Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sounds of the City

Mexico City has a unique soundscape. Rather than the howl of sirens and buzz of traffic so common to urban areas, the air here is filled with the clatter of a thousand different noises. A large handbell marks the passing of the garbage truck, a loud steam whistle the arrival of a food cart. The morning stillness is broken by the singsong call of "gasssssssss, hay gasssssss," and tamale vendors on three-wheeled pedal carts play a standardized recording through tinny speakers... 'acércanse y piden sus ricos tamales oaxaqueños'... Wandering bands of musicians blare on honking trumpets and bang loud drums, while groups of Cuban musicians tap out classic boleros at street markets.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Sometimes things just don't work out. Hope and promise noiselessly slip into frustration and disappointment. Regardless of whether Saturday's optimism was self-delusional bravado or true belief in the country's chances, there was a pulsing hope here that Mexico could gain revenge against the Argentine team that had ended their 2006 World Cup run in heartbreaking fashion. But it was not to be. By any standards it was a tough loss, but in a country where the biggest soccer stars are idolized in graffiti it was crushing, and on Sunday afternoon the city sank into a muted stillness.

(Apropos of nothing, after slightly more than a month of running the blog, I'm rather curious who is reading and enjoying--or hating--it. If you've found a few minutes diversion here, I'd love to hear from you in any form, be it a comment on a post, a personal email, or telepathic message.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


After several afternoons of epic thunderstorms and powerful aguaceros--the lyrical Spanish word for downpours--today we escaped with only a drizzle. Puddles still lingered in the streets this evening, and distant rumbles of thunder were a reminder of the weather's unquiet mood.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


While Mexico's World Cup run will continue thanks to the mechanics of the tournament, it was a much more subdued group that convened in Parque Mexico this afternoon after la selección's agonizingly bad performance against Uruguay. An early-arriving thunderstorm that drenched already damp spirits and ended play for the day paradoxically underscored what is special about the daily matches in the park. Huddled underneath the narrow roof of a bench were kids of varying ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. The park serves as a remarkable public space where soccer provides the fibers through which friendships are forged across certain boundaries.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

There goes the neighborhood...

This just happened yesterday. The section of Colima street around my house is the florist district; there are easily 15 flower shops in a two block stretch. But as Roma Norte gets trendier, the older businesses are moving out. Establishments like the Son de Cuba dancehall, which seem to date to an earlier era, slowly become decaying husks while hipper--and more transient--bars take root.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mexico 2, France 0

Today, Mexico played a crucial game against France. Again, the entire city paused to watch. For once, la selección played to their potential. When Mexico City's favorite son - the paunchy, slow, and still magical Cuauhtemoc Blanco - stepped up to take a late penalty shot that would clinch the victory, the bar hummed with nervous anticipation. As Blanco buried his shot in the net, the city erupted. The celebration lasted all afternoon, flags waving, horns honking, people shouting. Strangers knowingly smiled at one another. Even if in soccer terms it was, as a companion in Parque Mexico put it, "mucho ruido por poca cosa," for many people here it was a moment of national pride.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oil Slicks

It poured today. When it rains here the streets are spattered with oil slicks from leaky cars. As unaesthetic as that may be, Mexico City is not the polluted grimy metropolis of reputation. It's not particularly clean, nor is the air gin-clear, but it's far from suffocating.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

El Mundial

Last Friday kicked off Mexico's quadrennial onset of frustration, cynicism, and self-loathing that only a chronically disappointing national soccer team could provoke. Like all devoted sports fans, the fresh opportunity for heartbreak was greeted with much fanfare and anticipation. Walking the streets that morning, every available outlet seemed to have a grainy TV plugged into it. La selección again proved maddening, only saving themselves from defeat with a late goal and leaving the battered fans relieved with a tie. That afternoon, playing soccer in the park, it was impossible to distinguish teammates as nearly everyone was wearing green. We played, even as the soaking rains of a fierce thunderstorm drenched us and turned the concrete plaza treacherously slippery.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


These "clausurado" (condemned/closed) signs are pretty ubiquitous here in Mexico City. They seem to crop up both on delinquent businesses as well as dilapidated older buildings. The decay seems more noticeable this trip; many beautiful turn-of-the-century facades now appear beyond the hope of restoration. There is a sad paradox there - saving the buildings would make them too expensive for their current lower to lower-middle class residents, and would thus destroy the human quality that makes the neighborhood so wonderful. Yet it is at times agonizing to watch the paint peel and the doorframes warp.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Se acabo la fruta, güero...

Don Isidro reflects on the stray pieces of fruit remaining at his stand by early afternoon.

One of the joys of living here has been integrating into the rhythms of the neighborhood, including becoming a regular customer at certain stands at the Sunday tianguis by my house. Don Isidro, who greets every customer with a smile even as his hands and attention move in a frenetic whirl as he weighs papayas, calculates change, and straightens piles of oranges, was one of the first vendors to recognize me from week to week. Something of a fixture in the market, he shows up an hour and a half later than all the other fruit vendors, and sells out well before they even begin to pack up. His trademark declaration "aquí pura fruta de calidad" clearly resonates with the many other regular customers who join me in jostling around the table, filling thin plastic bags with whatever Isidro has brought that day.

Mangos at the tianguis.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Colombian Exposition

Today, I made the trip down to Coyoacan for a Colombian food, art, and dance exposition. Annoyingly, the "exposicion gastronomica" turned out to be a table, a lady, a toaster oven and arepas, and the "exposicion artesanal" was a table, a lady, and three knitted shawls. There wasn't even any cocaine.

The dance show, however, was slightly less of a let-down.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I did laundry today. There's no way to make that exciting.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Partly Cloudy

Sometimes, I'll have a crappy day here. The archive won't cooperate, I'll feel insecure about my research, lonely, bored, fatigued, and so on. I'll get home and it will be overcast and threatening to storm. But when I go play soccer, the threat of the storm passes and the day will end with a sky like this. And it's hard to complain when that happens.