La Zona Rosa

I want to take advantage of the holidays and take a trip. When Ruth calls, I surprise myself. “Why don’t we explore Mexico City? It’s inexpensive.”

Ruth is Eleanor’s cousin. She is working on a graduate degree in business administration, and as a student, like me she is also on a budget.

I have to admit I love Mexico City. I love the stunning gold angel statue of independence that reminds me of Vienna. I love the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where I enjoy some of the most magnificent examples of Art Deco—my absolute favorite time period that includes the famous murals by Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. I love the trees, flowers, public sculptures, and the shady narrow streets of the Zona Rosa, with its charming boutiques.

As we enter the popular Café Tacuba, with its colonial era atmosphere, I inhale the smell of fine Mexican cuisine emanating from its four-star kitchen.

As guests, we are welcomed into a dining room adorned with brass lamps and dark oil paintings. Two men from across the room smile and wave, and order margaritas for us. Tequila goes right to my head and makes me woozy, numbs my senses. I vow to let my drink sit idle. As soon as Ruth nods her head in gratitude, the two men are at our table. I am visibly annoyed.

“You senoritas, are American, no?”

Ruth smiles. “How did you know?”

“We know, even if you are not wearing tennis shoes,” jokes one of them.

They introduce themselves. Miguel is vocal, tall, with a moustache, rather handsome, and looks as if he may have Germanic blood. His sidekick, Juan, also looks somewhat European, although he is shorter, older, and clean-shaven.

“Where are you from?”

Ruth is friendly. “Los Angeles.”

Irritated, I look around the room, to find our waiter.

“Maravilloso. We are filmmakers.”

Just then, our lunch of chile rellenos arrives, and I try to discourage our new acquaintances. “I’m starved. I didn’t have breakfast.”

Sensing my disinterest, Miguel makes it brief. He reaches into his wallet and comes up with his business card. “We work at the film studio—Churubusco. Tonight, I give a party at my house in celebration of the New Year. Most of my friends speak English. Come if you are not busy.”

I’m annoyed at the formalities of shaking hands. All I can think of is sampling one of the steaming corn tortillas the waiter just served. Instead, I am forced to return to the ladies room to wash my hands.

Ruth’s priorities differ from mine as she folds the napkin across her lap. “Wasn’t that sweet? Now we’ll get to meet the locals.”

“WYou can’t be serious.”

“Why not? They’re nice and Miguel likes you.”

“Because they’re probably married! We’re in our late 20’s and so are they, by Mexican standards we’re old maids! Do you have any idea what Mexican machismo is about?”

“You’re afraid of men, Linda. Besides, if they were married they wouldn’t be able to invite us to their home.”

“Ruth, don’t be naïve. Wives leave town to visit their families while their husbands scheme and meet other women.”

“Tell you what—let’s go. If we walk up to the house and don’t hear music we like, we leave instantly. If you’re not comfortable we leave after twenty minutes.”


She reaches across the table.

“Okay, but no handshake. I’m not washing again.”

After lunch, we go hear the sounds of mariachis coming from Plaza Garibaldi.

That evening the disco beat comes from Miguel’s house from behind a white-washed wall in a colonia lined with red flowers. We buzz, and the maid comes to meet us. The post-modern house is a cheery shade of blue, and has a fountain in the courtyard. Inside, it is sleek, open, comfortable with many windows. An array of people schmooze about, all men.

Miguel comes over. “Glad you made it.”

He laughs, when he senses my apprehension. He hands me a drink, waving it in front of me. “Go ahead, Linda, this is a fiesta. What are you afraid

I find no humor in that statement, and dislike my motives being questioned. I lock my arm into Ruth’s and race toward the front door. “Buenas noches” we call out as we take our exit.

L LaRoche

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