Arts & Culture
Mexico City’s Gran Hotel
An Art Nouveau masterpiece, steeped in Old World elegance the Gran Hotel is close to the very heart of Mexico City, and to the Zócalo, too.

Mexico City, the ancient Aztec capital, is the world’s second largest urban area, home to more than 20 million people. The city features both new and old traditions. Likewise, both home grown and international retailers thrive here; among the vibrancy that typically characterizes an emerging market; Mexico’s history stands alongside tradition and modernity, combining old-world elegance with sophistication.  Such is the case of El Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. From the moment you step inside you are transported to another time.  But this building wasn’t always a hotel; in 1899, President Porfirio Díaz inaugurated what became the most exclusive department store in Latin America:  El Centro Mercantíl.

Imagine a shopping center with electrical installation, elevators, hot water, mailboxes, and telegraph and telephone stations. As you walk into the lobby, it’s easy to visualize ladies of the Porfirio era walking down the halls of Centro Mercantil looking to buy refined fabrics, hats, jewelry, perfumes, or having tea in the afternoon just like thus European customs. The department store caused such a stir that writers, music composers, politicians, poets and artists would shop there.  One of the things that most attracted to visitors were the elevators and the Tiffany stained glass, which had been brought from France in 1908. Jacques Grubert ”vitral” is one of the world’s largest stained-glass masterpieces in the world; its other attraction is the art nouveau elevator from 1895. The building was the first structure in the city built in the “Chicago” technique, using iron and concrete.

It wasn’t until 1968, the building’s owner decided to turn it into a hotel just before the Olympic games were inaugurated in Mexico City. And so the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México was born.  Its four-floor structure lavishly decorated in Art Nouveau is considered a quintessential landmark in Mexico City. The interior preserves most of the original decor created when it was a department store. There is an undulating and enveloping stairway, which was a replica of the one from the Au Bon Marché store in Paris. The pattern of the glass ceiling evokes the railroad, a symbol of modernity of the time. The illuminated Tiffany stained glass ceiling was designed and assembled in France, by French artisan Jacques Gruber. It is made of 20,000 brightly colored glass parts; the iron soffit allows the passage of sunlight using 150 lamps when it gets lighted.

The Tiffany technique consists of using Favrile glass to transmit texture and rich colors. Famous musical composer Agustín Lara was so bewildered by the stained glass at El Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México, that he plaid the piano in the lobby. The 19th century elevators, which are still operational, and the magnificent Louis XV chandelier at the entrance are distinctive symbols of one of Mexico’s most treasured architectural gems. The entrance hall highlights a marble floor, two dark pilasters and two big aviaries adorned with stained glass, which were added in 1968 when the department store was converted into a hotel. 

ao_en_Gran_Hotel_Ciudad_de_Mexico-1_037The Centro Mercantil closed its doors in 1958 and it was left in disuse for almost a decade, until it was decided to be demolished for the purpose of building a hotel. But when landscapers saw that the ironworks and elevators -which had already been dismantled and sold to merchants shopping for rusted iron- were in good condition, they rescued them on the way to the junkyard. It wasn’t until 1968 that a hotel was inaugurated here, with 120 guest rooms operated by Howard Johnson. El Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México became one of the favorite places or ionic comedian Cantinflas. 

It’s an experience in itself to stay at this hotel while you enjoy a unique blend of traditional and cotemporary décor as you sink into a plush bed. Many rooms also feature stunning views of the vibrant Zócalo Square just outside the hotel. If you are lucky to stay at one of the 18 rooms that overlook the Palacio Nacional, you will feel as though you are a part of it. The hotel’s lobby still preserves the tradition of live piano bar. While Thursdays are for storytellers, the hotels feature theatrical plays on Fridays.


All in all, the beauty, luxury and magnificence of this hotel, where games of light and colors pour down from the heights of the stained glass like a rain of magical glow, captivate visitors and guests like few hotels in the world.

El Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México closed doors in 2003 for two years; so extensive refurbishment could take place to preserve the original architecture and atmosphere.  Today, this hotels boasts a palatial ambience one can simply enjoy by walking through its facilities, sipping on your favorite drink are savoring a gourmet meal at the restaurant.

The 60 rooms are decorated in classical style and include minibars, coffee/tea makers, Wi-Fi (for a fee) and flat-panel LCD TVs with satellite channels. Other amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, a business center, adjacent parking (for a fee), and international cafe, and lobby piano bar. You can also marvel at spectacular scenery from the Terraza Restaurant, which is perched on the fifth floor. The hotel restaurant serves up a variety of three course breakfasts fresh fruit plates and great coffee. Upon arrival they send up balloons and chocolate covered strawberries. When it’s time to explore, ask the knowledgeable concierge for recommendations on the best shows, events and attractions in Mexico City. A 24-hour fitness area and well-equipped business center are among the other amenities you can enjoy.

Gran Hotel de la ciudad de México

Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico is the place where Mexico history and culture come together – located in the heart of Mexico City and with the most beautiful main square – Plaza de la Constitución- view, the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico is nowadays the central point of Mexico cultural, political, financial, and social life.

Films such as ‘License to kill’, ‘Spectre’ and ‘Frida’ were filmed in El Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México.

Gran Hotel de la ciudad de México



ILUMINA, an alien-like sculpture of light and sound that shines with emotions
ILUMINA is an art piece where technology, design, light and sound invites us to experience the ways in which we are all connected to the cosmos.

ILUMINA is an interactive sculpture of light and sound fed by the collective energy of people’s hearts.


Art and technology are two faces of human creativity, two that are also closely related, despite the differences they apparently have with each other. What art does on many occasions has been achieved thanks to a specific technical development, a technology whose existence allows the artists to enhance or limit their creative work. Yes, it conditions it, but possibly also encourages it to transcend those limitations.

In this sense, the relationship between one and another human activities could be found in virtually any era, but it is certainly in recent times when technology has a presence, so persistent, somehow so inescapable, that art has been benefited for incorporating it. Both as a resource, an instrument, as part of the examination of contemporary reality, when many of our practices and interactions almost necessarily pass through a technological device.

Thus, somehow the ideal professed by Nietzsche on the need to transform life in a work of art, but this time through art and technology. Somehow the aesthetic sensibility, the discovery of the admirable or the frankly beautiful that any of us can perceive, finds a vehicle, a means of transmission and expression in how art can be magnified through technology.




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Nowadays, it is becoming more and more complex to achieve high levels of consciousness, and to create a community without being outside of technology, but ww can use it as a tool to improve our sensitive abilities. To the same extent that we depend on technology to survive, it has become part of our lives, even in its most spiritual and even transcendental recesses. Art, now more than ever, demands to be a vehicle to explore different states that bring us closer to the dimensions of the infinite

Ilumina is an installation created by the artist Pablo Gonzalez Vargas, who through a deep exploration with the power of interconnectivity, proposes a method to improve the energy field of the planet. Pablo Gonzalez created a majestic interactive sculpture of light and sound that is activated by the emotional states of people, generating a beautiful light show and a sound landscape where the participants enter a state of coherence and deep harmony with themselves and with each other.






Ilumina is a metallic art monument, completed with aluminum and LED lights that together form an architectural piece full of harmony. The piece of art combines technology with a design of ancient wisdom. Ilumina has a program that responds to external stimuli, being able to shine more while more “coherent” is the group that hosts, generating a unique shared experience.

Ilumina is a chilling visual experience, and the volunteers who participate in the exercise of meditative immersion that lasts three minutes, are transported to a state of coherence and deep harmony with themselves, with their fellow participants and with the cosmos through a patented fusion of modern technology and transpersonal art.



The biometric sensors are connected to the ear lobes of each participant, which measures their unique state of coherence and averages them together. This is how lighting design and moving soundscapes respond to a unique algorithm, a product of HeartMath that uses biometric sensors for personal self-training in the regulation of emotional states where the sculpture becomes brighter to the extent that the users experiment with their emotions.

The team that created Ilumina included about 20 people from different disciplines and contributions. There was a large industrial design team that shaped the exact model that was taken to manufacturing. Marco Kalach worked with an expert manufacturing workshop, because as it is a public use facility in particular events, it had to comply with all the rules, structural regulations and with protection codes. The executive producer of the project was Gaby Vargas, who was responsible for the expertise at HeartMath, and joined by mexican musicians and audio engineers to make the experience of 360 degrees of immersive sound, led by Billy Mendez. The lighting team, directed by Paolo Montiel, coordinated all the programming and lighting design that makes symbiosis with the audio.


