MEXICO CITY -- Mexicans are bundling up this season. It may be 70 degrees outside, but downtown in the capital, it’s all snow and ice.
The city set up an ice rink for the fifth year running in the Zocalo, Mexico City’s sprawling plaza in the historic center. A fake Christmas tree looms 164 feet tall over the rink and two tents where children can make snowmen and have a snowball fight.
“I always bring my kids,” said Fortunata Juárez, a mother of three, while a volunteer at the ice rink laced up her skates. “It’s part of our Christmas tradition.”
The city estimates some 200,000 people will hit the ice rink this season. On a recent warm evening, hundreds of people strapped on free skates and teetered onto the ice. A solid stream of people hugged the wall around the ring for support – many visitors had never skated on ice before – leaving the middle open for those who knew how to glide on their own.
Jonathan López, 20, skidded to a halt at the rink’s exit and marched to a bench where he declared to a rink volunteer that he put his skates on the wrong feet. He laughed while the volunteer pulled off the boots.
López didn’t need the wall, he said; it was his second time skating, and a friend with good balance on the ice kept ahold of him.
The rink spans 60 meters by 40 meters, or about 200 feet by 131 feet.
Nearby, at the snowball fight tent, children lined up by the dozens to await their turn to strap on a helmet – red for one impromptu team, blue for the other – and dig icy snow out of a plastic bin, pack it into a snowball and hurl it at the enemy.
The snow for the snowball fights and snowman tent comes courtesy of Real Snow Productions, a Mexico City company allied with Amsterdam-based Polar Europe, which touts its ability to produce artificial snow no matter the outside temperature. Real Snow’s website says the company’s wintry mix requires only three inputs: water, electricity and liquid nitrogen.
Between 3 million and 4 million people are expected to visit Mexico City during the holidays, according to a city spokesman.
Photo credit: Nacho Espejo