Happy Just to be in Mexico City

by Ekua on June 21, 2011 in Mexico

It looks just like how I remember it. Urban sprawl crawls up the sides of a mountain. It looks bland and dirty and impossibly huge. But I know there are diamonds down there, in unexpected places.

After immigration, there’s customs. One of the airport staff holds up his pointer finger and says to me, “You have one apple in your bag.” I reluctantly hand it over, knowing how it can be hard to find decently priced fresh fruit in certain places.

I push that funny little button before exiting. It’s green. Go on and explore Mexico.

I take out some pesos and walk over to the airport authorized taxi vendors. I’m taken aback when in unison they all drop their casual demeanor and begin to shout for me come over. “We’re cheaper!” they all say. Another tourist gives me a knowing smile. I go with the closest vendor, and the rest look on, disappointed.

In the taxi, the driver looks apologetic as he requests a gas stop. We pull into a Pemex station just outside the airport where the attendants are pumping both gas and loud party music. One of them is dancing around the cars like he’s at a club or a house party. He sees us and motions towards an empty pump. He knows my taxi driver and they greet each other with a manly, but loving hug-pat.

The gas tank is filled, and then it’s on to Centro. I loved staying in the laid back Coyoacán neighborhood last summer, but this time around, I want to see what it’s like to be right in the middle of things.

At the hostel, the receptionist rattles off about a wealth of activities and day tours. My brain says, “Absolutely not, you haven’t slept and you need to rest.” But my head nods and says, “Yes.”

It’s a matter of minutes before my schedule begins to fill up. First up, there’s a Lucha Libre show. Mexican wrestling.

I’m pleasantly surprised when we show up and see that we’re amongst the few foreigners in the stadium. As much as it is a gimmicky and overly expensive activity on the hostel’s part, it is regular entertainment for the defeños who choose to attend the biweekly ridiculousness that is Lucha Libre.

And I love that in Mexico City, after a quick look of surprise or curiosity to acknowledge your foreignness, people get right back to doing whatever they were doing, letting you participate in it if you choose to. Subtly and genuinely welcoming you by simply not making too big a deal of your presence.

I’m surprised to see kids there. Little ones even. Cheering as loud as their parents. Dancing to catchy songs played in the interludes. It’s an event that parents in the United States would shield their children from, given the ample swearing from the crowd, the scantily clad women who appear at the interludes, and wrestling aspect of it, although the fighting is relatively tame. Mexico City so familiar, but there are those little differences here and there to remind me I’m not in the States anymore.

The match is every bit as tacky and fake as I imagined it would be. And it’s great. A group of macho guys drink cups of unidentified beer and shout expletives all night at the wrestlers they don’t like. They cheer wildly for their favorites. I’m surprised when they seem to cheer the loudest for a man who wears a feminine pink and black outfit and has hair dyed pink and kisses his opponents to distract them. Coming from the United States, machismo in Mexico is something that probably takes years to understand.

Mexico City is every bit as unlikely and perplexing and enticing as I remember. And I’m happy to be back.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Oneika the Traveller June 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Oof! You are making me long for Me-hi-co! I lived in Monterrey for a year and got to travel to a few places around the country (including DF)! Have tons of fun! How long are you going for? I’m going to Guatemala for a month later on this summer but now I’m wondering if I should have gone back to Mexico instead, as I never made it to Oaxaca and Chiapas while I lived there.

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Ekua June 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

Altogether, traveling for about 4 weeks. Already approaching the halfway point 🙁 In Chiapas, I met a ton of people who were heading south to Guatemala. I’m sure you’ll have a great time there.

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Torre June 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Ooh, sounds very enticing. I haven’t been to Mexico since I was little kid, but I’m really looking forward to making my way there soon.

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Ekua June 26, 2011 at 10:41 am

Mexico has it’s issues, but overall, I think it’s one of the most underrated places I’ve visited. Are you planning a trip to Mexico soon or is it on your list?

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Lucy June 24, 2011 at 9:44 am

Hey there,

Really interesting reading this post; Me and my friend were looking to go to Mexico City at some point during our holiday to Cancun later this year but have been advised against it by travel agents who say it’s too dangerous for two girls to travel alone. What’s the truth in this?

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Ekua June 26, 2011 at 10:45 am

There are parts of Mexico City that you may not want to visit on your own and there are certain things you have to be cautious about, but overall, I’ve found the people of Mexico City to be really charming and helpful. It really is one of my favorite places. Mexico City is not for everyone, but if you love cities, you might enjoy it. If you go, I’d recommend staying in Centro, Coyoacan, or Condesa. Feel free to email me if you have anymore questions! [email protected]

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cactuscathy March 31, 2012 at 7:36 am

Ah, a woman after my own heart! I have been in and out of Mexico for about 5 years now, and Mexico City is definitely my favorite city ever!!!! I live in Taxco which is about 3 hours by bus, and I go there as often as possible. Very friendly people! I have never had reason to fear for my belongings or my life. I love Coyoacan, but I agree Centro is the place to stay and then make use of the excellent Metro (subway) system. If you are there on a Sunday morning, go to Parque Espana in Condesa and join in a Yoga de la Risa (Laughter Yoga) session — 10 am.

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