Mexico places just fly off the tongue: Oaxtepec, Tlayacapan, Cuernavaca, Teotihuacan!
On July 10 - 17, 2014, both Ethan and Naomi played for the US team at the Pan-American Youth Championship in Oaxtepec, Mexico: http://panamericanoajedrezmexico2014.com/index.php/en/
Many hundreds of young chess players from all the numerous countries of South and North America competed in 9 Swiss rounds, in 12 categories: Open and Girls -- Under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18.
Ethan placed 12 out of 78 in the Open Under 16 category: http://chess-results.com/tnr139977.aspx?lan=1&art=4&wi=821
Naomi placed 13 out of 44 in the Girls Under 12 category:
The chess side of this event is best covered by Ted Castro at the USCF report:
The US team won the most medals: 5 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze. Great job!
Pan-American Youth Championship
We four flew to Mexico City from Seattle with a 30 minutes connection in Houston - barely made it. Then waited 3 hours upon arrival to Mexico, until the organizers put us into a taxi. Near Mexico City we saw outlandish traffic jams, pouring rain and an overturned bus. It's a 1.5 hour picturesque ride to the venue in Hotel Club Dorados in Oaxtepec, Morelos State. There we crashed in our 5-bed 2.5-room hotel suite.
Team USA had the initial meeting in the morning. In the afternoon, in Round 1, Naomi defeated Ximena Ortega of Mexico, in the Girls Under 12 section. Ethan drew with Jorge De Dios of Mexico, in the Open Under 16 section. After the games, both kids had their games analysed by Coach Michael in Restaurante La Palapa, which we called simply Lapa Lapa ;-)
In Round 2 Naomi won over Melanie Dongo of Peru, and Ethan drew with another Mexican, Gerardo Hernandez. While the kids played, we ventured on foot into the town of Oaxtepec.
In Round 3, Naomi lost to Aleyla Hilario of Peru, while Ethan drew with Manuel Valencia of Mexico for the third time already. He almost never draws, never in his life twice in a row, and here it's already three times in a row!
In Round 4 Naomi won over Jemmily Ramirez of Venezuela, and also Ethan won over Eduardo Pelaez of Mexico, finally! After the game, Naomi got to paint a papier mâche horse.
Since there was no afternoon round, the kids enjoyed water slides until dinner.
In Round 5, Ethan drew with Jose Barreto of Venezuela, and Naomi drew with Ramitha Ravishankar of USA. In Round 6, Ethan lost to Breinerrosiel Correa of Peru, and Naomi lost to WCM Melannie Salazar Gould of Costa Rica.
On this day, we finally ventured outside Oaxtepec, with a day-long foray into Tlayacapan and Cuernavaca.
In Round 7, Naomi won over Josselyne Mendoza of Ecuador, and Ethan won over Rojas Aldair Garcia of Mexico.
After the round started, Luda and I rode a minibus line 15 minutes north-east to Tlayacapan and spent 2-3 hours around noon touring the former monastery of San Juan Baustista (which was started in 1534!) with its remarkable museum and the market area around it.
In Round 8, Naomi drew with Venus Castro of El Salvador, and Ethan won over Luis Perez of Mexico.
During the round we traveled by bus about 1 hour to the west, into Cuernavaca. There we visited its oldest-in-Mexico Cathedral with the elaborate Tercera Orden Chapel.
In Round 9, Ethan won against Jonathan Sanchez of Peru, and Naomi lost to Anastacia Lopez of Mexico. During the round we rode minivan to Oaxtepec and explored its former monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and the town.
In the early afternoon Team USA had a great photo session, with players and coaches:
Later that day an exquisite award ceremony was held in the hotel's "Poliforum".
Open Under 10 gold medal: Christopher Shen of USA.
Open Under 12 bronze medal: Chase Frutos of USA.
Girls Under 16 gold medal: Agata Bykovtsev of USA.
Open Under 16 gold medal: Vignesh Panchanatham of USA.
Team USA 2nd overall, and won the most medals. US coaches did good work!
Mexico City - Day 1
Next morning the organizers put us on a bus to the Mexico City airport, from where we took metro to our Hotel Castropol. At noon we already walked along Av. Pino Suarez towards Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo), the main square with the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and other tourist bonanza.
The main attraction of the day turned out to be Templo Mayor, the Aztec main temple ruins and museum to the northeast of Zócalo. This is the reason for a history buff like me to come to Mexico! It was 3 hours of uncontrollable archeological ecstasy, never experienced before and thought to never return -- until overshadowed by two more archeological ecstasies in the coming two days!
After the incredible 7 layers of temple structures, we visited the adjacent museum. The current exhibition was named La sexualidad en Occidente, i.e. Sexuality in Native Art of the West Coast. Go to the photo album, you're not going to regret it:
The day ended with a walk west to the Fine Arts Palace and back east on the pedestrian shopping drag of Avenida Francisco I. Madero.
Mexico City - Day 2
In the morning we ventured into the National Palace and saw the famous Diego Rivera murals. The artist presents a thoroughly Marxist version of Mexican history. In fact Karl Marx himself prominently presides on the top of the 20th Century mural, quite like a divine figure that Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo worshipped.
Most of the day we rode the tourist double-decker, the Turibus. Mexico City is an amazing modern megalopolis with ancient historic roots, amazing buildings and stunning monuments, quite unlike anything we've seen in the USA, Canada, or even Brazil - including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo!
We completed the Central and Southern circles. In the hindsight, I would swap the Southern circle for the National Museum of Anthropology. The kids were happy, though.
Teotihuacan and the Anthropology Museum
The final day was intense. In the morning we rode metro to Terminal Autobuses del Norte; then 1 hour by bus to Teotihuacan - a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city, the site of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids. We visited the Citadel with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent Pyramid), then walked along the Avenue of the Dead to the immense Pyramid of the Sun, which the kids and I actually climbed!
After returning to Mexico city in the afternoon, we rode metro to Bosque de Chapultepec and then walked through the park to Museo Nacional de Antropología.
The National Museum of Anthropology is a place I could easily spend a week exploring, however we only had a couple of hours before it closed.
It was a mighty sprint through 10 major exhibition halls: Temporal, Anthropology, Peopling, Preclassic, Teotihuacan, Toltecs, Aztecs, Oaxaca, Gulf, Maya.
We didn't make it to the last two halls: Western and Northern Cultures, as they locked up 15 minutes before 7 PM. I still grieve this loss.
Road Back and Future Plans
The flight back had a 6-hour overlay in Houston. At first we thought about going to see the downtown, but it turned out the security lines were too long (with baggage re-check due to border crossing), the gates too far apart, the kids too tired and there was no fast public transit to the city. We asked the airline to put us on an earlier connection flight, and it worked - we flew 3 hours earlier.
On the flight to Seattle the next seat passenger entertained me with the most interesting and fascinating conversation about the current events. Upon arrival, it turned out that Ethan's suitcase (out of the four we re-checked) was left on the original flight and would arrive 3 hours later. The airline delivered it to our house the next day.
As for the near future -- stay put for the 2014 World Youth Chess Championship in Durban, South Africa, in the second part of September: