Still Alive: Mexico City

Getting to the border involved the most comical trip in the most busted-up ghettomobile of a 1990 ex-U-Haul diesel truck that’s still in one piece in this world. It broke down with a different problem at least once a day. But eventually, I got to Mexico City, and that’s where I am now, in an internet cafe in Villa de Cortés.

So far I’ve only explored a bit of the city, the downtown area near the Zócalo. But already I like this city a lot. Yesterday I went out on a day-long walk with an Argentinean exchange student named Alexis who’s just finishing his semester in Guadalajara and needed some souvenirs for his family. (He’s bringing back a total of five giant sombreros.) We talked a lot and saw a lot and I drank a miraculous coffee. Under the giant spider in front of the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, we met a friend of Alexis’s, and continued chatting further into the night, about how Mexican Spanish is different, about stuff we’ve done traveling; we just generally had a great time. I haven’t been abducted by a single cartel; I haven’t even been approached by one of their representatives to discuss my feelings on a kidnapping.

Before I go, I want to express my sense of wonder about the Mexico City Metro. There must be no other subway like it in the world. Even just the stations have names with character that draws you in: Misterios, Insurgentes, Indios Verdes (Green Indians), Doctores, Etiopia / Plaza de la Transparencia (Ethiopia / Transparency Plaza). But now get on the train. It won’t cost you much; it’s one of the cheapest subways in the world at 5 pesos (40 cents) a ride. It’ll also be easy to find your way around, because this subway was designed in an era when a lot of Mexico City was illiterate, so everything is color-coded and each station has a specific icon related to something in the neighborhood. Villa de Cortés has a conquistador helmet, Doctores has a group of doctors. Once you’ve gotten on, more often than not, a salesperson will enter your car and start rhythmically playing up the benefits of their product: batteries, chocolate rabbits, disco CDs. My first day in the city, a man tried to literally sell us snake oil (“This is Arnica ointment! It has bee venom and viper oil!”). He made a sale to an old man. All of Mexico City gets on these trains, and you can see it all. Every city should have a subway like this.

This trip is looking like a low-blog-frequency trip, but whenever I’ve got a moment I’ll drop in and let you know I’m doing okay. I’ll also eventually write something more informative and less unqualified-praise-filled about Mexico City. For now, I’m on the timer here, so I’m clocking out.

File under: Year of Adventure, hitchhiking, interesting people · Places: Mexico

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So today in my composition seminar there was a brief mention of that spider (Maman) and others made by the same artist (Louise Bourgeois)… they were made as an ode to her mother and the fact that her family wove tapestries. Thought I'd leave that here in case you hadn't heard the history already. Also, it looks like you caught the spider just in time; it's apparently been there almost three months and it'll be leaving March 2nd.


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