| Letter From Mexico City
By Mat Tombers
July 20, 2005
Behind me, soft recorded Classical music plays while I sit
having dinner at Griglia, a restaurant within the J.W. Marriot
Hotel in the heart of Ocho Polanco, the very European part
of Mexico City. It is a grand hotel; my room is about as large
as our apartment in New York, a statement about both the hotel
room and our apartment.
Ocho Polanco is also widely considered the safest place to
be in Mexico City.
Before leaving for Mexico, almost everyone I spoke to warned
me to be very, very careful as the city is notorious for its
crime. It is reputed to be worse than New York in its very
worst days twenty or so years ago.
Sitting here, in the cosseted safety of a luxury hotel, I
hardly feel that.
Driving in from the airport, I saw there were different Mexico
Cities. One of them is the very third world part that is huddled
up next to the international airport. It reminded me of San
Pedro Sula in Honduras when I visited it a long time ago when
I was a very, very young person.
The streets of Mexico City outside of Ocho Polanco are ripe
with third world smells, mixed with a distinctly Latin odor.
The third world gave way in a few miles to a better area
and by the time we were in the final miles to the hotel, the
better area had been succeeded by a place that reminded me
of Paris, when I was there in my twenties. Beautiful buildings,
gracious streets and well dressed individuals going about
their lives, a world far removed from violence and ugliness.
Yet this morning when I retrieved my newspaper, the very
good Miami Herald International edition, one of the major
stories was that a local professional soccer coach had been
apparently kidnapped as he left the practice field in the
outskirts of the city.
Kidnapping apparently has become a bit of a sport here in
Mexico City and, according to a couple of people I spoke to
today, it is becoming a national one.
A year ago a million people dressed in white and walked the
streets of the city to show their solidarity against the violence.
Enough, they were saying in their pure white. It was a mix
of rich and poor, middle class and those who never be. It
was someone from every strata of this citys society
protesting in a visible way that they were tired of being
afraid. It seems it is less than six degrees of separation
here from knowing someone held for ransom.
This mornings paper also informed me that Mexico City
is no longer the WORST city for pollution on the planet. It
is still one of them but not the worst; that horrific belongs
to Tokyo, to my surprise.
I spent my day with the staff of Discovery Networks in Latin
America. It was a very interesting group of young people;
fluent in both languages and eager to succeed. They are experiencing,
in their economic Mexico, a reality that reminds me of the
1980s in the U.S. Young people, DINKS [if you have forgotten
the term it means: dual income, no kids], who are exploring
a new world of social and economic freedom that is transparently
different from that of their parents.
Mexico City is in transition. It is the largest city on the
continent, it is a Latin American force, it is one of epicenters
of the new Latin America and Latin America is one of, if not
the most important wave, that is shaping the American future.
And here, sitting at the bar at the Griglia, eating a wonderful
pappardelle, I also saw one of the frightening faces of the
future. Crime is so prevalent, so profound and so disgusting,
that a leader who promised security would find a following.
As I listened to my bartender profess his disgust for the
situation, I thought I heard echoes of the voices of men who,
in their chagrin at chaos, gave us such men as Hitler and