When I tell people I moved to Hawai‘i after living in Mexico City my entire life, I am met with a number of questions. Some of these are reasonable, some baffle me and some are straight up racist (I want to believe unintentionally so). They range from “Why did you decide to move here?” to “Do you have Starbucks over there?” and even “But you’re tall and have light eyes, are you really Mexican?”
It seems that most people cannot properly picture the place I grew up in. They also don’t realize that it is one of the largest cities in the world, with nearly 9 million habitants, according to the last census done by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Not only do we have Starbucks, we also have modern architecture and unique museums, all of which blend into typical and old towns that are rich in color and tradition. Mexico is actually the country with the second most museums in all of Latin America.
I took it upon myself to stroll around the city, trying to capture some of these places as best as I could in order to break the misconception that Mexico only consists of people with a certain skin tone, or houses that are falling apart.
I also find it important to say that it is true that there are some areas within the city that do not have tall buildings, that have houses that are falling to pieces and people who are struggling to make a living.
Out of all the places I’ve visited, Mexico City is one of the locations where you can most clearly see the class division. You take one glance at one side of the street and see modern architecture and designer clothes. Look at the other side and you’ll find people cleaning your car by stop signs, extremely old cars and women who live on the street trying to take care of their babies and kids.
I think knowing this brings a greater sense of appreciation for the better part of Mexico City, and allows us to realize that one place can have many different faces.
Centro de Coyoacán, Coyoacán
Centro de Coyoacán, which translates to “Center of Coyoacán,” is a delegation of Mexico City that is rich in history and culture. In Centro de Coyoacán, you can see old houses bursting with vibrant colors such as blue, pink or yellow. These houses are very well-kept and some have historical value. Walking around, you will stumble upon street food stands which sell delicious food and snacks such as churros, esquites (corn with mayonnaise, lime, cheese and chilli powder), papas de carrito (chips with many different sauces), cotton candy and more.
My personal favorite place to go to when I’m in Centro de Coyoacán is the Mercado de Artesanías, a market where people sell their art. You can find silver jewelry and cloth bracelets, traditional toys, people who do piercings and make henna tattoos, traditional toys, and more. I love how this place is full of life and color, and you can find treasures unique to Mexico.
Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo
If you want to see modernity and a clear depiction of city life, Polanco is the place to go. It is full of museums, boutiques, malls and restaurants. One of its main attractions is the Museo Soumaya due to its architecture, which makes the building a work of art itself.
The last time I visited, I explored two other museums that I had not entered before: The Trickseye Museum and Museo Jumex. The first was kind of pricey to get into, but fun. The museum is made up of optical illusions that you can interact with. There is also an app that allows you to experience virtual reality by pointing your camera at certain images.
Museo Jumex has a temporary exhibition of Jeff Koons and Marcel Duchamp, two very important artists of conceptual art and dadaism, respectively. The exhibition was spread over three different floors.
“Tianguis,” Benito Juárez
A “Tianguis” is a traditional open-air market that has existed before Spain occupied Mexico. Here, you can find anything you might want at affordable prices. Products range from fresh fruit and vegetables to clothes and toys. And in a certain area of the market, you can also find food such as tacos or quesadillas. These markets burst with color and people, and are a great option if you seek to support the locals and small businesses. They are generally open twice a week, like a farmer’s market. The one I visit is at the Colonia del Valle on Tuesdays.
Even though I captured these places because I believe they show the diversity and uniqueness of my home town, there are many other places worth seeing that add more to the richness of this beautiful city.
Mexico City is a diverse place that should not be judged by only one of its faces. It’s a place where tradition, history, and modernity intertwine, making it unique. This reminds us that it’s always important to avoid stereotypes when meeting people from different countries or when visiting one, because most of the time these tend to be at least partially wrong.