Happy New Year from Mexico City

I wanted to celebrate 2011 in a memorable way (with lots of sun and no jetlag). And I wanted to kick media-generated fear in its annoying face. So, Mexico City was just right. I’ll follow this little photo essay with a series of blog entries from the rest of this journey — featuring Nicaragua and El Salvador. Thanks for joining me on a Latin American side-trip.

Flying into Mexico City, you see a metropolis with a population two-thirds the size of Canada's, stretching what seems like forever in all directions.

The streets of Mexico City's old center are a constant carnival of color and people.

With Mexico's much-publicized drug war violence, the military police seem to be everywhere, keeping the peace. They are young and all smiles, and feel appreciated by everyone.

When Columbus "discovered" America, the biggest city on earth was Tenochtitlan (today's Mexico City). With about 200,000 people and lots of canals, it looked something like this.

Mexican kids get their presents on the day the Three Kings gave their gifts to the Baby Jesus, January 6th. So in the park, they pose not with Santa — but with the Three Kings.

Because of the beloved Virgin of Guadalupe — a miraculous icon showing Mary with indigenous (rather than European) features — the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe receives more pilgrims than even St. Peter's in Rome.

The pyramids at Teotihuacán are as awe-inspiring as those in Egypt. It's hard to imagine these being built way back around 200 AD.

Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology tells the story of its many impressive pre-Colombian civilizations.

My memories of Mexico are being wished Happy New Year by people like this. (Photo by Trish Feaster)

On the streets of Mexico City you can get anything — even a good, end of the year, smoke spanking for purification. (Photo by Trish Feaster)

Mexican diners mix up potent brews to add kick to your enchilada. (Photo by Trish Feaster)

In Mexico City on New Year's Eve over 20 million just stayed home. That left plenty of people out on the happy and peaceful streets. (Photo by Trish Feaster)

And at midnight the sky's lit up. Feliz Nuevo Ano! (Photo by Trish Feaster)