perfectly delightful hostelry with real Spanish atmosphere, airy clean rooms, charming vistas from every window, a central patio and dining tables on an upper and lower terrace. There is a parrot here which sings (only the old Spanish care-taker can make him do it) but I have never heard anything like it and would never have believed it possible. He sings operatic arias and has a coloratura range.

Mexican ladies hand washing clothes in Taxco, Mexico, c. 1940s. Via.

Wed. July 17th. We rode around fascinating Taxco all morning going up steep, narrow, winding cobbled roads which the car takes like a bird. Little boys and girls just able to toddle sell their wares, mostly baskets, others a little bigger herd their sheep and donkey carrying heavy paniers of wood, charcoal, etc. thru the streets. Some ride thru on horses and ponies. It is a motley sight. Indians in serapes and women with their babies tied in rebozos. The poor people work very hard and always carry heavy burdens. But even the poorest houses are bright with flowers and the colors blend so beautifully. On the way home we turned on the radio and got the most enjoyable concert from the B.B.C., Beethoven’s piano concerto #4 which combined with the heavenly scenery made the ride as perfect as anything could be.

Benito Juárez Hemicycle. Via.

Thurs. July 18th. Started out this morning to see the glass factory. Saw the broken glass which boys collect in the street, they sort it by color and melt it. We saw them fire it, blow it into bottles and pitchers which they shaped on a stick and the[n] twisted a piece of glass into a handle for the pitchers and snipped it off with pliers. They had a lovely glass exhibit in a show case which represented a typical Mexican [unreadable] scene, trees, flowers, people, animals, birds, even butterflies, also home and scenic background which was planned for the N.Y. World’s Fair but wasn’t finished in time. Another exhibit showed an orchestra of frogs, each holding a different instrument, the leader wielding the baton. They also made very artistic vases and tableware. On the way we passed the monument of Benito Juarez magnificently decorated with huge floral designs, this being the anniversary of his death, and a huge crowd of young girl scouts were parading in front of it with bands of music.

Detail from The Legend of Quetalcoatl Mural by Diego River, 1929-1930 at the Palacio Nacional de Mexico. Photo by Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton University digital imaging project.

We then went to the National Palace to see the wonderful murals of Diego Rivera and here we had a most agreeable surprise. The Hall of the Ambassadors, a gorgeous salon with rock crystal chandeliers, green velvet carpet and green brocade furniture was open for the 1st time in 5 yrs. (Mr. Piña said) and 5 minutes after we got there on the strike of noon President Comacho received the new French ambassador with all his retinue. I pushed my way up front so could hear every word the Frenchman said and then Comacho – seated – read his reply in Spanish, after which the French diplomat bowed and backed away. Then the soldiers in the courtyard played the Mexican national anthem while we looked at Rivera’s murals depicting the entire history of Mexico, a colossal work.

The Cathedral and Plaza de la Constitution on Independence Day, City of Mexico, 1931. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Then we visited the Cathedral of Mexico City by far the largest church we have seen so far, and today it was packed to the doors with people in all walks of life waiting for confirmation exercises, even tiny infants in arms and all dressed in their best. Then we went to Sanborn’s for a very nice lunch and visited the store where beautiful and artistic merchandise of various kinds are displayed. We met Mr. Sanborn himself who came up to speak to us. Then we visited a silver factory and Mr. P. explained the process as we watched them fashion cup, bowls, platters, etc. and then we saw the truly regal pieces in their showrooms. After this we rode thru the slum districts (from riches to rags) many people in this city having no other home than the street. The slum market, where every kind of junk is sold, reminds me of the Flea market of Paris. We saw a number of other markets today, one in which only shoes and clothing are sold, including the most wonderful variety of hats, but the most impressive are the fruit baskets with their unbelievable varieties and quantities of fruit. In one place they were offering baby parrots for sale which could be taught to talk. I was sorry the law forbids taking them into the U.S. In one place we saw worms of the cactus plant for sale cooked and we ate cactus pears for the first time which Mr. P had peeled for us.

Chapultepec Castle vintage postcard. Via.

Fri. July 19th. After visiting the bank and buying tickets for the opera for tomorrow night we went to the Chapultepec Castle and saw the royal suite occupied by Maximilian and Carlotta with most magnificent furnishing, bedrooms, state dining room, library, game room and even a bathroom. We saw many beautiful paintings expling the history of Mexico, portraits of the leaders of the church, the state, and the army. Upstairs we saw a most magnificent collection of jewels, fans, combs for mantillas the largest I ever saw, porcelains (Sèvres and Dresden) gorgeous silver, Florentine mosaic tables, French and Chinese furniture, shawls, etc. Downstairs is a collection of old cannon and firearms, medals and mementos of national heroes. The view from the terrace is lovely overlooking the whole city. In the middle of the terrace is a bronze fountain in the shape of a grasshopper (the name Chapultepec is Aztec for grasshopper). Then we go to the Chapultepec Restaurant, a very nice place.

Interior of the Church of San Francisco Javier. Photo by John Barreiro.

We then ride to Tepozathan [Tepotzotlán] where there is a beautiful church with much carved stone and on the outside and five golden altars inside. Next to it is a lovely walled-in garden, the trees hung with gray Spanish moss. Elsewhere we have seen a similar parasite on the trees but a bright yellow in color. On the way back to Mexico [City] we stop at Los Renedios[???] for the view over the city and here is an old aqueduct and observation tower. As we approached the latter over the brow of the hill came the oddest herd of goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys and cows and with a little boy leading them. We rode thru the suburb of Tacuba on our way back and later saw the Mexican Military Academy, their West Point.

Palacio De Bellas Artes, 1940. Via.

Sat. July 20th. We sat in the pretty garden of the Maria Cristina this afternoon. The air was delightful, cool enough for a jacket. (We met two boys from Montreal out here.) There is a parrot in the garden which talks a little and whistles tunes, but he seems very mediocre after the prima donna we saw in Taxco. Tonight we went to the Opera to hear “Otello,” a lovely performance. I particularly enjoyed the work of the chorus although the principal parts were well taken too – the stage settings were lovely, typically Mexican in design and coloring. We saw the famous Tiffany glass curtain, the lower part represents the flora of Mexico and the middle part the mts. Popo and the Sleeping Lady.

Vista interior del vitral del techo del Palacio de las Bellas Artes. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But even prettier than the curtain in my opinion is a lovely glass dome or sky light with astronomical figures worked in it. The boxes, 6 tiers, are marble trimmed in bronze and the whole interior is very impressive. A young girl spoke to some ladies in front of us and when I heard her say she was flying back to Kansas City tomorrow I asked her if she knew Elaine Manul[???] and she replied in the affirmative, introduced herself as Edith Ginsburg and promised to call Elaine when she got home. Tonight was the first time I had seen the bright lights along the Paseo and other bldgs, very gay.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


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