On July 5, Mexicans vote in local elections. Here in Mexico City, the pickings are rather slim.
Some candidates, like Ana Guevara, the retired track-and-field champion, are used to running, although not for office. The worst you can say about Mexican politicians is that the best thing you can say about Ana Guevara is that she is not a politician.
Some dinosaurs of the PRI, which ran Mexico for over 70 years, are trying to convince the voters to return to the fold.
Even Guadalupe Loaeza, a columnist who made her fame writing gossipy articles about well-to-do women with nothing to do in Polanco, is getting into the act.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of this year’s election is that the story with the most traction is a movement that is trying to convince Mexicans that, as a protest, they shouldn’t bother to vote.
About eight or nine years ago, I spent one of the happiest weeks of my life in the Hotel Bamer on Avenida Juárez. I was in a suite on the 13th story, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Alameda Park. This was the most well-appointed hotel of the city when it was built, sometime in the 1950s.
By the time I got there, however, the Bamer was a dowager down at her heels. The elevator only worked intermittently, the furniture was in sore need of reupholstery, and when I pulled the cord to open the curtains, they fell to the floor. The view was spectacular, though.
At the time, much of the area was in a shambles, never repaired after the 1985 earthquake. But in the intervening years, Carlos Slim, the wealthiest man in Mexico (and one of the two or three richest in the world), bought much of the surrounding property, took away the rubble and rebuilt, bringing it into the 21st century. (The modern building to the left of the hotel in the photo, part office and part residential, belongs to Slim.)
I imagine that the owners of the Bamer are hanging tough and waiting for someone to buy their now presumably much more valuable property. It is a shame that it is dormant, but would be a worse shame if it weren’t remodeled and put to use again as a hotel. The rooms are huge, and those views of the Alameda are unbeatable.
Beginning with the next post I promise to return to regularly scheduled programming. But first, one more thing about the paperback edition of First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, The Capital of the 21st Century. I hope some of you might be able to help me with something I am trying to arrage.
I want to spread the word about the book in appropriate academic circles. So if any of you know anyone who teaches or is a student in a program of Latin American Studies, Mexico Studies, Urban Studies, Urban Sociology, or Journalism, I would appreciate if you let them know about the book. Or better yet, send me their contact information and I will let them know.
Also, I will be in the U.S. between mid September and mid October. I am already engaged to speak about Mexico City in New York, Texas and California, so if you know of anyone at colleges or universities (or other relevant institutions) in those states, who might be interested in a talk, please let me know. I am also trying to add Chicago to that list, given that there are over a million Mexicans who live there. So anyone out there from the Windy City, feel free to pipe in.
Nearly every book I have ever read in my life has been a paperback. Many people I know — I admit it, myself included — will not think twice about spending fifty bucks, and on occasion a hundred, in a bar or a restaurant, but will balk at buying a hard-cover book because it seems “expensive.” Some authors I know had books published in hardback, which were never subsequently published in a soft-cover version. These writers not only felt disappointed, they had the sensation that they’d been cheated.
There is something light-hearted about paperbacks: They evoke the beach, the subway, those awkward eggheads who stuff them in their jacket pockets, women who throw everything into their handbags. No matter how hard you try to protect them, you know they will get bent, folded, dropped, sat on, stained. They are truer to life than hardbacks — they take a beating and show their scars.
That was all a preamble to say that First Stop in the New World has just come out in paperback. If you buy it in a store it will cost a little more than half the price of the hardcover, and if you buy it on Amazon far less than half. Those of you who have been putting it off: Go ahead and get it already. Those of you who already have it: Get another copy for a friend.
Little in life is reliable, but you can count on El Moro, which is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. El Moro is a joint on the Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas #42 in the Centro Histórico. It is a cafeteria that serves the traditionally Spanish combination of hot chocolate and deep-fried, sugar-coated doughnuts called churros.
The hot chocolate at El Moro comes in four varieties (special, French, Spanish, or Mexican, in varying degrees of sweetness). To be frank, neither hot chocolate nor the brick-heavy churros is precisely my idea of comfort food. Still, I am extremely comforted whenever I go to this place. Maybe it is the fact that it has been here forever. And maybe it is because some of the waitresses seem to have been here since opening day.