Sunday, March 22, 2015

México Agridulce, Bittersweet Mexico

We could stay in our upscale, up-to-date, tranquil neighborhood, Colonia Parque San Andrés, shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at Mercado Churubusco in the neighboring traditional barrio of San Mateo, go to the nearby, picturesque Spanish colonial Centro de Coyoacán for a nouvelle cuisine dinner or a Sunday brunch of smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel, shop for goat cheese, Greek yogurt and humus at Superama and go to our doctors at the world-class Medica Sur. In our day-to-day life, we do. It is a modern urban lifestyle which we enjoy, with which we are familiar and comfortable. We are transplanted neoyorkinos, New Yorkers, Upper-Westsiders to be specific.

Our apartment,
fourth small balcony up, on Calle Dakota
Around the corner, shady, quiet Calle Irlanda, Ireland Street
But we are constitutionally unable to stay in a bubble. We want to get to know the world around us. Hence, our perambulations through various delegaciones and colonias of the city. Which leads us to encounter, at least see the cotidianidadthe everyday life, of today's average chilangos, city residents, and of the city's past.

Actually, from the enclave of Parque San Andrés, all one has to do to begin to experience this other side of life in Mexico City is walk west two long blocks to the commercial boulevard, División del Norte, Division of the North (named after the army led by Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution), with its hodgepodge mix of upscale home furnishing stores, McDonalds, Oxxo convenience stores, taco stands and, at main intersections, street vendors and entertainers.

Street vendor selling to driver of one of the city's new pink and white taxis.
Sixty percent of Mexicans work "informally", for cash 

Or walk just one short block east to Calzada de Tlalpan, the eight-lane highway to the Centro Historico of the city. Turning the corner from our street onto Tlalpan, to walk north to Metro estación General Anaya, is to cross an umbral, a threshold between two very different worlds. You leave the pleasantness of an upper-middle class neighborhood and enter the bullicio, the hustle and bustle, the hubbub of what is predominantly a working-class city.

Here one encounters a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, la agridulce, the happy and the sad, the lively and the lost. And what is being born again. This is México claroscuro, chiaroscuro, with its contrasts of light and dark, so appropriately lit by the intense Mexican sun and the deep shadows it casts.

Shoe shine

Laundry business goes on in partially abandoned building
Typical post WW II building
Note the near lack of shadows, 
as the sun is vitually directly overhead from mid-May to late July.
Kitchen help
Street vendor

Child vendors
Neighborhood ladies
Street vendor

Street cleaner
Middle school buddies

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