Mexico City: La Mejor Compañía Viene en Forma de Ciudad

#PaisajeDfeño

Sauntering down the streets of downtown Mexico City on a Sunday afternoon, I’m suddenly struck with the tumultuous and quiet companionship found in a chaotic and multitudinous city.

Here you find company in multitude and in the paradox of solitude within urban conviviality because meanwhile its sheer size imposes intimacy and familiarity, the loneliness and solitude incubated within it also makes for great company. This is a city that I love and relish in enjoying in the company of my own solitude.

From traveling in the Metro, and catching a film at the Cineteca Nacional, to walking through my favorite colonias on any given afternoon and evening, I have always found company in people and urban space. I believe that such a city is made to provide company and warmth to even the most lonely of souls. Because as you rise and move throughout the city, you find yourself moving alongside millions of reposing, gazing, and moving people.

I love to walk down the streets of El Centro during Sundays when it seems almost to collapse under the weight of so much people. People walk down its streets enjoying more leisurely the pleasures of the city and its constant supply of entertainment, from street beggars and poets to massive broadcasting flat screen tvs, to accessible cultural and educational urban gastronomy. The sheer size of the city imposes urban communion.

As the urban days commence and unwind at a hurried pace, as people move and travel always to predetermined destinations and commitments, there are various points in the city where time slows down and welcomes repose. The public squares and shaded urban oasis of green spaces. The poetry of entangled lovers and young poets reciting to each other beneath the shade of trees at Las Islas at UNAM. The city is lived in different gears and traveling at different speeds allows me to multidimensionally connect with and discern the city.

Here I also walk through multiple soundscapes. The organ grinders, out-of-tune street organs and relics of a Mexico City of a hundred years ago, and the musings and soundtracks of the street performers lined up all along the colonial streets, fill the city with a sonorousness that permeates city dwellers’ daily lives, by musicalizing the various neighborhoods and people that inhabit it. It is both the lyricality and the silence, the people and the absences, its density and sparsity that compose the city and thus accompanies each and everyone of us that live and travel through it.

One of my favorite things to do is grab breakfast or coffee at old diners all over the city. On some mornings I walk into La Pagoda, one of various chinese-style cafes in El Centro, and grab a seat at the cafe’s bar. As I relish in the perfect combination of café con leche and pan dulce, I suddenly smile to myself and to my neighbors as I realize I share the same affinity for tranquility, solitude and good coffee with the older chilangos sitting all around me.

Yet it is the perfect example of urban solitude and solidarity: taking comfort and enjoyment in the company of your own self and realizing that however big the city may grow and however agitated and restless it may be, there are millions of people who perhaps also find a solidarity amongst each other and with the city. Existing in their singularity with the comfort and silence that seems to challenge an existence, or an expectation, that homogenizes and restricts these rituals to unfettered consumption and decay, the destiny of massive and global cities in what has been misnamed the “third world”. It is then a sort of mutually inspiring and protecting ritual, between denizen and city, foreigner and primordial.

Mexico City, after all, is a beautifully complex being in and of itself. Some may call it a monster, either loving or disparagingly, but for me it has amassed the qualities of lover, teacher, and companion. Even when its denizens have and continue to mistreat each other, even when its intensity becomes overbearing, the city unveils opportunities and moments of repose and reassurance amidst all of its chaos. In that way it also becomes our best companion.

Mexico City: Ciudad de la Nostalgia, Ciudad que se extraña

El Centro, Mexico D.F.

The process of forgetting feelings versus the process of forgetting people and place; could it be that although you never truly forget a person, because of time and space, you induce yourself or are forced to forget how you felt about them, and so that when you see them, you remember them, but you no longer have present those feelings that once inspired you to think you’d never feel anything like that for anything else ever again? Or are these resolute feelings authentic, but their passion is so strong that it astounds and clouds doubt of love over us? Could this be true about a city?

Or could it be that they rise up in you again once you have them close to you? Is it a matter of proximity or of time? I think it’s a matter of proximity. These feelings of love once exploding inside of me, are becoming dormant, but I know upon first contact they will explode, re-emerge and pour out of my soul…

When it comes to Mexico city, both person and place, my dilemma of love is in no way new. It’s been about seven months since I stepped on chilango soil last, and as I contemplate the urban sunsets over it’s downtown through virtual means and relish in the memories of it’s tastes and sensations, my love remains steadfast as I continuously live in a different context, in a different city.

