Culture

Forget Cancun, Querétaro Is The City In Mexico You Need To Visit ASAP

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When people think about vacationing in Mexico, they think about Mexico City, Cancun, or Puerto Vallarta. However, one Mexican city that should be on everyone’s list in Querétaro. The city has vibes that will transport you to different times and places without leaving the city limits. Here’s why you should visit Querétaro.

1. Querétaro is not the same tourist trap as other Mexican cities.

Querétaro
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If there was ever a city in Mexico that can practically captivate any kind of visitor, from the retired grey-haired couple all the way to the most energetic millennial, it would have to be Queretaro. The most distinctive feature of the city is its majestic aqueduct, a beautiful stone construction spanning a couple of miles dissecting the city’s center.

2. It is centrally located and boasts beautiful architecture.

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Centrally located in the Mexican high plains, this important industrial hub has charmed many a visitor since, well, forever! The sights, the smells, the nightlife and cultural heritage are bar none. And, if you happen to be there on business – it has turned into the country’s top-notch aerospace center – you simple cannot escape its charm. And it is located just a bit over a hundred miles from Mexico City.

3. You can get lost in the beautiful town squares.

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The main central area of downtown Querétaro is full of plazas of all sizes and shapes. Mostly dedicated by wealthy landowners in the 17th century and beyond, the rich built all kinds of fountains and churches that dot the landscape. The city’s proximity to stone quarries gave the “hacendados”, or landlords, the raw material upon which local artists carved wonderful masterpieces in stone.

4. The Jardin Zenea is a breathtaking oasis.

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Worthy of a prolonged visit are the Jardin Zenea and Plaza Corregidora where on weekdays you can see old timers cutting the rug and dancing to memorable tunes, and on weekends it’s a smorgasbord of activity ranging from live bands to jugglers and more. And just don’t forget, there’s delicious food vendor all throughout the area. Trying to hold a diet here?

5. The Spanish architecture is a throwback to its past.

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Mexico’s independence from Spain in the early 1800s was planned in Querétaro, starting an 11-year revolt ending with the birth of the new nation. But the city is chock full of reminders of the Spanish occupation with churches of all shapes and sizes, including the Shrine of the Holy Cross, featuring a tree that produces cross-shaped thorns, attracting many faithful pilgrims.

6. The aqueduct has been around since the 1700s.

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Legend has it that in the early 18th century, a wealthy landowner fell in love with a nun cloistered in a convent but was never corresponded. When the gentleman discovered that the convent was lacking running water, he set out to show his love by building this impressive structure originally close to two miles in length. Whether or not the story is true, the aqueduct has become the symbol of the city and the feature of many guided tours, many of which are given in English.

7. And the city has grown around the impressive structure.

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In spite of the impressive growth of Querétaro in the last 20-some years, this landmark stands the test of time, so much, that for Mexico’s bicentennial celebrations in 2010, the government embarked on a massive restoration of the precious arches, installing a light and sound system that reveals its charms during the evenings. How about THAT for a love story?

8. The government palace is a prime example of Old World Mexican architecture.

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It was here where Madam Josefa Ortiz, wife of the Queretaro Alderman, began planning Mexico’s secession from Spain alongside some important regional characters. The city’s strategic location – not so close, but not so far from Mexico City – was ideal to set out the strategy for starting the revolt against the Crown.

9. History lives behind old walls.

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But the plans for independence were foiled when authorities discovered the conspiracy, and Mrs. Ortiz was incarcerated in her own home, from where she sent a secret letter made with print clips advising the co-conspirators to push forward the date for starting the independent movement. The house is now an attraction known as the “House of the 5 Patios”. Around the building is a beautiful, tree lined, plaza surrounded by quaint and charming restaurants and bars, plus a 10-block expanse of land full of art galleries, shops and souvenir stands. “And don’t forget to get something for aunt Mildred, OK?”

10. Downtown Querétaro is perfect for any kind of adventure.

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Any given Sunday, you can take off early in Queretaro and fill in a complete day without leaving the city’s historic district. Plazas, monuments, churches, chapels and fountains are scattered about an area of maybe 25 blocks with all kinds of architectural details. Of course, every few steps or so, you’ll be flooded by the offerings of food vendors in the streets: corn on the cob smothered in mayo, lime and chile… lots of chile!

