INSIDER GUIDE

Mexico City With Paola Castelo

Founder and creative director of art movement Vuelta Sur

Mexico City With Paola Castelo

– follow Paola –

From Sonora to Vancouver, modeling, a business degree, and a clothing line later, Paola Castelo found her purpose with Vuelta Sur. Stemming from a need to connect with her roots, the movement highlights the human connection and shares the magic of Mexico, working to preserve its rich and diverse cultural heritage. The vibrant Mexico City is Paola’s playground for inspiration and fun.

In a nutshell, what do you do, and how did you get here? 

I’m the founder and creative director of Vuelta Sur, a movement that delves into Mexican art and culture and seeks to preserve authentic traditions across Mexico’s vast landscape. We form collaborative relationships with master artisans and contemporary artists, blending artwork that marries the old and new, and support educational programs with Indigenous communities across Mexico.

I was born in Sonora, Mexico, and my ancestors are Yaqui, a north-western Mexican Indigenous tribe, which is an essential part of my identity. The idea of Vuelta Sur was born when I became a mother because I wanted to be immersed in the culture of my native country, and I realized how imperative it was that my children be connected to their roots. I felt it was crucial to capture and portray my country — Mexico’s art movement, its rich history, and all of the stunning traditions that feel a part of me — and to do so through an honest lens for an international audience.

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What is your earliest memory of Mexico City?

I’m from a small town, so most of my weekends and vacations were at the ranch or by the sea of Cortez. I actually didn’t make it to Mexico City until I was 17 years old. I felt so impressed and excited and, at the same time, totally out of my element.

How would you describe Mexico City to someone that’s never been?

It’s a lot of beautiful chaos. The city is an eclectic mix that shows the history of colonialism, the renaissance of art, and the Mexican mural movement — there’s so much creativity. There’s a huge gap in the disparity between wealth and poverty, as well as a thriving indigenous population that’s deeply rooted in the city. You might stumble upon pyramids alongside modern architecture — all within a city of 22 million people.

What is the best thing about Mexico City? 

The history and where it is going. 

"It’s a lot of beautiful chaos. The city is an eclectic mix that shows the history of colonialism, the renaissance of art, and the Mexican mural movement — there’s so much creativity."

The Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
The Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
Fernando Pradilla Gallery, Madrid
Fernando Pradilla Gallery, Madrid

Describe a perfect day in Mexico City. 

I’m an early riser, so my perfect day starts at 6:30 am with an online yoga class or meditation and a walk to get a coffee. I always stay in the usual places and love finding my way around new neighborhoods. Every time I’m there, I’m quite busy and constantly consuming all of the city’s art. Every time I’m in the city, I visit the National Museum of Anthropology. I also love going to the street markets; there are so many unique finds there.

How does Mexico City inspire your work and your creativity? 

It’s the mecca of a new movement of art and creativity within the country. There’s so much radical, new work that’s blossoming in the city all the time. I’m constantly inspired by architects, teachers, artists, thinkers, and makers. The city itself is a place where I meet and connect with others who I usually don’t see in my daily life. They inspire me daily, long after I’ve left the city itself. I have so much admiration for everyone who’s leading the movement. There’s a distinct sense of unity that’s born out of creativity. I’m reminded that we’re all in this together. 

Best place to experience emerging art and culture? 

Art Week happens every year around the week of February 7—11. ZsONAMACO has a convention center full of Mexican galleries and many from North America and Latin America. There are also many activations from nomad galleries in architects’ homes that have been turned into galleries. Many of these homes are typically closed to the public, but they’re always open during Art Week!

ZsONAMACO, the most important art fair in Latin America takes place every year in early February in Mexico City
ZsONAMACO, the most important art fair in Latin America takes place every year in early February in Mexico City
Kurimanzutto Gallery
Kurimanzutto Gallery

"Mexico City is the mecca of a new movement of art and creativity within the country. There’s so much radical, new work that’s blossoming all the time."

Best place to enjoy well-established art? 

Other than ZsONAMACO during Art Week, I’d also recommend visiting the most established galleries in Mexico, such as Galeria OMR, Proyectos Monclova, Kurimanzutto, and Galleria Lopez Quiroga.

Best low-key food? 

Street food is my absolute favorite. It’s great in La Lagunilla market and on Calle de Durango.

Want to have the best recommendations in Mexico City at our fingertips? We pinned all Paola Castelo’s favorite places plus dozens of handpicked restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs, shops, markets, museums, and much more in a super user-friendly map you can save directly to your devices.

A dish at Rosetta, one of the most celebrated restaurants in Mexico City
A dish at Rosetta, one of the most celebrated restaurants in Mexico City
Mercado Roberto Carlos Roman Don, a great destination of traditional Mexican street food
Mercado Roberto Carlos Roman Don, a great destination of traditional Mexican street food

Favorite dining experience? 

There are many restaurants in the scene that are well established and many up-and-coming with creative menus. I love going to Rosetta. The food is always great, and the atmosphere is unique. 

Favorite hotel you recommend to friends, or you’d stay the next time you visit? 

I want to hide this one because it has very few bedrooms! Okay, I will share just with you… It is Casa 9

Zii Ropa, a local shop with responsibly-made fashion and design
Zii Ropa, a local shop with responsibly-made fashion and design
Casa 9 guest house
Casa 9 guest house

Best place for fashion finds? 

I love Zii Ropa boutique. It is full of high-quality designs that are made in Mexico.

Best place for design finds? 

Tetletán at Jardines del Pedregal.

One thing about Mexico City that people don’t know…

I don’t know what you don’t know, but I do know what I would like you to know. When you are there, please treat the locals with the utmost consideration, respect, and love. They work so hard, and most of us have no idea how little they get paid or how tough their lives can be, especially with the continued gentrification of the city by an international population, which has raised the cost of living so much. So, as outsiders, the least we can do is treat people with much-deserved respect and love.

Don’t forget to check all the highly curated Mexico City content here on A Hotel Life: Mexico City Destination Guide.

More local insider guides, a selection of the best hotels, restaurants and bars, clubs, shops, markets, museums, galleries — all the special places only a good in-the-know friend would tell you about!

 

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