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It was at Burning Man 2012, where Pablo Gonzalez Vargas created an art car called Mayan Warrior: a luminescence project and a spectacular audio show featuring pieces by the artist Alex Gray and musical performances by elite artists from Mexico and around the world.

In the penultimate edition of Burning Man, Pablo Gonzalez and his team decided to go a step beyond the great proposal that is Mayan Warrior, by presenting Ilumina, this piece of sacred geometry that radiates not only light but an algorithmic sacrality, it’s as mystical and hypnotic as an art piece can get. The tower of almost 12 meters high illuminated the Nevada desert at the Burning Man Festival 2017, and users managed to enter a mental state full of concentration characterized by a complete absorption, a wonderful moment of loss of the notion of spacetime.






It is expected that later there will be replicas of these sculptures, so that they can reach new locations around the world, and we can experience this amazing spectacle of light and the soundscape that connects us with the profound mysticism that exists in ourselves and that highlights the interconnectivity of our planet with the global energy fields.

Here are some photos of this beautiful project, in which lies the probability of a coherent and luminous future that would be worth living.


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Burning Man 2017


If you want to know more about this beautiful project or about the creative artist and allies that integrate it, visit their social media channels:


Ilumina Art Installation

Sitio web //  Facebook //  Instagram


The Five Most Beautiful Mexico City Libraries
For budget travelers, Mexico City libraries were always among the most attractive, free attractions to visit. Today, they're simply too inviting to pass up.
Mexico City Libraries

Chilangos may cherish their reputation for never reading, but Mexico City libraries present a very contrary picture. 

Though the internet makes lots more information available to lots more people, Mexico City libraries have simply not been supplanted. Charged with continually re-inventing themselves, and their places in the public imagination, one can still encounter eras gone by and great historical minds in a library as in few other places.

Knowledge, after all, belongs to everyone. Opening a book, reading it at a study, or just meeting in the silence of one these Mexico City libraries enhances concentration, and provides a welcome respite from everything going on out there in the world. 

Of all Mexico City libraries, the oldest were part of the church and one or another of its offshoot organizations. Among these was the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, founded in the 1530s and surviving today as the Biblioteca José María Lafragua. Most of these ecclesiastical libraries were not truly open to the public, and Mexico had to wait for the  National Library of Mexico, inaugurated by Benito Juárez in 1867 to enjoy the benefits of a truly public library system.

The list below is intended to let you enjoy some of that system, too. 

José Vasconcelos Library

Mexico City Libraries

Opened just ten years ago, in 2006, the Vasconcelos is visited by thousands for the sheer spectacle of its innovative design. Graced by the iconic whale from artist, Gabriel Orozco, it’s always a good library for art and visual spectacle. The facade retains something of a colonial appearance, but for sheer scale, and jaw-dropping space, the interior must be experienced.

Address: Eje 1 Norte Mosqueta S / N, Buenavista


UNAM Central Library 

Mexico City Libraries

We’ve written a lot about it in these pages, but the UNAM library with the Juan O’Gorman murals remains one of the most outstanding of all Mexico City libraries. As a UNESCO site with some 428,000 volumes in the collection, it’s the biggest in Mexico, but lots of folks visit just to see the facade and the surrounding grounds. 

Address: Circuito Interior S / N, Coyoacán, Ciudad Universitaria


National Library of Mexico


Opened by Benito Juárez in 1867, there’s still a good one million books inside, today administered by the folks from UNAM. Originally located in the San Agustín church in the city center, the current building was opened in 1979. Geometric, and massive, it’s an extraordinary place to visit.

Address: Av. Universidad 3000, Coyocacan


Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library


Specializing in economic materials, this collection of some 86,350 books and 114,852 journals is administered by the Secretary of Finance and Public Credit. Founded in 1928, it’s one of the cities true public art spectacles. Inside the main nave of the old Oratory of San Felipe Neri “El Nuevo,” the baroque façade outside is just the beginning. Inside, the murals are futuristic, and not to be missed.

Address: Av. República de el Salvador 49, Centro Histórico, col. Centro Histórico


Library of Congress of the Union


One of Centro’s truly outstanding historical buildings, for centuries it was the convent of the Clarisas from the 16th century. Today it’s something like a “Library of Congress” with a stunning collection of publications and artifacts, but also with a lush, deep, dark intellectual interior, that beckons from centuries past. 

Address: Tacuba 29, Centro Histórico

Photographs this page: Flickr – Creative Commons