MEXICO CITY! – NOW?
The lush streets of the Reforma neighborhood. The paqvements are so clean
The lush streets of the Reforma neighborhood. The pavements are so clean because early each morning an army of workers appear to sweep the streets - and they don't use modern brooms, but the sweeping tools they've used for generations.
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There's a strong and visible police presence in Mexico City by necessity.
There's a strong and visible police presence in Mexico City by necessity. The federal government can not afford to lose control of its capital city.
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The taxi ride from the airport to a hotel in a new city always excites me. It’s my first “on-the-ground” view of someplace I only knew second-hand through the Internet. The Benito Juarez International Airport is “in” Mexico City, on the edge of a neighborhood a little more than a half-hour away from where the major hotels are located.
Out the window I see people going about their daily routine. The homes and apartment buildings they live in. Foreign yet familiar. One reviewer called these neighborhoods “grungy,” but they didn’t appear so to me. I’ve lived in neighborhoods like the ones I was passing.
Then, the driver made a right-turn at a sign that said, “Paseo de la Reforma” and everything changed. Avenida Reforma is called the most important street in all of Latin America. Just about every major business in the country is headquartered in the gleaming skyscrapers that line either side of the wide, tree-lined boulevard that runs for miles.
After all the negative press that had given me the impression that Mexico City was some kind of Third-World shit hole, I was surprised to see a modern, beautiful, and clean city. The side streets are so densely lined with palm and other trees they remain in deep shade on the sunniest days.
This mix of modern skyscrapers, Spanish Colonial era buildings, with remnants of the Aztec and Mayan empires, is visually stunning. As far as beauty goes, Mexico City doesn’t envy any other city on earth.
I was initially overwhelmed by the number of hotels to choose from. I settled on a new high-rise condo hotel, Capri Suites, a couple of blocks from the Angel of Independence monument, the most significant monument in all of Mexico because it honors the heroes of the War of Independence from Spain. It’s now the site of many political meetings and a gathering spot for protests.
I booked a studio apartment instead of a hotel room to get a better feel for what it would be like to “live” there. The 21st floor apartment came with kitchenette, sitting area, sleeping area, and sliding glass doors leading to a balcony with a spectacular view.
It was a perfect location. I could walk to many places and had easy access to public transportation. In addition, it was surrounded by the beautiful neighborhoods of Condesa, Polanco, and Zona Rosa, the gay district.
The weather was sunny and near-perfect. Daytime temperatures were in the low 70’s and nights were balmy. An added bonus, because of its high altitude – 7,382 feet above sea level – Mexico City is relatively free of small flying insects like mosquitoes, gnats and flies.
In 2015 Mexico City became Mexico’s 32nd state. The country’s federal constitution was amended and in January 2016 Mexico City, capital and now state, was officially reborn as CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico City), with its own congress and constitution.
Billions of pesos were spent preparing for this moment. A little over a decade ago Mexico City had a terrible, but well-earned reputation for its high level of crime. Though that reputation has been hard to shake, law and order was restored with the help of a strong police presence. Mexico City rebranded itself for the 21st Century, and its official color is pink!
The capital of Mexico is now a world-class tourist destination. A First-World city with all the amenities that come with that designation. It’s also the gay and lesbian capital of the country. Gay marriage is legal and I saw many openly gay men and lesbians on the streets. Young couples and older couples walk hand-in-hand and show public displays of affection, and no one pays any attention.
All of this comes for a very cheap price. Mexico is one of best bargains for tourists and retirees from the US. President Trump has rattled the Mexican economy. The peso has dropped to historic lows against the dollar.
In December 2016 I exchanged $250 US into $4.400 pesos. That was roughly 18 pesos to the dollar. Four thousand pesos can go a long way in Mexico. As of January 2017 it was trading at 21 pesos to the dollar, and it will likely fall further.
However, while it’s cheap for Americans to visit, Mexico is not a poor country as many mistakenly believe, but its wealth is in the hands of “the elites” and not spread among the general population, leaving many in the provinces and countless small towns and villages in poverty.
While the city has rid the tourist areas of any signs of the poor and homeless, poverty is still seen on the streets as women in peasant dress, surrounded by children, beg for money.
They sit all day, and all night, on sidewalks in front of those gleaming towers. Their kids, that should be in school, work the sidewalk asking for money. It’s both a stark contrast to the surroundings, and a reminder of how so many other Mexicans live.
gleaming towers. Their kids, that should be in school, work the sidewalk asking for
money. It’s both a stark contrast to the surroundings, and a reminder of how so e. money. It’s both a stark contrast to the surroundings, and a reminder of how so e.
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