6 Reasons to Love Mexico City

CollazoProjects calls Mexico City home for part of the year, and though Mexico’s capital city is often overlooked by tourists, who are drawn instead to the eastern shores of Cancun or the western beaches of Baja California and Cabo San Lucas, it’s well worth a visit.

Here are a few reasons why:

6. Its architecture: Between the old buildings in the Centro Historico, the lavishly detailed buildings of the early 20th century, or the bold urban designs that have characterized Mexico City’s architecture since the 1970s, structural and design buffs will find Mexico City to be an architectural afficionado’s playground. And even someone without profound knowledge of architecture will find many of the city’s buildings stunning. (photo: weisserstier: creative commons)

5. Its transportation: Though Mexico City is one of the largest metropolises in the world, it also has a well-developed public transportation system that makes traversing the city easy– not to mention cheap. The city’s subway system, built in the 1970s, covers a large portion of the capital and a ride costs just 2 pesos, approximately 20 cents. The city also has an impressive modern bus system and passengers can enjoy a number of other alternatives, including micros (mini-buses), inexpensive taxis, and, more recently, a bicycle rental program.

4. Its markets: Mexico City has maintained a strong market tradition, and across the capital you’ll find a mind-boggling number of markets that specialize in almost every product you could imagine: flowers, food, clothing, DVDs/CDs, handcrafts, and much more. Markets are a great place to get a feel for the intersection between the past and the present.

3. Its art. It’s hardly surprising that Mexico’s capital has an impressive number of museums of all sorts: art, anthropology, photography, and many more. But perhaps even more impressive and interesting is Mexico City’s well-developed public art scene. Some of the best art can be found in the city’s subway stations, where glass vitrines exhibit photography, drawings, installation art, and video art.

2. Its food: Of all Latin American countries, Mexico’s food is perhaps the most varied and most complex. Incorporating a palate-stimulating array of spices, vegetables, meats, and cooking styles, Mexican food goes way beyond tacos.

1. Its dynamism: The past and the present. The traditional and indigenous alongside the intensely cosmopolitan. Ranchera and reggaeton. The city bears an incredible number of contradictions that could easily create tension with remarkable ease.

Lessons from the Washerwomen

I’d do my own laundry, but there’s no laundromat where we live in Mexico City.

Instead, once a week or so, I take the bag of laundry down the street to one of the two family-run laundry services on our block. I weigh the clothes with the washerwoman, I wait to receive my receipt, and then I ask the all-important question: “When can I pick up the clothes?”

At one laundry, the washerwoman assures me that the clothes will be ready tomorrow.

At the other laundry, the washerwoman says she expects that the clothes will be ready in two days, but if it’s Friday or Saturday, they’ll be ready on Monday.

The clothes are NEVER ready tomorrow at Laundry A. I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t done for two or three days, but she always promises that it will be ready the next day and it never is. There’s always a problem: the electricity was off (true); the washerwoman’s mother-in-law forgot to transfer my clothes from the washer to the dryer (also true); and they had more work than they expected (true, too). All this even though I pay in advance and in full. The washerwoman is nice, she remembers my name, and she even delivers the clothes a half block when they’re ready. The problem is, though, that the laundry is never done when she says it is, and inevitably I stop whatever I’m doing or run back home breathless to pick up my clothes by 6 on the day she said they’d be ready.

The clothes are ALWAYS ready at Laundry B. Maybe there was a problem, but the washerwoman doesn’t make it my problem. If I try to pay in advance, she won’t accept my money. Sometimes she doesn’t have change for a 200 peso bill, and if that’s the case, she makes a note on my receipt and asks me to come back when I have exact change. She remembers my name, too.

Now which laundry do you think I patronize?

And what can we learn from this case study?

The first lesson is to underpromise and overdeliver. If you’ve got a track record of not being able to deliver quickly, that’s fine. Plenty of folks specialize in slowness. But don’t tell your customer what they want to hear. Tell the customer the truth. That way, if you finish faster, the customer will be pleasantly surprised.

The second lesson is to avoid making your problem the customer’s problem. We all already have enough problems, and if we’re paying for a service, we especially don’t want to take on the business owner’s problems.

The third lesson is to develop a relationship of trust with the customer. Nothing is better for developing loyalty.

And the final lesson is to not wait until the last minute to drop off your laundry. Note to self.

Photo: kervinchong

Mexico City Protest: 400 Pueblos Demand “Respuesta”

Last year, shortly after moving to Mexico City, I began exploring my new city and came across quite a sight: hundreds of men protesting in the nude on Avenida Reforma, the avenue that cuts through the heart of the capital.

After learning more about the protest, conducting research, and interviewing some of the men, I wrote an article about the 400 Pueblos movement. Ever since, I’ve been an interested observer of the frequent protests that erupt periodically around the city, and I’ve begun working on a project called “Bajo Protesta” (“Under Protest”), a multimedia journalistic piece about Latin American social justice movements.

Last week, I happened to be walking home when I stumbled into the midst of a 400 Pueblos protest. The slideshow below is a collage of photos I took of the men–and, now, women–demanding a response from the government regarding allegations of political and social injustice committed against indigenous, poor, and rural Mexicans. (Note: The slideshow does contain nudity).

“Esta es una de las diez millones de pequenas humillaciones que sufrimos a diario todos los mexicanos. Sabemos que todos tenemos los mismos derechos, pero muchas veces no estamos en condiciones de exigir que se nos respeten.” * “This is one of the 10 million little humiliations that all Mexicans suffer every day. We know that we all have the same rights, but often we’re not in the conditions to demand that we be respected.”
-Jorge Ibarguengoitia, from Instrucciones para Vivir en Mexico