This is something I have been meaning to write for an awfully long time but never actually got my head down to do it. I’ve spent over a year here now, granted on and off but I have come to love this country almost as much as my own. There is a certain beauty to the chaos of Mexico City which I find addictive and it’s true, whenever I leave Mexico I miss it dearly, its a country that gets under your skin. Not just the food and the culture but the people are amongst the most humble and kindest you are likely to meet. They will offer you everything even if they have nothing. This is not a travel guide but rather something to provide context. I wanted to split this into various parts focusing in on various things about Mexico and I hope you will come along for the ride.
I assume that the majority of Europeans reading this that have visited Mexico have been to Cancún so I will start from the beginning. Mexico city is enormous, not just big. It’s an unwieldy size of a city that goes on forever, 9,000,000 people call Mexico City home and 15,800,000 people call the surrounding Mexico State (where I live) home. The city or (CDMX) is built upon a gigantic lake called Texcoco which was initially founded in 1325. According to legend, the Mexicas’ principal god, Huitzilopochtli, indicated the site where they were to build their home by presenting an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak, think about the Mexican flag…
If you want to imagine what Mexico City used to look like, think of Venice with all its intwining canals, that’s how it used to look. Now, I’m not going to give a history lesson about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, that is something you can research in your own time and it is worth it. But we fast forward to 1985. As you would have seen recently in the news, a massive earthquake shook Mexico on the 19th of September this year, exactly 32 years after another massive 8.0m quake. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories and the damage that was caused this time around but it has nothing in comparison with the ’85 quake. Around 10,000 people lost their lives, 412 building collapsed and another 3,124 buildings were seriously damaged. The reason why so much damage was suffered is partly due to the city being built on the aforementioned lake.
Mexico City is the definition of hustle and bustle, the traffic at rush hour sprawls across the city. From packed buses to packed metros the city is alive and kicking from the early hours of the morning. At lunchtime, the Chilangos come streaming out of their offices to eat either on a myriad of street corners or to one of the innumerable delicious restaurants that give Mexico its reputation for amazing food. Wherever you go whatever you do you cannot escape that food is an integral part of life here, like us Brits who ask if you want a cuppa on your way in, the first question asked in any household is ‘Have you eaten?’ and there is so much variety here I still haven’t eaten everything that I should have. Grasshopper tacos to Aztec soup there is literally everything a hardcore foodie could desire, but more on that in a later post.
A question I get asked a lot whilst living here is, is it dangerous? Well, how long is a piece of string? It is true that Mexico does keep you on edge a bit and take more precaution that you would in London but there are various parts of the city where first of all you won’t stand out and second of all, that there is someone infinitely more wealthy than you are. Obviously like every city, it has it’s rough bits, and you do have to keep an eye on your personal effects on public transport, but for the majority, it is actually not that dangerous. Other states such as Michoacán and Jalisco, especially along the state border, can be very hair-raising and I wouldn’t recommend making a road trip here in Mexico. Avoid Guerrero like the plague at the moment as well, there are some dreadful things happening there. All in all, the city centre is like most others and if you’re streetsmart and aren’t flashy you will have a good time, just don’t expect to go out drinking and stumble home without attracting attention. Uber is a safe bet here as it’s miles cheaper than in Europe and the city’s taxis (the pink ones) have attracted a reputation for being a tad dangerous.
If you’re a sports fan there is obviously a must for you here in Mexico City, The Aztec Stadium is the only stadium in the world to have hosted the world cup final twice (1970/86) and is every part a representation of the city, loud, proud and absolutely huge. With 87,000 seats and home to Club America, arguably the biggest club here in Mexico (think Manchester United and all the connotations that come with it). Aside from football the ‘Lucha Libre’ (free fight) which is essentially wrestling is a massive part of the sporting calendar here, I have never been myself as I’m not a massive fan of the idea, but if you’re that way inclined then it is also a must whilst you are here in CDMX!