Travel & Outdoors
|Viva Mexico! It's Full of Exciting (and Safe) Places the News Omits|
Gary Orfield & Patricia Gandara - Bee
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January 03, 2011
We have been on sabbatical and living in the very heart of Mexico for the last six months in what many U.S. newspapers are describing as a narco gangster-controlled nation where terror reigns and the country is collapsing.
We've been living in the historic center of Mexico City, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. It is absolutely true that there are terrible things going on in parts of the country, we read about them every day in the Mexican papers, as well.
|There are places in Mexico that are very dangerous, but the hysteria suggesting that the entire country has become terrifying is simply wrong and destructive.|
But our life here has been peaceful in a neighborhood where the streets are full of people into the late hours of the evening; where we can walk to one of 42 museums, the National Palace or the great public plaza the Zσcalo with its weekly events that draw thousands of people in a safe and happy celebration of various aspects of Mexican culture. People are overwhelmingly kind and hospitable. It is a world city with incredible cultural energy and all of the problems of any great city. And it actually has a lower murder rate than Washington, D.C.
In our neighborhood heavy security is the only sign of the crisis. In a hotel on the next block there is an international meeting of constitutional law experts and a couple weeks ago a meeting of mayors from around the planet. Down the street in the Bellas Artes, the great performance center, Beethoven's "Fidelio" is playing in a beautifully restored concert hall. There are full-scale Broadway-quality plays around town.
It is almost impossible to go more than a block or two without walking past a very fine, and affordable, restaurant that would astonish anyone who only knows the Mexican food found in the United States. It's the difference between French toast and great and subtle Parisian cuisine.
This is a city full of holiday events and displays with streets crammed with shoppers in an economy that is growing faster than that of the United States, and in spite of the war against the narcos.
There are places in Mexico that are very dangerous, but the hysteria suggesting that the entire country has become terrifying is simply wrong and destructive.
We've traveled across major sections of the country to Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Cuernavaca and Taxco in recent weeks on luxury buses without the slightest problem. In all of these places, people throng the streets at night without concern for their safety. The capital, the "Gran Ciudad," is safe.
There are, of course, dangerous neighborhoods here as in any large city, but life is very normal. We go biking on the largest street, Paseo de la Reforma, on the Eco-Bicis the city has established, with hundreds of other families on Sunday, when it is shut down to auto traffic. We ride the 12 subway lines for less than 30 cents. We go to huge book fairs and outdoor concerts.
This is a city at once ancient ones stumbles across the vestiges of 800-year-old Indian civilizations or buildings from the Spanish empire from the 1500s, on many corners and modern, with every convenience of a first-world urban center. It is as interesting and even more diverse than Rome or Paris, and the dollar still goes far here though the Mexican peso has gained on it substantially in the last year because of very responsible economic policies.
Americans deserve better and more balanced information. It is a wonderful time to visit this great capital.