In Mexico City
Words, Non-Fiction
2022—08      
Mexico City, MX

The Minute you land in Mexico City, you will see Cairo. Or so you will think.

More like a Cairo through rose-tinted glasses, a better Cairo, one that never pivoted into weird apocalyptic directions from the 60’s onwards.

In Mexico City, you will recognize the shoe-shine man and the woman sweeping big puddles of water with a broom. You will also notice the morning frijoles seller and you will swear you recognize the old man talking with heavy-bearing insistence to the young guy sat right next to him. And despite your terrible ear for Spanish, you might think you know exactly what he’s saying.

In Mexico City you will experience a full year worth of seasons in a single day. Mornings start off cold under a thick blanket of gray, which rips open just before noon, allowing the hot hot sun to peer through. You will sweat and squint your eyes, even behind mirrored-sunglasses, and this will last for a good few hours until the clouds return and decide to come down on you with thick fists of hail. The sky in Mexico City will seem so awfully close to your head, which will make absolute sense once you discover that the city is even higher than Denver, America’s touted “Mile-High City”. Why isn’t this fact so popularly known, you will wonder. Until you realize that Mexicans care little for too much branding.

Mexico City is so unlike American cities in so many ways. You’ll be surprised by how far and wide the city extends, never quite knowing where the city limits fall. Despite this, you’ll be surprised by the impressive public transit system and how easy it is to navigate. Not to mention the network of bike lanes and public docking stations and actual usable sidewalks and pedestrian areas and parks equipped with free-use gyms and public libraries and all the free museums and holy shit Mexico City is nothing like Cairo actually, it’s so much better. In fact, Mexico City makes the entire United States seem like a dysfunctional decrepit hellhole in comparison. You’ll be surprised by how conservative America feels in after Mexico City, where public display of affection is common, and porn is found on newsstands, and the billboards advertising drag shows are huge.

Nobody bothers the homeless in Mexico City, not the cops, and not the users of parks where the homeless might be sleeping even in the most upscale of neighborhoods. When a homeless person stops by a restaurant to ask for change, you might even see the waiters offer them a meal in a takeout box.

Wandering musicians are part of the culture in Mexico City. You will see them move from one restaurant to the next, playing a tune or two for the patrons sat outside. There are almost always patrons sat outside. A particularly good musician will not only receive pocket change, but in some cases a round of applause. You might even see someone from the café across the street decide to make their way to said musician playing for a crowd at a completely different establishment just to give them some money.

People smile in Mexico City and they always greet you with buenos dias, buenas tardes, or buenas noches depending on the time of day. You’ll be surprised how long the “buenas tardes” greeting applies; from around noon well until 9:00 pm.

Mexico City will make you realize how habit-forming a place can be. It’ll inspire you to run every morning despite your life-long hatred for running. You will utilize the free open-air gyms and make a regular habit of getting a full body exercise by 9 am. When the city closes its longest avenue to cars every week, you will get on a bicycle and take over the city along with thousands of other cyclists. Every night your phone will tell you you’ve surpassed 8000 steps! Way beyond the 2000 steps you can barely muster back home in Houston. Mexico City will make you realize that if you build it, they will indeed come.
 
Mexico City would make Le Corbusier proud, along with Gropius, O’Gorman, Sayed Karim, and maybe even Scarpa. It is a simple example of modernism done right and proof that most of whatever’s been happening in the so-called “West” for the better part of the past century is nothing but a terrible bastardization of modernity.

Curious how the term “The West” doesn’t tend to include Mexico or the rest of “Latin America” despite it being situated on the exact same Meridian lines of North America. Mexico City will make you realize that the popular use of language associated with cardinal directions seldom has anything to do with directions anymore but has in fact been appropriated to create sociopolitical divides based entirely on racist constructs.

Mexico City will make you rethink everything you thought you knew and make you realize you probably know shit. You will grow existential in thought and over-philosophize everything and your mind will spin endlessly and you’ll come up with enough thought to fill multiple volumes of books but you will forget it all the minute you take the first bite out of, well anything really. The food in Mexico City will make your mind go blank and make you forget your very own name, at least for a time.

Belly full, someone will ask you how the food was. You will give them a blank look and your blank mind will go on an epic search through a barren desert for the term you swear you knew. The person who asked you the question will stare back at you confused and perhaps a little concerned.

"Muy bien!" you will blurt out suddenly! The person will erupt in laughter and pat you on the back in congratulatory fashion. The laughter will echo across buildings and little by little everyone in the entire city will be laughing, clinking glasses, and banging on tables, cheering you on and welcoming you as one of them.