MAN ON FIRE IN MEXICO CITY

Ensconced in LA to write like never before, I didn’t get much chance to make myself at home in Los Angeles before being offered a different writing job entirely, courtesy of a well-connected friend of a friend.Vowing to return to LA as soon as possible, I promptly found myself heading back to LAX where I boarded a Mexicana flight direct to Mexico City, a short-haul of just four hours which had me arrive at stupid o’clock in the morning.
Having only ever visited the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Juarez in the past (which are often in the news for all the wrong reasons, given the large quantities of drug and human trafficking that occurs over the border), I couldn’t wait to lose myself in what is purported to be the biggest city in the world.I say ‘purported to be’ simply because nobody really knows the true population of Mexico City. In that respect it is not alone: a multitude of cities the world over inevitably harbour thousands upon thousands of people who are ‘statistically non-existent’.
Concerned about the dire lack of Spanish I had at my disposal, I was glad that a friend called Evangelina was able to meet me at the airport, thus saving me from potentially struggling to find my way into the city centre. In spite of the fact that she had to be at work for 8 a.m., she kindly went out of her way to quickly show me around her neighbourhood, a short walk from the city’s famous Zona Rosa: The Pink Zone.After shrugging off my gear at her apartment, I walked with her to work. Coincidentally, she worked for The British Embassy, which modestly languishes in a building located a little north of the major thoroughfare known as Paseo de la Reforma.
From there, I sought to hound out Mexico City’s main square: The Zocalo. Flanked by all manner of imposing buildings, The Zocalo is most definitely the spiritual focus of the city if not quite its geographical heart. At its centre, a huge flag-pole proudly wields the Mexican flag by default, the raising and lowering of which is accompanied by great fanfare every morning and evening.Choosing to focus my energy on the Historical Centre of Mexico City, I aimlessly wandered the many streets radiating from The Zocalo, actively aspiring to glimpse what makes the city’s residents tick.
Truth be told, Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis that heaves with stark, confrontational contrasts.
While many of the city’s districts are extremely wealthy, the ‘limits’ of such neighbourhoods tend to be punctuated by districts that are noticeably less well-off. The outlying district of Santa Fe, for example, is an area of the city which brazenly wears its sickening wealth on its sleeve, reflected as it is in the grandeur of its modern buildings and the range of flash cars humming around its well-tended roads.Santa Fe, however, is cocooned in spectacular fashion, with a slew of poverty-stricken areas literally banging on its plush gates, rapping at the windows of the gleaming skyscrapers that loom above the tumbledown residences which flounder just a short distance from their foundations.
La Condesa is another of Mexico City’s most hip hang-outs, and a popular place for the bold and the beautiful to meet and greet friends and strangers alike in the many trendy bars and restaurants that saturate the immediately captivating district.Similarly, Zona Rosa can’t fail to entice folk into its attractive range of bars and eateries, with the good vibes of the area bolstered to stunning effect by the presence of a pedestrianised area that comes complete with a collection of eye-catching statues coolly paying homage to both classic and contemporary art.
In spite of its age-old reputation as a dirty, dangerous city that is at times best-avoided, Mexico City is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating and surprising cities on earth.
To a large extent it is clean, safe and stupendously chilled-out.For sure, certain districts should be awarded a wide berth, particularly after dark, but under no circumstances whatsoever should a trip to this mind-blowing city be postponed or even cancelled because of fears related to one’s safety or security.
On the back of an exhausting yet hugely rewarding day exploring The Zocalo and its surrounding area, I should have hit the sack dreaming. As it was, I was too wired: the adrenaline coursing through my veins refused to allow even a wink of sleep to pass my way.Prematurely anticipating what my second day in Mexico City might bring, I plotted my next course of action with eyes wide open…
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