Downtown Mexico City was full of surprises for me. Due to the population and decades old stories of pollution, I expected something rather tough and crowded. In fact, the city has an open, spacious feel with broad boulevards and vast open public spaces. I was most struck by the vibrancy of public life. There is a lot going on in the common, open areas of the town. The density of greenery was striking.
While I visited in December, the world’s largest skating rink was being constructed in the Zocolo. My skepticism about skating in Mexico City winters (in 70 degree weather) was not particularly appreciated–apparently ice skating is popular). Public sculpture dots the avenues, and a museum crops up seemingly every block. (The city reportedly has around 150).
There is a very busy street life, with vendors of all kinds setting up shop on the street.
There is some panhandling, but more commonly urgent selling of bits of candy. Sometimes the persistent sellers are tiny children, and this is painful. The city natives assured me they were harmless (which was evident) and they won’t bother you if you offer a polite “no thanks” or a small coin.
On Sundays, the largest boulevard, La Reforma, is closed to vehicles and bicyclists, pedestrians and runners take over. It is an amazing sight. Imagine Constitution Avenue in DC, or Broadway in NY open for people only on Sunday mornings.
The people of the city are extremely polite and warm. Every time a person gets on an elevator they say hello to the people already on board. It struck me that we up north often avoid eye contact, and certainly don’t wish each other a good day. I am incredulous that in the space of a few days I was able to make so many friends.