Considering that Mexico City has always been a city of flux and migration, both internal migration from rural areas to the urban center, and international migrations, from Latin American professionals who flock to the largest city in the hemisphere in pursuit of opportunities for work and international tourists in seek of leisure, many people are perpetually arriving and leaving, always consuming and exchanging a bit of themselves with the city.

As an exchange student-turned-tourist-turned-adoptive-denizen of the city, I’ve met and encountered many people from all of the world who’ve migrated to the city in pursuit of opportunities to become more themselves – from writers to graphic designers from Venezuela, young students of politics from Colombia, musicians from Puebla, and free spirits and world-class mezcal drinkers from Sacramento. I’ve met people who, like me, are in pursuit of something distinct from the sameness found in U.S. cities, who plan to make Mexico City a more permanent home.

And in my journey from and between my many homes, I’ve met both lifelong and adoptive dfeños who always speak and refer to Mexico City as a city to miss. From pict(oral) histories exchanged in person and internecticamente, with stories that illuminate Mexico City of the past and present, from childhoods in Parque Alameda and nights out in El Centro, the sounds and smells and tastes are always preserved in synesthetic memories of once transients of the city.

These memories, this nostalgia, ultimately turns into a yearning and desire to return. In many ways, upon experiencing the city, the writers and designers and lovers and travelers are willing to, and ultimately do, return. It’s as if Mexico City marks you. It marks you with a love and an inspiration to love and live in a way that parallels the intensity of its urban life. It’s the simple things in the city that inspire a greater and more permanent, life-long love.

And it is despite the distance and despite time, that a love for a city subsists. Because however small and however remote the happiness remains remembered of our time living in Mexico City, it is the conjunction of all these that make for one of the most sublime lessons on love and life.

As the lyrics go for one of my favorites songs by La Negra Sosa and interpreted by Chavela Vargas, ultimately, uno vuelve siempre a los viejos sitios donde amo la vida. One always returns to the places where they loved life most. In that way, we are always returning.

Mexico City: Mujer Se Enamora de Ciudad

heart 2 df

Falling in love with something as vast and intangible as the most enormous capital city of Latin America, one with increasingly blurring boundaries and delineations, is a strange notion.

So is the confession of feeling heartbreak when you’re away, love sickness when you wish and yearn to indulge in its street food and afternoons in the company of its cityscape. As absurd and – as dfeñxs, mexicanxs, pochxs and us chilangxs sintéticxs might say – cursi this may seem, I am certain of having experienced the different stages of courtship and love, enamorment and lust, growth and wisdom through and because of my times living in Mexico City. These experiences continue and flourish regardless of time and logic – the stages are repeated over again and in different patterns and with different lessons.  As if Mexico City, as a complete and enigmatic whole, has been the most nurturing and lucid example of lover and teacher.

I first moved to Mexico City three years ago, a college senior on a mission of immersion and authenticity. In 2011, I studied in UNAM and threw myself into as many experiences and many perspectives as possible. Consequently, I’ve left and gone back twice after, and thus perspectives and lessons have fluctuated but throughout all of these I’ve reflected on the experience of being young and naïve and living in a beautifully brutal global city: growth through pain, consciousness through contact, reality through experience. And there is something about being brown, being of once Mexican undocumented parents, of being poch@, of being mujer, of being a breathing and loving and seeing person traveling and encountering this enormous city for the first time.

Here I have discovered, abandoned, and recognized many parts of myself and others – from my understandings of identity and place as a daughter of Mexicans who forcefully abandoned their rural northern mexican pueblos, to the power of resiliency and action and survival – from my research on #YoSoy132 to the observations and intersections with communities that create new realities for existence. These lessons have all been born out of my time spent with people, walking and flirting with the wonderful cobblestoned streets, lamp-lit plazas, huge avenues, beautiful universities, and fragrant mercados. The city itself is a loyal and always devote companion.

