Elias Pelcastre

What is it like to live in Mexico City?

This is by no means a “hard” account, it is just my subjective experience. I remember when I was in uni, some of my friends were traveling to Mexico. They were staying in Mexico City for few days and asked me if it was safe.

I told them they needed a local to show them around. That way, they would know where to go and which places to avoid.

I lived in Mexico City from age 2 to 19, and recently from 25 to 27 (I’m almost 28). I was born in the southeast and live near the center, sort of speak.

I started traveling by subway and going to places by myself when I was 16. Back then – I’m talking about 2005 – I used to be scared; everyday I prayed to be safe and tried to avoid dangerous situations.

I moved back in 2013, and can say things have changed a lot. I feel more secure and move around fearlessly, although I have this innate sense of being alert and on the lookout for anything suspicious.
Writing this article is hard. I try to give an objective account of my experience.

I love my city and want foreigners to feel good about visiting. People I have met have told me they have been to Mexico, but avoided the capital (they usually go from the airport straight to the coast).
The city offers a great transport service. The subway, or “metro” is clean, cheap, easy to use and safe – there are policemen and soldiers around.

I remember the first time I learned how to travel by metro. There are maps inside the subway that show you the network; all you have to do is locate your final station and the end of the line, which is called “correspondence.”

Lines have colors, and there are signs inside the subway that guide you to a line and correspondence. Just step down when you get to your stop.

I have never been robbed inside the metro, but someone pick-pocketed my mobile phone while traveling on the “metrobus” (a mix between the subway and a bus).

If the metro doesn’t get you where you want to go, you can travel by “camion”, which is a type of bus. I recently used the mobile app Moovit to know which bus to hop on, because they display confusing cards on the windshield and you need to which direction to take.

The city has a lot going on; Chapultepec alone is a “zone” that has a lake, theme park, and natural museum. You can check famous painter Frida Kahlo’s home in Coyoacan, or visit the Estadio Azteca, the stadium where Michael Jackson played for the first – and last – time in Mexico in 1993.

The city may suffer from high levels of pollution and may look gray most of the time. But now and then air and rain clean Mexico City, and uncover the real beauty of this cosmopolitan and exciting place.

Even though city folk are wrapped up in their problems, like in most of the big cities, you will always find someone who wants to help. It doesn’t matter if you need a peso to make it to the 5 “baros” (bucks, quid) to buy a metro ticket, or are lost and need directions to get to somewhere. I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to keep a reasonable distance while asking for something, just to be on the safe side.

Mexico City is beautiful in its “city way”: yes, streets have graffiti – on a side note, I remember Copenhagen was full of “street art”, so Mexico City falls into the norm–, and some zones may have some rubbish lying around. Nevertheless, things are changing and the city is improving.

Next, some hard numbers to back my thoughts: at least five tons of organic and inorganing waste were being recycled in 2014 (Excelsior, Spanish); Mexico saw a 16 percent reduction in the levels of violence up until March (Excelsior, Spanish); and Mexico City saw 0 kidnaps in January 2015 (Hoy Estado, Spanish).

On the contrary, the United States´ Department of State reports the following areas of concerns on its Mexico 2015 Crime and Safety Report:

According to the Procuraduria General de Justicia del Distrito Federal and the Secretaria Publica del Distrito Federal, the following city boroughs routinely have the highest number of crimes reported in 2014: Iztapalapa, Cuauhtémoc, Gustavo A. Madero, Benito Juárez, Coyoacan, and Tlalpan.

I have to admit I didn´t have an “active” life in Mexico City while growing up. I used to get home from school and watch telly until I had to go to bed. Although I had to visit several museums as part of a high school homework, and that´s what got me to see the city by myself.

When I was 19, I went on a rampage and partied a lot in different places around the city and even traveled to Greater Mexico City regularly (the commute wasn´t so pretty). Still, I would recommend you visit the city when you are in Mexico, it has a lot to offer.