11. Plaza Corregidora is a great place to take a break during your tour of Querétaro.

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After the assault on the taste buds, next, to ease spiciness, grab a snow cone in one of many natural fruit jams, and then repeat all over again! Just a few steps away is Plaza Corregidora, a pedestrian area lined with many small scale and economic eateries where for less than 10 bucks you get a 3-course meal, dessert, plus a liter of beer Michelada style, oh yeah!

12. The city is steeped in its history and culture.

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And just after finishing a humongous meal, start strolling along the cobblestone streets of the “andadores”, or pedestrian shopping areas to get most anything. From typical crafts, all the way to Asian cheap imports, such as less than one-dollar sunglasses and trinkets. There are many photo-ops as you walk by plenty of quaint fountains and statues. There’s even a coffee roaster somewhere there who also sells locally made cigars.

13. Business tourism is one of the best reasons to visit.

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If business brings you to town, it’s likely to one of the myriad industrial parks located in the outskirts of the city. During the past century, Querétaro had enjoyed a steady growth with appliance plants, but the 2000s saw a major transformation in the variety of industries represented in the state. When a major Canadian player in the airplane industry set shop in town, many other peripheral industries started to come attracted by the possibility to become suppliers to the mothership.

14. Especially if you are able to take yourself out of the city for a wine tasting.

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Another less known industry around the city is wine making, featuring large scale producers as well as some extremely small private vintners making wonderful libations. Less than 30 minutes from downtown you can visit the cellars at Freixenet and enjoy a great, lazy, weekend afternoon with great food and better wine. Guided tours are offered with regularity and people flock to the area, where other large producers are also located.

15. You have to check out the Bernal Monolith while you sip your wine.

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And no trip to wine country is complete without visiting the Bernal Monolith, an impressive rock formation in the small town of Bernal, where the lifestyle is free and easy, especially at nights when music, song and wine make a perfect combination. If possible, try staying at one of the quaint little hotels in the area, offering views of the imposing hill.

16. The weather allows for outdoor dining year-round.

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Although locals complain about the “extreme heat”, rarely does it hit 90ºF, so that makes the city an ideal place for open air dining. And the entire city is dotted with abundant options, too many to include in a few lines. Whether around the historic center, or in suburban areas like Juriquilla, or in major shopping malls, everywhere there’s a place to have a regal, al fresco, meal and drink.

17. Especially since the food is absolutely delicious.

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And the cuisine options are equally endless: from the strictest vegan to the most lusciously rich cuts of beef, and all in between – including insects, not for the faint of heart indeed. Queretaro has no shortage of dining opportunities for any budget. And on weekends, venture just outside town, to Santa Rosa, for some killer roasted pork, “carnitas” as they’re known, slapped onto a fresh made tortilla, splash on some salsa, chopped onions, cilantro and go.

18. At night, you can take any number of walking tours.

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When the night falls, around the town’s central squares many theatre troupes begin offering their one-of-a-kind walkabout cultural, funny and sometimes scary tours around the area’s sites. Normally the tour would start at the Zenea Garden and traverse the churches and plazas, stopping to give a little explanation and skit about the area and specific building. They’re similar to old time troubadors, recanting the many legends of Querétaro, while one canvasses the streets.

19. Some of these can get really creepy.

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If you have a decent command of Spanish, it’s well worth your time to embark in one of the handful of guided theatrical tours. Amd even if you don’t get the language, there’s always someone bilingual speaking around that’ll help you out with the nuance of the play. And, if you take any of the “Legends” tours, don’t miss the grand finale, it’ll give you a little jolt, not much, but enough to spark your apetite for a drink and a meal. About three or four different companies offer variety of walking educational tours, including one that’s pure terror, if that’s your thing. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to have a blast.

20. You can even tour the Catholic history of the city.

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Many tours are centered around the city’s rich religious history. Catholicism was the official – and only – religion ever since the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 1500s. The many wealthy Creole rulers appeased their sins by building churches and convents in order to gain indulgences from the ecclesiastic leadership. It’s hard to walk a few hundred yards without stumbling onto a church, chapel or something depicting the prevalent faith of the time.