And when I’m back in Los Angeles, there are certainly mornings when I wake up yearning to breathe in the smell of fresh bread mixed in with the smell and sensation of a busy city street, the noise of a bustling morning of Avenida Hidalgo on a Sunday morning. And I reflect and wonder about the duality of nostalgia and love.  At times the memories and loves of Mexico Citys’ of my past inhabit so much of me that I feel tied to it, as we so often feel attached to loves of our past, out of nostalgia.

But then in oscillating between love happiness and nostalgia, I find deep within myself a love for the vision of life and justice first inspired in me while in Mexico City. A vision of life in all of its complexity and dualities; of injustice and resilience, charm and brilliance, solitude in multitude, and solidarity in collectivity.

Mexico City in many ways is representative of the deterioration provoked and aggravated by the unfettered  and destructive power of capitalist accumulation and modernity urbanized, as well as the perpetually reproducing racisms and classisms – realities unraveled over and over again against a backdrop of a concrete cityscape and a smog shrouded horizon. In this way the romanticism of such a cruel existence seems not only out of place, but insensitive to the subtext of the suffering silences of the urban city.

Yet the intersection and accumulation of all these realities, which, when first contemplated where painful and spiritually oppressive, have inspired in me the most enduring lessons about how people exist and create within, despite, and inspired by urbanity.  I love Mexico City as I am learning and growing flexible in my understanding and love of life as resiliency and complexity. Meeting and living in a place like D.F., the intersection produces a synergy that strengths you, leaves you with lessons and encouragement to break down or build yourself the way you need and feel inspired to – which certainly is also a self love, reciprocated in a love for a beautiful city.

Mexico City: Transitando la Gran Ciudad

Juarez 1959
Avenida Juarez, 1959

One of the most exhilarating sensations experienced in Mexico City, when I’ve felt my heart skip as I contemplated the sheer immensity of the city zooming past my taxi window, was while driving down La Calzada de Tlalpan – the rolling hills and immensity of a light strewn panorama that seemed to confuse where the urban mass ended and sky began, will forever inhabit my memory.

Traveling through Mexico City, using its diverse means of public transit, walking or by bicycle, is a voyage through the many worlds preserved in concrete – worlds both rich and poor, new and old, decaying and burgeoning.

The way in which you maneuver through a city inhabited by 20 million people, determines your social space within the Great City.  The urban travel mode of choice determined by social positioning and available pocket change  – the Metro, los peseros, MetroBus, los taxis, los convis, or if you’re socially comfortable enough and probably detest public transportation, by coche – opens up perspectives and experiences that either bring you close enough to confirm the chasms of social and racial inequalities in the city and perceive the faces and personalities of fellow urban dwellers, or as comfortably away from these realities as personal space and your annual salary can afford.

As an urban denizen forever faithful to the efficiency and affordability of public transportation, I prefer and love the Metro and peseros – small and radically fast buses, painted green – of Mexico City.  The Metro is the most amazingly fast way to get around the city and its underground world of urban rituals and movement was a first primer on urban culture and resiliency, discerning the solidarity of poverty in movement and the morsels of warmth and lucidity of a city below the city. Above ground, traveling through the avenues congested with deafening traffic aboard the peseros was very much the same, except much faster. Los peseros of Mexico City cost about 3 to 5 pesos, depending on the distance traveled, and the small buses seem to defy any and all inexistent traffic and physics laws – they squeeze into any space, race through traffic at a stand still and within the trembling and bouncing, people squeeze and adjust themselves to fit the bus to full capacity.

As I began to experiment and travel through the city, I learned of the stigmas associated with using particular modes of transportation and the shaming around the use of the affordable and perfectly efficient Metro and peseros and the preference for MetroBus, taxis, and cars by upper-class working professionals.  Although in retrospect these attitudes are almost universal in many urban cities, the racism and classism present in the national subconscious is plastered throughout the city via its public transportation systems.

And as part of the perspectives of an urban transient transplanted from elsewhere, free and ignorant of the social codes impregnated early on, and with the flexibility and financial means to choose how to travel, I was granted the opportunity to discern more fully the spectrum of Mexico City through different vistas.

Although sometimes it has been uncomfortable and sometimes absolutely breathtaking, all of the visions impressed on my while traveling through the city have allowed for an intimacy with a place simultaneously enigmatic and distant.

The city is composed of millions of forms, millions of ways to get around, but with the opportunity to perceive it in all its immensity and yourself within its vastness.

