Daniela Cruz Rodríguez is a production designer based in in México City.
She studied History at the faculty of Philosophy in the UNAM, and later graduated from the CUEC/UNAM (2012) as a filmmaker with specialty in Art Direction. Daniela designs films, advertisements, and also teaches production design.
The first list I made of the 10 places that every production designer should visit in Mexico City was a list that you would probably find in any tourist brochure, but I soon realized that it did not reflect the diversity of spaces that can be worth knowing. Trying to decipher the list, I took the camera and I went on a little trip inside my hometown. Little by little I was discarding places and I ended up with the list that I am now sharing with you.
1. MERCADO DE JAMAICA
Located at Guillermo Prieto 45, Colonia Jamaica, open 24/7, 365 days a year.
This market was built in the1950s as a government project, to modernize Mexico City’s markets. It is one of my favorite places. Upon entering, the smell of flowers hits your nose, while the variety of colors takes shape in front of your eyes. Long aisles of flowers offer sunflowers, gerbera daisies, alstroemerias, flower arrangements for wakes, funerals; you can buy sacks of petals, Winnie the Pooh figures made with yellow flowers, or hearts in the shape of Mickey Mouse, bouquets for brides; the variety is infinite.
Walking though the market you can get other products like fruits, vegetables, baskets, seasonal products such as cempasuchil flowers for the Day of the Dead, or national decorations for September 15th. To spend a day enjoying the market is an amazing experience: enjoy the flowers, or try a chileatole (a hot drink made of chili and corn), or send flower arrangements at “ El Guero” or buy wood, visit the junkyard for pipes, or bathroom fixtures for filming. It is definitely a place to visit once in your life.
2. IGLESIA DE NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL PILAR / LA ENSEÑANZA CHURCH
Located at Donceles102 Mexico city’s Historic Center
In my country, the Novohispanic period spanned from 1510 (the arrival of the Spanish and the conquest of the pre-hispanic people) to the 1827, with the culmination of Independence. I thought it was very important to find a place that told us something of this era, which is why I choose a baroque church that is located on a side of the Cathedral in the center of the city. From outside the facade does not say much, but upon entering we find ourselves in front of a very beautiful church, where the gaze can travel from one point to another, finding composition in each frame. The textures and shapes gain volume thanks to the light that bathes the temple from the octagonal dome.
Located at Canal Nacional 2000 Coapa, Cuemanco 16036, Xochimilco
Monday thru Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cuemanco is considered the largest plant and flower market in Latin America. More than 15 thousand different plants are sold in the market each day. A short car trip takes you to the pier (Embarcadero), where you can see the traditional colorful boats, the trajineras, and raised fields called chinampas (a Mesoamerican method of cultivating plants and vegetables). The trip through the Canals of Cuemanco stimulates the imagination on so many levels that it is difficult to describe: the tranquility of the water, the mariachis that offer music to passerbys, the vendors with pulque or quesadillas, or the opportunity to know what an ajolote is. From start to finish it is a magical trip.
4. LANGUILLA ANTIQUE MARKET
Close to the Lagunilla subway and/or Ignacio Allende127 Morelos 06200, Sundays
The Lagunilla antic market is one of Mexico City ́s most important markets, where many vendors and artists come to sell their antiques, vintage articles, curiosities, or that object that nobody needs, but would make a phenomenal prop!
Antique dolls, and not so antique but very scary ones, Aladdin’s lamp, a warlock’s hat, military clothes, furniture of a specific era... You need a lot with luck, but it is highly probable that even if you do not find what you came looking for, you will end up with a thousand photos of artifacts that may be useful for this or that story, or the telephone number of the man who sells the vinyl you are looking for, or the antique camera you didn’t know you needed for your collection.
5. LA UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA DE MEXICO (UNAM)
Located at Av. Universidad 3004 Copilco, Universidad, Coyoacan 04510 Mexico City, CDMX
UNAM is one of the largest public universities in Latin America, and one of the most active in art, craft technology and research. The central university campus counts with many incredible places like the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC).
Inside of the university you can find the Nacional school of cinema (ENAC; Escuela Nacional de Artes Cinematograficas ). It is the oldest school of cinematography and one of the most important in Latin America. Currently the school is putting special attention towards production design, and hopefully they will soon offer a Masters program in art direction. Fortunately the school has come to see the necessity and importance of creating a special place to educate future production designers in Mexico.
