When I first came to Mexico in 2003 I was, I must confess, more than a little ignorant of the problems the country suffers from on a daily basis. To be honest, I knew little about Mexico at all. When I returned in 2005, it was as their latest, if not greatest resident rather than as a backpacking traveller. I got to know a whole load more about those problems first hand. Water shortages, pollution, poverty, overcrowding, traffic chaos and all the rest. But I’d look around and see only solutions. The country is one of the wealthiest on the planet, after all.
That was the hope. Nowadays I think with more despair. Its clear to me that the country isn’t as wealthy as it should be. Don’t get me wrong, there is the wealth here, but it belongs to a small elite, who don’t seem to want to relinquish any of it. Worse, they don’t want to lessen their share of future wealth production. So things will carry on as per normal.
Petty criminals will still come out of the ghettos to scratch a living stealings wallets, watches, cars and whatever else they stumble across. Smart criminals will continue to kidnap and trade in illicit substances, knowing that they can get away with it nine times out of ten. Nine out of ten? Perhaps 99 times out of 100 is more accurate. Taps will continue to run dry as 60% of the water on it’s way to them leaks through old pipes, and 90% of the water that does make it, soon runs into the ground rather than into recycling plants. Etc, etc, etc.
And yet, amidst the disappointments, there are bright spots, bold plans put into action, and a little fun injected into the city. Over the last few years, since a big Green Survey was carried out, the city has become a little greener. Just a little, but it’s a start. The ciclopista lets people ride their bikes through large parts of the city centre. Sunday’s ciclothon is still very popular. The old Beetle taxis that put so much crap into the atmosphere are being phased out. The public transport system is being substantially improved upon – lots of new buses, the new train link from Buenavista to the north of the city, and a new metro line being built.
Plus, parts of the Centro Historico have been pedestrianised. The streets around Isabel la Catolica were done last year. Now it has been announced that a major pedestrianisation program between the Zocalo and Belles Artes is beingimplemented over the next few months. If I’ve understood it all correctly. I’ve added a short video by El Universal, a broadsheet paper, giving the details. It’s all in Spanish, but even if you don’t understand, it gives a little flavour of Mexico City, don’t ya think? Oh, and all 700 of Mexico’s front line customs officers have been replaced overnight with 1400 university educated, properly trained, and thoroughly vetted new officers.