Mexico City: Ciudad Universitaria

Ciudades Invisibles, #Paisajedfeño
Ciudades Invisibles, #Paisajedfeño

 La Ciudad Universitaria, or University City, is the name given to the mass expanse of space that encompasses the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the largest and most recognized public university in Latin America located in the southern section of Mexico City.

I attended UNAM during the Fall semester of 2011 while still an undergrad, taking courses in the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature and Faculty of Political and Social Sciences and I can definitely confirm the hype – it is bureaucratically and spatially enormous.

The campus, built on an ancient solidified lava bed, encloses a soccer stadium, about 40 faculties and institutes, the Cultural Center, an ecological reserve, the Central Library, and a few museums. At the heart of a total of 730 hectares of space lies the symbolic and political center of CU located in the northern section of the campus. Here lies Las Islas, an open esplanade of trees and reposing students, built in the likeliness of Mesoamerican architecture of Monte Alban. After a day of classes it is habitual for students to extend themselves all along the central quad and relax beneath its trees and along its stone benches.

Sitting and chilling out in Las Islas, where couples and lovers find their intimacy and students their repose, I came into harmony with the historical and political greatness of the university. Here I sat surrounded with a 360-degree view of its oldest buildings, the great and impressive Central Library and the University Olympic Stadium.

This layout symbolically represents the autonomous and political power of the university in Mexico and as explained by a fellow student and friend, here we can discern UNAM’s body politic. At the vanguard of UNAM is the graduate studies building to the north of Las Islas, occupying the role as mind, to the right is the Faculty of Architecture as constructor and creator, and to the left is the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature and the Central Library, the bastion of resistance and knowledge. And just south, towering over the vista of the Olympic Stadium and the far off mountains that curve around the Valley of Mexico is the heart of UNAM, represented in a majestic rectory tower adorned with the murals of David Alfaro Siqueiros.

In this beloved and what seems like the most ancient part of the university, where the muralistic inspiration of John O’Gorman, Siquieros and Diego Rivera abound, students and urban trekkers alike can enjoy a hearty meal of tacos de canasta (the chilango delicacy of steamed tacos) along with the cultural and political luxuries of an autonomous university in Latin America. With musing theater students and the poetry of the shade during midday complementing the spatial and visual grandeur, the setting attests to UNAM as a splendid intellectual and spiritual oasis in Mexico City.

Mexico City: El Metro

Metro D.F.
El Metro #Paisajedfeño

There are few remote corners of Mexico City in which the sounds of congestion and movement do not reach. El Metro is no exception; the noise of the trains zooming through the tunnels with the thundering power of an enraged Tláloc and the – increasingly persecuted – sing song chilango jingles of the underground urban economy vagonero hustlers that sell you just about everything at 10 pesos a piece, from earphones, CDs, Sharpie pens, and miracle creams for many ailments: “Hoy le traigo a la ventaa….”.

It is the noise of the steady rumble of life that extends laterally beneath a city that weighs down with the weight of 20 million people and immeasurable tons of concrete and volcanic stone.

Meanwhile its mark on popular rock culture of the early eighties is immortalized in the statue of the rock great Rodrigo González situated in Metro Balderas, who dedicated a tune of lost love to one of the busiest metro stations in the heart of the city, the underground world of fast paced trains and peddlers, remains very much like the metro of 30 years ago. It’s an atemporal space where the rituals and urban performances unfold in intricate choreographies that fluctuate unwaningly throughout the lapse of days, weeks, and years.

To me, the subway is yet another example of the intimacy experimented within the enormity and anonymity of Mexico City. It is both an intimate and alienating space that beckons the slumber and exhaustion of bodies that find comfort in the seats and aisles of the traveling wagon and where the impressive number of urban company reassures an unrelenting precariousness to keep guard over body and belongings.

El Metro is a space of repose and waiting; under the clocks along platforms there are lovers and friends awaiting predetermined special or customary reunions.  And at a certain time of the day, when all are on their way to or from daily responsibilities, the metro becomes so unbelievably full of humanity that on your first trips you relinquish all authority and patrimony over private space and learn to rub elbows, hips, shoulders, and faces with your neighbor.  Although this understanding is never spoken, once you become integrated into the underground world you learn that only in this complaisance can you get from El Zócalo to Coyoácan in one piece, participating in the choreographies of El Metro.

