Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We're back

Monument to Cuauhtémoc and the other Aztec defenders of Tenochtitlan from Cortés' army, Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City. Image found here. This statue is about two blocks from where the Mrs. and I stayed in the city.

Our own pictures are to come. We hope. Some technical difficulties. We have to see what we've got.

After 5 days and 4 nights of walking, riding the subways, climbing pyramids, visiting churches and museums and parks, looking at Diego Rivera murals, eating some pretty good food, not getting either sick or adjusted to the altitude, knocking some though by no means all the rust off my Spanish and watching the Mrs.' comprehension of Spanish grow to the point that, by Sunday morning, she was basically in charge of our shopping trip to the artisans' market at La Ciudadela, meeting René in person and sharing a meal and drinks with him, a quick side-trip to Cuernavaca, and--yes, yes, those of you keeping scholarly score on me--getting a little work done, too, we are back.

I last visited Mexico City eight years ago, and so I wasn't sure what to expect on this visit: it had looked dirty and run-down then, and the air quality was not at all good--not nearly as bad as Beijing's, but still. Frankly, I was afraid things might have gotten worse. I was pleasantly surprised: when it wasn't overcast and drizzly, the sky was clear and blue, the mountains that surround the city easily visible in the distance; the historic district (the area around the Zócalo and Bellas Artes (the Palace of Fine Arts)) was as clean as I've ever seen it; and the city has done lots and lots of replanting along Reforma (a thoroughfare in the mold of the Champs d'Elyse in Paris) and the park at Chapultepec. The city is not without enormous problems, of course. At around 24 million people and growing, living in an area the size of a large metropolitan area of the U.S. (say, Dallas/Ft. Worth) and reliant on an infrastructure that can't even pretend to be adequate for a population that size, much less keep up . . . well, I'll let your imagination run through all that. As a proportion of the population, few people own cars in the city; but if you figure that, say, a third of the people have them, that's still around 8 million cars trying to use and park on the very crowded and narrow streets of a city where, as René put it, "The traffic laws are gentle suggestions." Those with money are doing quite well, but we saw plenty of people scratching out an existence as best they can1. There's lots of violence and desperation there, and one doesn't have to look too far to find it. Very often, it finds people who are not careful.

But we can't wait to go back. This place gets under your skin in a good way and will not let you forget it.

More--and, I hope, pictures--later.

1According to this report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, published just this morning, Mexico has the highest rate of income inequality of any OECD nation. However, over the past decade that inequality has fallen more than it has in any other nation, the poverty rate has decreased substantially, and the absolute incomes of poor people have also improved. Some glimmers of good news, in other words. (Hat-tip: The Plank)

1 comment:

R. Sherman said...

Glad you're back. I've been busy and haven't had time to comment on the post below. Too much to do, too little time at the moment.

Do post photos when you get a chance. That way, I won't feel alone in posting my "vacation" albums.