Whoa… what a city! I had heard how remarkable this place was and discovered that the praise was not overstated…
Exploring the La Condesa neighborhood resulted in a text being sent to two dear friends suggesting that we could set up a winter abode quite nicely here. The chic neighborhood was resplendent with trees, parks, boutique shops, cafes and trendy hip bars. And I found the walk back to the centro was not unlike the walk I made from downtown Indianapolis to Broad Ripple.
My walk started in neighborhoods filled with digital nomads and quiet streets. The closer I walked towards the centro I had to navigate larger intersections that became increasingly less pedestrian friendly. It was a visceral experience as I noticed that the larger 4 laned streets segmented the more affluent neighborhoods from others, just as in virtually every US city.
But I never felt unsafe, even though many storefronts are protected by armed guards who nonchalantly holster a machine gun across their chest. The bustle of the people dismiss the underlying implication, and commerce carries on.
And the stores… I often ventured out before the unveiling of the business day. Early morning walks found shop owners washing down the sidewalk of their store front or at a minimum, sweeping up the prior day's debris. By 11am, the metal garage doors were pulled up revealing - well - everything! It was as if the store owners had surveyed the square block to see what was missing, as each store held a unique offering. Most stores were filled with variations on a mono theme: mannequins (yes, only mannequins), caskets, shoes, home medical equipment, phone covers, electronics, washing machines, backpacks and on and on….
And the poor or disabled asking for money were often selling something in exchange for your kindness: a pack of gum, lollipops, socks, plants or maybe a small piece of candy.
And then there was the architecture. One of the past dictators fell in love with the French style and as a result, many of the government buildings are truly monumental! Almost every turn brings a view worthy of a second look. And the City boasts that it is home to the second largest number of museums in the world. The murals by Diego Rivera which can be seen for free at the National Palace truly blew me away. The history that he depicted from the bottom up in three layers was inclusive and thorough. So incredibly worthy…
And who knew that the Aztecs built this city 7,300’ high in the middle of a lake, followed by the Spaniards who built over the conquered temples and then filled in the rest of the lake. The result is that parts of this city have sunk 32’ in the last 60 years. Yes, read that again. 32 feet. By contrast Venice, Italy sinks .08” a year. Neither are good, and how in the world does a public works department keep streets, utilities, sewer and water lines flowing when portions of the ground are constantly in flux……..?? Whew…..
And a city with public transit always ranks high on my list. Subways, buses, public bike rental, trams and the world’s longest cable car (6+ miles) move this city of 22 million. I took a cable car tour which led us to the non-touristy newest part of the city which is home to 1.8 million people who live high up on the hills flanked by volcanoes. The woman that brought the cable car idea to Mexico City improved upon the system found in Medellin, Colombia (which I thought was a pretty impressive system when I lived there.) She is running for President (this country will more than likely have its first woman President, as both major candidates are female!) so the belief is that more cable cars may be coming to Mexico City. In my humble opinion, it is a pretty brilliant plan. No families relocated or homes demolished as the bases are strategically located and the cable then strung high overhead. Quick planning. One year to build. Environmentally much cleaner….
I was sitting at an outdoor cafe on a warm Friday night in January watching the cafes fill with smiling people. Competing music was blaring from portable speakers coming from other venues vs a live string quartet seated on square blocks across from me. It is a vibrant and creative city that has an amazing past and seems poised to continue with a strong future. The uncertainty I had about safety was once again washed away as I moved through this city with so many others that were simply living their lives trying to find a place to eat, work, sleep and love.
Though this city feels too large for me to plant my feet, and I wonder if my watering eyes would get used to the high level of pollution if I were here longer, I am very glad for my visit. Warm ocean water, here I come...