And within all of these rituals, all transients and participants are witness to the performances that seek to awaken slumbering souls, burdened by the city and its imposed anonymity as street poets and students of Shakespeare and Brecht invite us to explore their words of urgency and beauty; in gratitude for their performances some passengers exchange momentary glances and smiles, and on occasion a few pesos.

 In El Metro personal solitude confronts the solitude of thousands of other people in such a way that they congeal into a mass of solidarity and pulsating urban life that awakens us with fleeting moments of lucidity, with the hum of trains and the heaving of humanity in movement as an incredible sonorous backdrop. In this way, it is sort of a moment of intimacy with everything and (mostly) everyone who inhabits Mexico City.  It’s a moment of imposed repose before climbing back to the world of sound and distance, where these rituals of existing in individuality and community are repeated over again and in different forms.

Mexico City: Música y desobediencia

LSC in Querétaro 246 in 2011
La Santa Cecilia in Mexico City, 2011

One of my earliest and haziest memories of night life hedonism in Mexico City is of an esoteric inspired cumbia and copal smoke infused dance floor of Multiforo Alicia, a cultural and artistic space in Colonia Roma. That night of ritual literally drenched me in the sweat of a venue filled with the spirits of cumbia psicodélica of the past and the sensual and licentious energies emanating from bodies persuaded by the timbales, congas, güiro and electric convocation of Sonido Gallo Negro, a 9-piece, instrumental band from east Mexico City.

That early experience served to inspire my already burgeoning hunger for live music and bands thriving off the energy of  Mexico City’s daily existence. I’ve been able to decipher a vast amount of urban space and venue gig line-ups in order to find good music, buena onda.  Lucky for me, Mexico City is overflowing with incredible bands, en los unders, con los chavos banda, punks, goths y fresas (because of their shared affinity for electronica, you can find these last two in bars all around El Centro – a trip, lo sé).

Alongside fellow chilangx denizens, I’ve danced to the music of La Santa Cecilia in Querétaro 246. I’ve caught the last midnight metro from estación Miguel Angel de Quevedo to catch the last and best bands play at gigs in el Alicia a dozen times over. And I’ve trekked through dozens of metro routes and dished out pesos for the peseros to take me to the chavos banda ska shows down in Iztapalapa and to back patio tocadas up by Metro Refineria. It has become a quest of sorts, an attempt to witness not only the diverse interpretations and tributes of bands born out of Mexico City, inspired by the creative intensity of the city streets they’ve known indelibly, but also the national and international bands that have been summoned by the great city.

With time and a good number of garage punk shows, I grew to love a particular music venue that wasn’t solely a music venue but also an autonomous space for political organizing and a cultural incubator for youth resistance.  Multiforo Alicia has seen the likes of Manu Chao and Los Auténticos Decadentes, among other Latin American greats, and regularly hosts the best garage punk, surf, and local bands, that are among my personal favorites.

In Mexico City, we are unfortunately continually reminded of the purpose of bridging culture and politics within an autonomous space dedicated to the coexistence of independent bands and urban youth. Since the inauguration of both Enrique Peña Nieto as president of Mexico and Miguel Angel Mancera as mayor of Mexico City in December 2012, social protest has been responded with aggressive police confrontation, unseen in years in the capital. Under new federal and district leadership there have been a high number of arbitrary arrests of youth protesters that have resulted in outrageous and unfounded charges.

On October 2, 2013, during the most recent commemoration protest of the Tlatelolco student massacre ordered by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional of 1968, 19 protestors were detained, among them the guitarist and vocalist of Telekrimen and The Cavernarios , two resident bands of el Alicia. For the last six months Danny Lobo has been detained at the Reclusorio Norte prison, under the bogus charges of offenses against public peace en masse and property damage, when in reality he was passing out flyers for what would have been an upcoming show.  After months of organizing, the artistic and political community of the city has yet to secure his release.

In many ways, el Alicia is an epitome of the power of resistance through music in Mexico City.  Because while we all search for beats and rhythms that inspire the organic creation of mosh pits and elaborate cumbia footwork, we also require music that inspires us to transcend time and space, to literally move us to other times, countries, dance floors long gone, and to help root us in all too real political, cultural and social realities.

