If as many people — myself included — who profess to have frequented the restaurant Covadonga five or ten years ago, before it became fashionable, were actually telling the truth, it never would have gone out of style. But in fact, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was precisely the sort of place, enormous and empty, that you could go to if you had reasons to make sure you didn’t run into anyone that you knew.
That has all changed in the last few years. Covadonga — an old-school Spanish restaurant with a cantina on the ground floor and a white-tablecloth dining room upstairs — was consecrated by artists and gallery owners, writers, editors, journalists, and media personalities of dubious talents, and the sort of hangers-on who like to be seen in their company (or to at least bask in their tepid glow). On Thursday nights, when for those groups attendance is mandatory, it is so crowded that it is like having a drink on the metro during rush hour.
If you go to Covadonga for lunch, when there are not so many people there, not only is the service much better, but it is actually a more pleasing experience, with the sun streaming in from enormous picture windows, rather than the hideous fluorescent light with which it is illuminated in the evenings. It is on calle Puebla between calles Orizaba and Cordova in the Colonia Roma.
A recent convert to the discreet charms of Mexico City is the composer Michael Nyman, who bought an Art Deco home in the Colonia Roma. He divides his time between here and his native London, a city he professes to be sick of. Despite limited knowledge of Spanish, he has already arranged to do concerts, write film scores and the accompaniment to performance pieces in Mexico. Nyman wrote the music to various Peter Greenaway films, but his most well-known score is for the film The Piano, with Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel. (The CD of that movie sold about four million copies.) Here is the maestro, resting at an antique store on Calle Campeche, from which he has decorated much of his home.
Immaculately dressed, every salt-and-pepper hair in place, sporting a Clark Gable moustache, Mauricio Garcés starred in a series of saucy comedies in the 60s and 70s, in the role of a mature and world-weary seducer, famous for lines of dialogue like “Debe ser horrible tenerme y después perderme” (It must be horrible to have me and then lose me) and “Dios sabe que tengo miles de razones por ser vanidoso” (God knows I have thousands of reasons to be vain). He died in 1989, but in the hearts of many lives on: Recently I saw this stencil of him on a wall in the Colonia Del Valle.
Unlike many great metropolises, Mexico City, lacking much recognizable iconography, resists visual definition. The Angel of Independence, on Paseo de la Reforma, is its most famous landmark. Built in 1910 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Independence, it is notably similar to the Victory Column in Berlin, which was built in 1866. The pillar is thirty-six meters high. The Winged Victory, which weighs seven tons, is of bronze and covered with twenty-four karat gold.
These days, in the evenings, the Angel is a popular spot for trysting young Mexico City lovers, and tourists stop by day and night to have their pictures taken. Raucous crowds gather here each time a Mexico City soccer team wins an important match. However, such celebrations are apparently purely nationalistic. In February 2002, after a triumphant eighteen-year-old Spanish matador called El Juli went to the Angel with a crowd to celebrate his victory, he was arrested, taken to the police station, and coerced to return to la madre tierra.