¡Viva Mexico!

On our way to retrieving our truck in Panama, we spent five days in Mexico City. This is after four days in Vancouver, where we needed to get new passports as ours were about to expire in March.

Mexico City was surprisingly not intimidating despite being one of the largest cities in the world – a title it disputes with New York, Tokyo and Shanghai depending on which suburbs are included in the metropolitan area. We are talking well over 20 million people in the same conurbation. That is a thousand times more people than Whitehorse, 10 times bigger than Vancouver, six times bigger than Montreal and four times the size of T.O.

Despite its size, people were all friendly (like all Mexicans, it seems) and drivers are relatively civil despite the permanent traffic jam, certainly more civilized than in Montreal or New York, not to speak of Paris or Rome. Fifteen years of social-democratic mayors who exercised the usual socialist genius for municipal administration transformed a crime-ridden massively polluted megalopolis into a quite liveable city. Restrictions on driving and improved affordable public transit eliminated most of the smog. A socialist police chief (Marcelo Ebrard, the current mayor) turned a corrupt and inefficient municipal police force into an honest and competent one. Criminals have seen their house bulldozed. The drug cartels are absent from the city. Mexico would probably be a better place if the two of the last few mayors, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and López Obrador had won the presidency instead of losing it fraudulently to the right-wing candidates.

View from the hotel room: Chapultepec park with the Museum of Anthropology in the background right

The city has some incredible museums. We stayed in a hotel room overlooking Chapultepec Park and visited the museum of Anthropology. We could have easily spent a few days there instead of a few hours; it is one of the world’s great museums. I even explained to some Mexican kids that we lived in what was Beringia and about caribou hunting by northern First Nations. One kid asked me if it was true that we did not lock our cars in Canada. I dissuaded him from that notion, but it’s nice to know that our country has that good a reputation.

We did have one mishap. I left my Swiss Army knife at the entrance, and it was nowhere to be found when we were leaving. The knife was one of the most complicated ones: I had paid about $40 for it. That is an enormous sum to a Mexican museum guard, so they offered us complimentary tickets to a folkloric ballet show happening that night. I wasn’t too keen on it as I am not much for dance performances. But it was absolutely spectacular, unquestionably worth more than the knife. We’re talking the national folkloric dance ensemble here. So things worked out happily for everyone.

View from the tour bus

We also took a tour bus on the Monday when all the museums were closed. This was double-decker, with the upper deck completely open. For ten dollars, you got a guided tour of the city and could get off and on as many times as you wanted. Occasionally I had to duck tree branches or the earphones which previous passengers liked to drape over the overhead wires that were within reach. Well worth doing to get a sense of the main attractions of the city including Chapultepec Park, the Paseo de la Reforma, the cathedral and Zocalo as well as a number of neat neighbourhoods. The tour highlighted much the architecture that went from the colonial Baroque to ultra modern, going through art nouveau of the turn of the last century and art deco. Not to speak of wonderful murals in most public buildings, not only by Diego Rivera (who was my size) but by a large number of other muralists.

Even though I like living in Whitehorse with its proximity to nature and relaxed lifestyle, I don’t think I would mind living in Mexico City, especially since the year-round weather is like a Yukon summer: sunny dry warm days (20-25°C) and cool nights (5-15°C).


One Response to “¡Viva Mexico!”

  1. Murray Says:

    It’s good to see that you’re on your way, Luigi – I look forward to following this latest adventure (perhaps a model for one of my own!)

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