Music in Mexico City represents and means many things to me but these all come in melodious lessons on life and resistance.

Mexico City: Ciudad Noir

“La Alameda de noche”, Silver Gelatin Print 8″ x 10″

La ciudad de México es Ciudad Noir y el Centro Histórico is its quintessential noir quarter. Strolling across El Zócalo on an October evening, right after the torrential rain habitual of otoño has ceased and the sun begins to set, all along the square both lovers and hollering vendors alike can discern the orange sunset reflected in the rain puddles that adorn the volcanic stone square. The night breeze, recently unburdened of its normal toxicity, feels cool on faces exposed above scarves and skin under polyester Pumas jerseys.

As I climb out of the grumble of the underground world of trains and twisted drainage pipes and cross the square, I direct my course toward the northeast of the historic center. On a side street off Moneda in front of El Convento de Ex Teresa, nestled in between an army artillery store and the ruins of El Templo Mayor, sits a small restaurant of chilango delicacies. As I indulge in flautas de papa that exceed the standards of chilango street food, I engage in a quick and murmured conversation with the proprietor regarding the particularly symbolic location of his establishment. He lives with his family on the second floor of the building and although they live rather peacefully and unperturbed, he explains that on certain nights he discerns a tension throughout the corridors of his home and can hear sounds of inaudible laments. El Centro is a battle ground of both primordial and modern spiritual and political wars.

Flautas devoured, I make my way back to Moneda, and opt to walk west toward Alameda Central through the sullen but tranquil calle 5 de Mayo in order to avoid the overwhelming crowds and distressing lights of Av. Francisco I. Madero. I reach the edge of la Alameda by crossing Bellas Artes and its respective encampment of tourists and urbanite philosophers. After the sun has waned and the dancing fountains are alas abandoned by children and families, la Alameda becomes as lonely and abandoned as it was before its pricey renovation. Only timid lovers and strangers are sprinkled throughout the park, enjoying the solitude of the vast public city space.

After a late evening chela on the parkside Café Denmedio and a brisk walk down the dimly illuminated and steadily diminishing bustle of Calle Lopez, past the exhausted butchers and the lingering smell and warmth of carnitas, guisados and tacos that provoke even the most loyal of vegetarians, I descend down the stairs of Metro Salto de Agua. There ends another night of sauntering down the streets of El Centro, chasing side eyed glances that peer through shadows and corners where fluorescent street lamps and OXXO signs meet timeworn cobble stone structures and faces.

Mexico City: Letters of Note

Be it through coincidence or the laws of attraction, I have found people who have been equally intrigued and entranced by Mexico City.  I have forged both old and new friendships with people who are tirelessly working on moving to Mexico City in the pursuit of creative confidence and love. Others, by way of good friends and professors, inquire as to what sort of opportunities  there are there, what experiences there are to unmask.  Be it for a weekend or a month, people are perpetually called to Mexico City.

It is precisely this intrigue, for those who have yet to know its essence and people, and love, for those of us who know it all too well, that I try to communicate when approached to describe sights, places, and experiences of note in D.F. The following is a bilingual and spanglish (sprinkled with chilango vernacular, which, with time and habit we all become fluent in) attempt at that – pieced together from various virtual and loving exchanges – “¿Qué locuras me recomiendas en el DF?”

Amigx, ¿por donde empezar? Es una ciudad intensa, loca y surreal.  Mexico City me ha enseñado mucho sobre la vida, como es imprevisible con extremos y matizes.  El punto, supongo y espero, es conocer a la ciudad más allá de lo que el departamento de turismo promueve – porque sí, los museos y el patrimonio cultural como el palacio de gobierno son hermosos y plasman los murales de Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, y Frida and other brilliant creators  – but to live the City es (re)conocer aquello infundido de la vida citadina y cotidiana, es conocer a la banda y lo sublime y bonito del barrio, lo desagradable, la desfachatez. Es conocer los mercados y tiangüis dfeños como Tepito y Mercado Sonora for synesthetic inspiration and stimulation and to feel the warmth and happiness of people. Es visitar alguna de las pulquerias que se encuentran en el Centro (el cual es muy hermoso y una de mis partes favoritas de la cuidad)  to rub elbows with dones and doñas, wise and inexperienced.

