By Alexandra Victoria Alvarez
Each time I have bought a Bonafont water bottle from OXXO throughout the past year living in Mexico City, I have been surprised to see a famous Mexican woman’s face stamped on its label. In efforts to promote female empowerment and create visible indications of achievements by women, the water company featured a wide array of successful Mexican females including revolutionist Adelita, conductor Alondra de la Parra, Mexican actress Maria Felix, and poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
The image of Juana Inés stuck with me and I ended up falling down a rabbit hole of research, investigating her life and achievements through Google and the telenovela-esque adaptation of her life on Netflix. What I learned is that Juana Inés was not only a trailblazer for women’s education, but she was also an incredibly courageous spirit with a voice that challenged misogynistic opinions during colonial Mexico.
Modern poet Rupi Kaur says, “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see further- legacy.” Juan Inés built a mountain in Mexico whose cascades of influence are not just in literature, but also stand tall in the peaks of mujer power that bleeds through the country today. Her legacy can be seen in art, cuisine, fashion, and the minds of Mexico’s next female leaders. For those who have been equally as inspired by the story and legacy of Juana Inés, we have compiled a must-visit list of places and spaces in Mexico City with Juana Inés vibes, perfect for your next getaway.
Image Source: @u_elclaustro
On one side of the 200 pesos bill there is a portrait of Juana Inés, on the other side is a picture of her convent home in Mexico City, San Geronimo. For over a quarter of a century, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz lived in the San Geronimo convent. Many say that Juana Inés moved to the complex to be closer to books and materials. Synchronistically, today the former home of the writer stands as an academic site: Universidad de Claustro de Sor Juana. Aside from the buzzing bodies of young minds that walk in Inés’s footsteps through the veins of the Herrerian Baroque style campus, the site is the eternal resting place of the revered writer. After looking at her coffin and the library which contains the Center of Documentation of Sor Juana Inés, a collection of writings from and about Inés, head to the Celda Contemporánea, an exhibition space that puts on shows by contemporary artists in dialogue with the space and its rich history. Lastly, take a stroll into the Museo de la Indumentaria Mexicana (The Museum of Mexican Attire), an on-campus important collection of traditional Mexican clothing.
Image Source: @fundacion_alumnos
If Juana Inés were alive today, I think her favorite contemporary art space would be Fundación Alumnos (formerly Alumnos 47). Having recently moved locations to the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood, Fundación Alumnos is an organization with a mission that fosters the generation and exchange of knowledge where contemporary problems are explored through contemporary art in its relationships with other disciplines to analyze everyday life. Its programming includes educational, curatorial and editorial research that can either happen on-site or through many of its mobile efforts dispersed through the city. Not only would Juana Inés love their progressive and femme-heavy exhibitions, she would spend hours perusing through their top-notch and culturally dense library.
Aside from Juana Inés, one of the most famous Mexican female historical figures is the free spirit Frida Kahlo. Step inside Frida Kahlo’s private universe and former home ‘Casa Azul’ down in one of the eldest and most beautiful barrios of Mexico City, Coyoacán. Frida was born and died inside these pop-art oceanic walls which today stand to preserve much of her life, work, and spirit. This museum is definitely worth the trip down to the southern part of the city; not only does it provide an intimate glimpse into the everyday life of the esteemed revolutionary powerhouse artist, but it also gives inspiration and insider access to the truly divine and fierce woman that was Frida Kahlo. You’ll leave wanting to take a painting class. Make your reservations online ahead of time.
Image Source: @elolmedomx
Continue your love affair with the art of Frida Kahlo down at the Museo de Dolores Olmedo. Formerly known as the Hacienda la Noria, the donated collection space of Dolores Olmedo Patiño is home to some of the most important works of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Angelina Beloff, Pablo Higgins, pre-Hispanic art and some contemporary art. The stone structure is nestled in a glorious garden of native Mexican plants and flowers and even has peacocks and Aztec dogs salsa dancing around. Founded and brought to life by a woman, this world-class museum is definitely a stop for a lesson in Mexican culture due to its plethora of paintings on the rich and colorful history of Mexico. *Insiders tip, the museum is located in the south of the city in Xochimilco, head there for a day of riding boats on the river, then check out the beautiful collection of philanthropist, businesswoman and musician Dolores Olmedo.