6. CERERÍA DE JESÚS / THE JESUS CHANDLERY
Located at Venustiano Carranza 122 local C. Historic Center.
The Jesus Chandlery (Cerería de Jesús) was born in the 19th century in the Huasteca region of Hidalgo. In early 20th century it was established in Mexico City. Today it is a small place in the Historic Center, hidden among dozens of stores. For those who do not know it is there, it hides among the street stalls. However, from the time it opens until it closes its doors, people come and go to order or pick up merchandise. It is said that the artist Dolores Olmedo or the famous Architect Luis Barragán bought their candles there. I got to know the place touring the Center in search of red velvet. From the beginning I was fascinated by the designs, all original, and more than once I have returned to buy candles for film projects, to make altars for the dead, or simply for the pleasures of going to see what ́s new. The factory is located in the back room and friendly ladies behind the counter are always willing to share an anecdote as they show customers the catalog and options.
7. THE LAGUNA
Located at Dr. Erazo 172, colonia Doctores Mexico City
The Laguna building dates from the 1920s, and was initially a thread and lace factory that operated until 2015. In 2018, construction started to adapt the building for creative and production spaces. Today, 24 different maker-spaces coexist, revolving around art, architecture, design, gastronomy, ceramics, education and sustainability. Inside, the creative atmosphere is immediately felt: you can drink a coffee at “Buna” while enjoying the energy of the building; you can see the work at the experimental factory of ceramics Ánfora; visit some art exposition; get near one of the original machines at the factory, that are now a part of the decoration; have a beer at the Mini Bar (small pub). From every corner, the vibe is spectacular.
8. LA ESCONDIDA
Kilometer 38.5 Carretera Toluca Mexico colonia Coapanoaya, 52740 Ocoyoacac, Mexico
A few kilometers from Mexico City, on the road to the city of Toluca, is the restaurant La Escondida (The Hidden). This picturesque place attracts attention since upon arrival a huge stone chef greets you at the entrance. Oyameles and pine trees surround a set of Austrian type cabins, and ducks can be seen swimming in the river near their castle next to a small waterfall. The restaurant opened in1959 and somehow seems suspended in time. Curious models throughout the place accentuate the magical touch of the restaurant. I have visited the place several times: sometimes it reminds me of The Overlook Hotel from "The Shining", and other times I am reminded of a fairy tale. On this occasion I was accompanied by my daughter Mariana - she is 2 and a half years old, and I tam sure for her it was like walking in a small enchanted forest.
9. CHAPULTEPEC CASTLE
Located at Bosque de Chapultepec 1Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11100 Mexico City
This beautiful neoclassical castle was the home of the Spanish viceroy, the Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg, as well as the Presidential House until 1940. Today you can visit the museum, the impressive library, and Maximilian's period rooms.
The castle is located in the amazing Chapultepec forest - a 686-hectare forest in the middle of the city, even bigger than Central Park. Here you can visit the Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Modern Art, the Zoo, enjoy the green areas, play sports, etcetera. I personally remember visiting the castle to watch the total solar eclipse in 1991. For a moment, there was absolute silence as the sky went completely dark. The sun began to rise again, and the birds sang as if it were dawn. For many years I kept the nice blue and red mica glasses that were distributed at the entrance of the castle to appreciate the eclipse.
10. COLONIA SANTA MARÍA LA RIBERA
06400 Mexico City
Of great historical and architectural value, the colonia is considered the first modern subdivision of the city. Some of its streets have been drawn on the city map since 1861. Walking through its streets is a delight as you can see facades from the Porfirian period (1861-1911), and constructions that were added over time. In the Alameda Park is the Moorish kiosk, designed in the 19th century by the engineer José Ramon Ibarrola. The kiosk is built entirely of iron. On weekends, dance classes are given inside for the people of the neighborhood and art student are constantly seen around it drawing the structure. The kiosk has been filmed several times, for example, it appears in a Mexican firm called "Ámbar" (1994) by director Luis Estrada. Having had the opportunity to visit that set when it was being filmed, this experience is one of the reasons I now work as a production designer, and for that I have infinite affection for the kiosk.