It’s searching and finding great music. Como Multiforo Alicia que tiene shows de rock, garage, y surf. Recuerdo, I remember, the times I’ve been lost in enjoyment of garage punk, surf, and cumbia beats  that have transported me to dance floors in Los Angeles and back again, a corporal nepantilism that induces dancing across the grey hues of borderlands, finding yourself right back in the heart of Mexico City, absorbing the energy and vivacity of damn good music.

Pursue your energy and hunger for the City but also be tranquil and confident,  súbete a los taxis, a los peseros y por supuesto sin falla – no te vayas sin subirte al – metro.  Goza de la comida rica and quintessentially urban; come tacos de al pastor si se te apetece o las quesadillas de huitlacoche, flor de calabaza y las frutas y vegetables y garnachas domingueras.  Y pues total, relájate, déjate llevar por el caos ordenado y el orden caotico de la ciudad. Y paséate y goza. The notion of enjoyment and relaxation is somehow very distinct in Mexico City. Stand still and watch the meticulous order of chaos unfold in spirals and roundabouts before your eyes; the mini buses, gold and red taxis, and thousands of swarming pedestrians who harmoniously coexist and rhumba to the rhythm of car horns and street side hustlers’ hollers. It is a sort of sustenance and source of strength to experiment in the freedom of abandonment and chaos. Enduring life in a city of nine million extremophiles, denizens that live in conditions most living creatures would consider inhospitable.

Y charla con lxs chilangxs y no chilangxs.  Charla recostada en las islas de la UNAM, en las bancas del Parque Alameda, por la calle de Donceles (por si también te gustaría encontrar un buen libro) o charla con amigos viejos o nuevos en algún café en el Centro.  Únete a una marcha (que siempre, siempre los hay..avanzando por las venas de la ciudad).  Y respira profundamente aquel aire toxico y contempla el cielo gris y olas de hormigón desde arriba en el mirador de la torre latinoamericana o a la gente que te rodea sentadx en la plancha del zócalo. As I write this, siento que lo extraño, pero estas palabras que voy redactando me alegran – un amor innegable.

Mexico City: Zócaleando

El Zócalo es un sitio de encuentros y de choque, de contemplación y manifestación. De grandeza: grandeur.

I’m sitting in the heart of México, leaning against the enormous flag pole that hoists the tricolor flag adored and honored by millions. This is my favorite point, in my favorite Colonia, of the city. This is a place of constant movement; with every national holiday and change of season, el Zócalo is transformed. Giant ice rinks, a capitalisticly branded christmas tree, el grito and independence day, revolution commemorations and the international book fairs are some of the events that require the perpetual rearrangement of this sacred space; constant mutilation, sometimes in the interest of official city ordinance, capital accumulation or for the diffusion of national and international culture and art. Usually, these spaces require bureaucratic planning and government approval. However, there are rituals and performances of a more organic, angry, desperate and sporadic fashion: mass protest and social grievance manifested.

This is a sacred site for the left in Mexico, a symbolic and spiritual plaza that is usually the end point of many marches that paralyze the city.  Students have claimed it, Zapatistas, electricians, families of persons disappeared in the appalling mess of a “War on Drugs”, and Lopez Obrador have claimed it. It’s volcanic stone square adorned floor bears signs of its constant use and the weight of millions that have walked, marched and danced across it.  There’s discernable trash and disarticulated paper kites, paper bags and condoms, pan dulce crumbs strewn across the square. The bubbles that float atop it reflect along its beautiful 360 surface of water and soap particles, the panorama of La Caterderal, el Palacio Nacional and the light blue and grey sky.

Today I hear the beat of two conga drums and the musings of street performers. Just beyond the demarcated square, there sits a young man playing a spanish guitar and beside me there sits a couple with their Sunday afternoon purchases of black and white glossy photos of early 20th century Mexico.  And if I look directly above me, the impressively long flag pole rises and reaches for a spectacular horizon and the bluest point of the rarely blue Mexico City sky.  The largest plaza in a country of a thousand plazas, el Zócalo feels sacred.  Enduring and eternal, there is no weight that can ever undermine its millennial importance and strength.