21. The cathedrals are endless and beautiful.

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The majestic Cathedral sits regally when you enter the old town district. It has been undergoing restoration efforts since forever, but still offers services daily, and many more on weekends. Even if religion is not your thing, they’re worth visiting because of the architecture and ornate details in the altarpieces and façade. This church has the distinction of being one of last true baroque edifications, also letting in some neo-classic details.

22. The nightlife is something to behold.

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The nightowls also have their fill in a town that offers them a whole lot of options for enjoying well into the wee hours of the morning. Especially vibrant is the area on Quintana Boulevard, close to the Aqueduct where a dozen or so late night drinking holes blast music ranging from Tropical beats to Old time rock and roll, and all in between. If you’re staying nearby, possibility is you’ve already complained about the decibel levels.

23. Basically, Querétaro will give all visitors the adventure they are looking for.

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Whether it’s the rich cultural heritage, the hunt for some of the most audacious food treats, enjoy a fun, clean and safe city, or just plain get into some serious 4-Ds: doing, dining, drinking and dancing, Querétaro is THE place. Direct flights from DFW and Houston get you there, plus Mexico City – with direct flights from just about everywhere – is only a mere 2-hours away. There’s hotels for any budget, so pack your bag and get here ASAP!

Here’s The Story Of One Undocumented Family Torn Apart During The Devastating Attack On 9/11

Things That Matter

Here’s The Story Of One Undocumented Family Torn Apart During The Devastating Attack On 9/11

Robert Giroux / Robert Giroux

Luis Alfonso Chimbo and Ana Soria had come a long way since they met as children in Cuenca, Ecuador. They were married, living in Brooklyn with their son, and 34-year-old Chimbo was working for the Windows of the World restaurant–the very top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Chimbo had been promoted to a management position in the receiving department that takes inventory and stocks supplies. They were living the American dream as undocumented immigrants in New York City. In August, Ana Soria suffered a miscarriage. He took nearly a month off to be with her and care for the family. 

He was due to return to work on September 11, 2001. 

The morning of 9/11, Chimbo got up at 5 a.m. and left for work.

Credit: “Luis Alfonso Chimbo at the Windows on the World restaurant in New York, circa 2000.” Digital Image. Time Magazine. 10 September 2019.

The night before, he set his clothes out for his first day back and prepared a bag. He was always prepared. Chimbo would usually kiss Soria as he got out of bed. That morning, he didn’t. Soria went to their window and said, “Goodbye, my love” as he drove away.

Hours later, while working at the restaurant, Chimbo was trapped on the top floor of the North Tower after a plane was flown into the tower.

The Windows of the World staff included immigrants from over 24 countries.

Credit: @JuedischeOnline / Twitter

The 9/11 attack killed 170 people in Windows alone. Chimbo was one of 73 employees who perished. Arguably, those employees were some of the least-paid victims of the attack, which presented a moral challenge for Special Master Kenneth Feinberg, who had to allocate the $7 billion in the Victims Compensation Fund. Five thousand five hundred and sixty people applied as injured or dependents of the deceased. Feinberg’s initial formula was based on “economic loss”–meaning families of stockbrokers would receive more money than Chimbo’s family. The formula also rested on the presumption that lower-income workers would remain in their earning class for the rest of their lives–the antithesis of “The American Dream.”

Stories like Chimbo’s made a “tremendous impact” on Feinberg’s new formula. 

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In fact, the owner of Windows of the World and the executive chef Michael Lomonaco testified to Feinberg on behalf of lower-paid employees with a high potential for further promotions. In the case of Chimbo, they gave Feinberg evidence that he started out as a stock boy and grew to become a manager in the receiving department. “The structure of the restaurant reflected the American Dream, which I don’t use as a cliché but as an actual possibility,” Debra Steinberg told Tom Roston, the author of “The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World.” 

Steinberg represented Soria along with thirty-seven other Windows of the World workers. “When you drill down into the stories of the immigrants who worked at Windows on the World, most of them said that it was the dream job. They walked with pride in their step. It was an astonishing place.” Feinberg told Roston that he used “discretion to bring up the lower end worker and reduce the stockbrokers and hedge fund managers,” granting higher payments to lower-paid victims of the attack.

