26 May, 2015
Mexico CityPosted in : Mexico, Travel Destinations on by : nommom
Mexico City feels like a condensed version of Mexico. The density of the area seems to have concentrated attributes of the culture into the borders of the city, much like a pot of simmering bones pulls the essence of the animal’s flavor into the broth as the liquid begins to evaporate.
What I see here is more clear, consistent representations of what I have noticed all along:
1) Latinos are more friendly that their northern neighbors: as a relative said, “clima frío, corazon frío” which means ‘cold weather, cold heart’. While Mexico City appears to lack the hugs and kisses as a standard greeting compared to smaller towns in the country, I am still getting strangers striking up conversation in the subway, in line at the grocery store, and in the park in one of the largest cities in the world. It isn’t dependent upon SquishNom being the icebreaker, either; this has happened on the rare occasion that I am alone as well. Comments about the weather, whether pants on display are all hip-huggers, and so on have occurred out of the blue and without prompting. In my mind I must always look a little startled because a) Gah! A stranger is talking to me! and b) Quick – what are they saying?!? Drivers also stop and let me cross the street when they have the right of way (sort of – ‘right of way’ is merely suggested a lot here) despite the fact that traffic is insane and Mexican drivers are even more insane.
2) Mexican drivers’ reputation is pretty well earned. When discovering we were stopping in Mexico City we had many friends and family members concerned for our welfare, afraid we would be mugged or kidnapped. I promise you, the greatest threat to our lives here is being hit by a car. The likelihood is about as high as the USA, I expect. While back home drivers are distracted by twitter updates and phone calls, here the risk comes from absurd speeds or quick maneuvering through traffic. This is compounded by the near non-existent pedestrian traffic signals and random sidewalk ramps placed in the middle of busy streets to allow a space for pedestrians to cross (without actually designating it as a crosswalk).
3) These are a clever, creative and proud people: Folks standing at a street corner with a sign detailing their woes are incredibly rare here. Most Latinos work for their peso rather than just ask for it. They will approach you to sell candy, they will stand at the street corner and play guitar and sing, they will approach you to sell pirated DVDs, they will come out dressed in silver paint and step into the intersection at a stop light, get up on a ladder and juggle clubs, rings, and balls before climbing down, replacing all gear to the street corner and walking up and down the rows of cars asking for gratuity, all before the light changes to green.
They park at a crosswalk and sell succulents from the trunk of their early 90’s Cavalier, they stand in the center of a busy intersection and juggle firesticks. Some even have the audacity to run up to your car, clean your windshield, then ask for payment before you can pick your jaw up off the ground. But dammit, they do what they can to get those pesos. I really admire that, even though I am sick of being approached daily to purchase random stuff I neither want nor need.
Lax regulation is a blessing and a curse: You can get away with a lot more here. As mentioned, traffic laws are lax here. Regulations about businesses also appear to be less formalized than in the USA – many people set up a blanket and some random stuff and go for it, or walk around with bags of fresh cactus leaves in public places asking random people if they are interested. Public areas are not necessarily fenced off or protected from people doing stupid things. Electrical and telephone wiring is sometimes a little sketchy looking. Some buildings are clearly not built to code. There’s no assurance that ‘organic’ means anything, that what you see is what you get or that much of anything is standardized or enforced. Mexico appears to ask its citizens to be mindful and self-reliant in many cases. Obviously, this can be a double-edged sword.
Art is Inherently Valueable: all the cities we have been to (Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Mexico City) have permanent art installations up in public places. It’s not all ‘pretty’, it’s not all commissioned by artists of spectacular talent, but it is here. Tonight I discovered there are stores called that are government sponsored art stores called FONART working to promote cultural art and support income for local artists in the community. This commitment to maintain art in community adds so much character and beauty to these cities. I really wish we would collectively value more this more in the United States.