Shirley and I are wrapping up Part One of our year south of the border in México City, and are moving on to the next chapter of our whirlwind journey.
However, México City and its many attractions are like a giant electromagnet always drawing one back, and we will return a couple more times, as there remains more orchestras to see & hear, more folks with whom to re-connect, not to mention more world class museums to take in as well as more restaurants & street food to check out. And while we’re still around, I want to offer up some recent observations I’ve had about the people of this city.
For many years I’ve held a soft spot in my heart for México City, and for my friends that live here. The Locals are nicknamed ‘Chilangos’ and the majority of the people I know in this country can be described as such, be they nationals or foreigners who’ve lived here forever. On various levels – and for good reasons – these are the New Yorkers of this country; and I say that with great admiration as I love New York City too, as well as my friends who live there.
It’s had me musing that either México City is the NYC of Latin America, or perhaps – given their comparative sizes and the lengths of their histories – that New York is the México City of the United States.
On the sidewalks of both Manhattan and much of México City folks walk briskly, sometimes impatiently, almost always in a hurry to get to their destination, especially on workdays. And when you pass them on the street they can look right through, or simply past you. Yet stop to ask them for directions or assistance and you quite often spark that little connection, breaking beyond the protective coating and you quickly remember just how much people in both cities can be kind and helpful.
There are also millions of fanatic foodies in both towns, continually scoping out the tastiest iconic local dishes, street food as well as the best of whatever is the currently trendy international fare. They are intensely proud of – and frequently avail themselves of – their many parks, museums and performing arts venues. They’re often politically savvy, always opinionated, and sometimes blissfully unaware of goings on beyond their own city.
They’re tough cookies too, and those who’ve stayed put in these cities over the past forty years have had to learn ways to adapt to the mounting crowds, traffic, cost of living and other chaotic problems that accompany unchecked growth. In the thirty-one years since I left México City, it grew by between five and ten million people, depending on the range of the population guesstimates from then and now.
I have a close friend and colleague named Edmund, who recently joined my orchestra in Utah after playing in two of the same México City orchestras where I worked long ago. He recently mused, and quite correctly, that México City offers you so very much, but in return, it also requires much FROM you. Chilangos have learned to both survive and thrive under these conditions.
For Shirley and me, who for most of our adult lives have lived in cities between the sizes of Salt Lake City and Denver, this has been an exhilarating, inspiring and often: an exhausting seven weeks of taking in and savoring those things that only an international mega-city like this can offer. But we also now feel deeply just what Edmund was talking about. And so after our time here, we find ourselves ready to segue into the next phase of the sabbatical by settling in for several weeks in Querétaro, a city of similar size, and pace, to that of Salt Lake.
A mere three hours north of México City by turnpike, Querétaro sits at an altitude of 6000 feet and next to Mexico’s second largest swath of wine vineyards. And while its historic city center looks straight out of old Spain, it is surrounded by a vibrant, modern metropolitan area.
And for almost three hundred years it has housed one of the most beautiful and well preserved aqueducts in the world.
It’s been a wild run of almost two months, but for now, México City: it’s ‘hasta la vista’ (until we meet again). To the museums, orchestras, foods and old friends with whom I didn’t re-connect THIS time, I do hope to catch you on my return. Ciao for now, y’all.