A dozen of the Windows workers were undocumented.

Credit: @jonthompsonDC / Twitter

Feinberg looked to the congressional statute that allocated the funds and said it became clear. Documentation or nationality was not a factor into who becomes a legal victim and who does not in the eyes of the United States. The fund was for all victims of the attacks. 

As an undocumented person, Soria was terrified to ask for help in the days after the attack.

Credit: @Sept11Memorial / Twitter

“I was scared,” she says in Roston’s book. “[And] I was thinking that maybe I did not deserve it because this was not my country.” Finally, it was her son that prompted her to recall that at least he is deserving of medical care. Amidst the terror, her son needed asthma medication, so Soria went to Manhattan. Still, she doesn’t remember much about that day but remembers the help of fellow Americans to ensure her family got what they needed.

Would undocumented immigrants be met with the same courtesy today?

In the decades that have since passed, Soria has become a chef.

Credit: Luis Eduardo Chimbo

She was taking culinary lessons at the time of the series of tragic life events –the miscarriage, the terrorist attack, the loss of her husband. Six years after 9/11, she returned to culinary school. Fifteen years after 9/11 tore her family apart, she received a green card. Her son has become a photographer and captured the above image of his mother.

She goes to the North reflecting pool every year on 9/11. Last year, she went on his birthday and left a flower and a birthday card which read: “To the love of my life, happy birthday to you. Surprise, you didn’t know I was coming.” 

READ: Three Years After Cancer Diagnoses, Luis Alvarez, A 9/11 First Responder, Dies At 53

Yalitza Aparicio’s Appearance Alongside Hollywood Veterans In Rodarte’s Spring 2020 Lookbook Proves She’s Still Rising

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Yalitza Aparicio’s Appearance Alongside Hollywood Veterans In Rodarte’s Spring 2020 Lookbook Proves She’s Still Rising

Back in February of this year, “Roma” actress Yalitza Aparicio dominated fashion headlines after her appearance on the red carpet of the Oscars. The actress made her first appearance at the 91st Academy Awards as a Best Actress nominee for her breakout role as Cleo a maid of Mixteco heritage working for a family in Mexico City during the early 1970s. Aparicio had already had a big night, not only had she nailed a coveted nominee slot, she’d done so for her first role ever in a movie. And while awe over her talent was much talked about, it was the mint-green and silver metallic tulle gown she wore by Rodarte that caught so much attention.

The fashion brand has long been an established designer on red carpets but there’s no denying the actress has helped raise interest in its designers. The red carpet match of the designers and the actress proved not only to be a success at the Oscars, but it also proved worthy of a lasting partnership.

For the fashion brand’s latest lookbook, Aparicio was selected as a model.

The rising star wowed in the brand’s dreamy fashion shoot.

Aparicio appeared in the Spring lookbook in a polka-dot belted black and white dress and a pair of sheer gloves studded with pearls which also speckle her hair. She modeled the dress in a magazine that featured Hollywood veterans such as Gabrielle Union and Kirsten Dunst.

Aparicio appeared in simple colors and extravagant gowns.

For her other appearance, the actress could be seen wearing a black and white plaid dress that featured a ruffle color and puff sleeves.

Of course, it didn’t take long for reactions to Aparcio’s appearance to set fire online.

Fans of the actress were quick to call her a “reina” and other celebrities including “Mad Men” actor January Jones, who also appeared in the shoot, commented “Love. ❤️”

Aparicio’s feature is another reminder, that the indigenous actress has her heels dug into Hollywood and the fashion industry and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Back in January of this year, Vogue México honored the actress with a feature and photoshoot that served as an ode to her culture and home state of Oaxaca. Not only was she featured on the magazine’s cover, but she was also thrown a party at the Patio del Huaje en el Jardín Etnobotanico in Oaxaca.

While the finicky nature of Hollywood and its attention to actresses of color has a strong pattern, Yalitza’s star does not seem to be dwindling. In fact, her appearance in the lookbook nearly seven months after her appearance at the Oscars, and without any announcements of new roles, proves she must have a lot coming up for herself.