Image Source: @deliriodf
Support your local girl gang by eating at their delicious establishments. Opened in 2017 by Monica Patiño, the owner and chef of the fancy dinner locale Casa Virginia, Delirio is a neighborhood store and concept café inspired by Patiño’s Mexican and Mediterranean roots. Reasonably priced, this is where you can meet up with your girls after work for wine, enjoy a mezcal brunch, or play on your MacBook over breakfast and a pastry. All of the eggs and milk they use are organic, Monica keeps a kitchen stocked with only fresh ingredients, and the café is sourced from ecological agriculture practices. Highly recommended: the Greek Eggs dish with a side of freshly squeezed juice or a trip to the scrumptious and overflowing weekend brunch buffet bar.
Image Source: @sverat
Elena Reygadas is the owner and chef mastermind behind the elegant and reservation-needed-beforehand Rosetta as well as the relaxed but-filled-with-the-most-posh-trend-setters Lardo. However, for working girls like us, Café Nin/ Rosetta Panadería is your morning go-to spot. Reygadas is an incredibly successful woman mover and shaker and Café Nin is the spot to get your work done while feeling like you are in a scene from a Tuscan version of the Secret Garden. The two establishments share a building, the Panadería, on the right facing the entrance and the Café on the left. We recommend a coffee and a pastry, but if you are gluten-free try one of the delicious soups; carrots in honey, yogurt, and cilantro; or the green curry. The menu is diverse, the vibe is simplistic delights, and we definitely see a modern Juana In?s taking advantage of the photo-op and posting a gram of her coffee while getting writing work done at this Colonia Juarez Porfirian styled gem.
Image Source: @gourmetandyoung
I definitely imagine a modern Juana Inés stopping at La Roma’s Contramar after an important church service in her Sunday whites. This pricey yet mouth watering restaurant run by a woman named Gabriela Cámara is another one of our support female-owned businesses stops on your Juana Inés tour of Mexico City. Almost all of the American tourists who visit Mexico City will tell you to go here, and I agree. Reservations are a must and lunchtime is the best tiempo del día to go in order to take advantage of the window lighting or terrace dining. Put on your fancy shades, wear an outfit because you will be seen, and order the ceviche and aguachiles— just be careful of the spice.
Image Source: @carlafernandezmx
Carla Fernández is a fashion label in Mexico City for women and men, with shops at two different locations, that is inspired by the rich patterns and textiles of Mexico. She works directly with the indigenous communities, specifically women co-ops, and pays these artisans not just for time spent on labor but also for the intellectual property rights of their designs. We think Juana Inés would definitely be in support of this charity and community building. Not only is this eponymous label socially robust, but Fernández’s collections are also woven with spiritual themes. Fernández says on her website, “the relationship between work and cultural expression happens in the most intimate space of everyday life: that which covers the body.” Highly recommended: going to her pop-up store on Saturdays only, 10am-7pm at Plaza San Jacinto 11 int 13 and 13, San Ángel 01000 CDMX. Here, during Bazar Sábado, the streets are overflowing with vendors and booths to buy unique traditional Mexican jewelry.
Founded in 2008, a ready wear line, a haute couture line, and a bridal line, Sandra Weil is the high-quality, timeless fashion house for a modern-day intellectual or woman on a mission, like Juana Inés. Located in the chic Polanco neighborhood, Sandra Weil’s garments take notes from nun-vibes and transforms bulky fabrics into asymmetrical and modernized looks without compensating modesty. Como se dice, library chic?
Juana Inés spoke and wrote in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. Coming from the Nahutal word for women, this Mexican based brand by French designer Vanessa Guckles, recognizes and acknowledges the indigenous women who create traditional craft designs, their ancient knowledge and culture. According to their website, Cihuah is a tribute to the basic patterns of indigenous Mexican clothing. With sophisticated black and white pieces to classic looks reimagined with a modern twist, we definitely think a 2018 Juana Inés would love to wear these authentic threads.
Alexandra Victoria Alvarez
A citizen of both the USA and Mexico, Alexandra Victoria Alvarez is a Mexico City based freelance writer and exhibiting artist working at Galeria OMR as the Director’s Assistant. Alvarez is a double major from Wesleyan University, and has previously held professional positions in San Antonio, Texas at Blue Star Contemporary, the DoSeum, the Mexican Cultural Institute and with Texas State Rep Diego Bernal. Included in Jesse Amado’s exhibition Gesamtkunstwerk, Alvarez’s latest series ‘femanifestos’ is currently on view at Blue Star Contemporary in San Antonio until early January 2019. To explore more of her artwork and previous publications, visit www.alexandraalvarez.com and connect with her on Instagram @a.v.a.