For over twenty years I have called Mexico City my home. If I had to define what I most like about this misunderstood megalopolis, I would say that throughout the years, I have been constantly surprised and no two days have been alike. On this web site the principal means to convey what is captivating about the city – people, places and things – will be a blog, which I intend to update three or four times a month. To see it, click on the link at the top of the page.
My book First Stop in the New World is a journalistic, anecdotal street-level panorama of Mexico City. It highlights the paradoxes of the world’s most misunderstood megalopolis – that it is home to the richest man in the world, but half of the population lives in poverty; that criminals and cops are difficult to distinguish; that consumerism is ostensibly shunned but outwardly embraced. It journeys through the realms of sex and crime, money and religion, politics and entertainment, art and soccer. While I did a great deal of research to write the book, it is not about numbers or data. Rather I let Mexico City’s citizens – known as chilangos – tell the story: from a notorious socialite to a glue-sniffing street urchin, from a dollar-a-dance bar girl to a kidnap negotiator, from a Procter & Gamble executive to a dervish who sells newspapers on the corner. If you want to find out more about First Stop in the New World, and other books I’ve written, click on the books link at the top of the page.
There are also links to pages about journalism (I have published in many national magazines and newspapers in both the U.S. and Mexico) and mitigation.
If you read Spanish, you may be interested in another book of mine. It’s called Las llaves de la ciudad. It’s also about Mexico City, but entirely different from First Stop in the New World. When I moved to Mexico City in 1990, I knew that I wanted to learn to the language well. But I never dreamed I would one day write in a second language, let alone that a prestigious publishing house like Sexto Piso would consider my work worthy of a book. But here it is. Las llaves de la ciudad is a collection of my magazine writing, principally portraits of Mexico City people: the proprietor of the first and only boutique in the world that sells nothing but bulletproof clothing; Alín, a deaf-mute transvestite who has invented her own sign language and sells her company in a beer joint; Viviana Corcuera, who was Miss Argentina in 1964, and for close to 40 years has been Mexico City’s most notorious socialite. Each of these people is a stone in what, in the book’s totality, becomes a mosaic of Mexico City.
(photo by Everett McCourt)
With about 20 million inhabitants spread among 5,000 neighborhoods, Mexico City is one of the most complicated and misunderstood places in the world. It captivated me, even seduced me, since my first visit. That was back in 1987, when on a one-day layover I managed to trawl the streets of the centro histórico, with their dense stone buildings that date back to the 16th century, eat tamales wrapped in banana leaves in a crowded cafeteria under fluorescent tubes, and drink tequila in a dark bar, where a round man with slick hair and a pencil moustache sang romantic songs, backed by three guitar players dexterously crowding notes into each phrase.
I went to the Teatro Blanquita and saw the orchestra of Pérez Prado, the king of the mambo, as well as Sasha Montenegro, a vedette from Argentina who sang a little, danced less and told a few jokes, while nearly naked. (She would later go on to become the mistress, and ultimately the wife, of José López Portillo, one of Mexico’s most reviled presidents.)
Later that night, in the most humble cantina of the Plaza Garibaldi, La Hermosa Hortensia, a staggeringly drunken man offered me his wife. She demonstrated her eagerness to consummate the proposition with a squeeze of my thigh and a smile, the seductiveness of which was undercut by the absence of several crucial teeth. I refused with as much courtesy as possible, after which the man removed from his neck, and gave me, a string that held an emblem of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.