I went to Mexico twice. And twice I meant to record my impressions of the place. But I didn’t get a chance. Well, not quite. To be honest, I didn’t do it because I was lazy after eating mole, guacamole, enchiladas, barbacoa, quesadillas, rajas, tacos, tamales… not to mention intoxicating shots of Rompope and Tequila. Nonetheless, a few things about being in Mexico left some strong impressions in my mind.
One of these impressions was what I would call the chocking beauty of Mexico City. This was visible on the city’s skyline just a few minutes before we landed. A grayish cloud covered the city. That’s right, air pollution. It’s a fair assessment to say that Mexico City is a beauty chocking in smog. When you get out of the airport into the streets of the city, you begin to form an explanation for the smog over the skyline. The explanation forces itself on you.
The first thing I felt minutes after landing was the itchy sensation in my eyes, which made me wonder whether it had something to do with insufficient sleep. However, my hosts assured me it had nothing to do with how much I had slept. Pollutants in the air made my eyes itchy, they said, assuring me that given sufficient time in the city my body would adjust and my eyes would feel right at home. Feeling at home with pollutants? What a strange thought!
Traffic is bumper to bumper in the city. Just to get out of the airport was a frightening experience. The jam begins at six in the morning and ends in the late hours of the evening around 10pm. Heavy traffic is a major contributor to air pollution. One beautiful day we visited a friend who lived in a high rise downtown Mexico. She took us to the attic to show us the skyline of the city. The view of the city from up there was spectacular. One sad thing was obvious though. The beautiful city skyline was chocking in smog, a dark gray cloud blanketing the city.
Mexico City has some of the most amazing parks I have so far seen in my life. The largest and most spectacular of them is Bosque de Chapultepec. When it comes to parks, you ain’t seen nothing yet if you haven’t been to this place. The Bosque, also known as “The Lung of the City”, is a special place within the city, an experience on its own right, packed with history, heritage, identity, nationalism, nature, intrigue, rituals and magic. By sequestrating the toxic gases in the air, most of which released by the maddening traffic, the Bosque enables the chocking beauty to breathe. It cleans the air in the city. This is one of the jewels of the city. The Bosque receives an estimate of 15 million visitors yearly. Now that’s something. From the looks of the Bosque, it is clear that the municipal government takes extra care to ensure the Bosque maintains its auratic lushness. You cannot visit the city and not go to the Bosque. If you are serious about enjoying leisure, if you haven’t experienced the magic of being in a park, if you are looking for spell-binding sensations rushing through your body just for the mere fact of being in a particular place, Chapultepec should be your destination. Besides the parks, the city’s landscapes are almost everywhere dotted with gardens and trees. This is one of the things you have to give the Mexicans. They have done beautiful work in planning their downtown. Hands down! These parks, gardens and trees scattered all over the landscapes make Mexico City truly what it is.
Yet when you look closely to the plants, when you look beyond the forest and into the trees themselves, you will soon discover branches and leaves under an unbearable weight of oppression, you will notice the green vegetation covered in dark gray matter, you will witness the city’s natural assets suffocating in pollutants, you will hear the resilient beauty of the city screaming for liberation from environmental degradation.
It’s morning. Bathe or shower yourself thoroughly. Get out into the streets. Give yourself a few hours. Take a white tissue and wipe your face. Take a look at the tissue. What do you see? A layer of gray matter. This is the same gray matter covering the green colour of the vegetation in the city.
Now let’s take a look at the buildings… houses, offices, walls, schools, markets, restaurants, hotels, you name it. One thing you will notice is that Mexicans are not afraid to experiment with colours on their buildings. In Canada and US, the boring and tiring monotony of gray paint in buildings dampens human senses. In Mexico, on the other hand, the richness, the boldness, the daring, the varieties, of colours on buildings are rather exciting to behold, bringing human senses to life. But you will also notice that, whatever the colour you see on buildings and other surfaces, there’s one consistent common denominator: the layer of gray over the paint. These are the air pollutants making the buildings grayish no matter what the colour of the paint might be. Because of the gray matter on every surface, the colour of the paint always looks faded.
To be continued….