The moment you leave the airport terminal at Benito Juarez International Airport, your nostrils are filled with a pungent aroma. It’s the smell of industry, rotting organic matter, busy sewers, sweat, sun baked tarmac, pollution, cooking food, discarded litter, acid rain and a multitude of other more difficult to identify odours. It’s the smell of the developing world, and it’s available outside airports around the developing world with localised varieties. It’s an urban smell that changes in strength and flavour as you move across the city. And I love it.
When Paola arrived at Heathrow six and a bit years ago, she held her head up and breathed deeply, savouring the fresh, clean English air. I found that a little bizarre, to be frank, as the air around Heathrow is the most polluted in the country. But not that bizarre. I do the same when I get to Mexico. I love the smell of the developing world. It’s the smell of life being lived. It’s a smell I associate with the exotic. It’s the smell of imminent adventure. Others might wrinkle their noses in disgust, but I inhale deeply. Even in the days before my departure, I loved that smell.
And now when I think of the things I miss most about Mexico, I have to put that delightfully noxious fragrance near the top of the list. The senses give memories substance, and that smell of Mexico City life brings back all sorts of memories. Of course, whilst I’ve been writing this as if a statement of fact, I must confess that it’s my opinion, and maybe I’m just a little quirky. Some might also take exception at my use of the term ‘developing world’. Mexico City is, granted, far too complex for a single term to accurately define it. But if you’ve been there, then hopefully you know what I mean.
There’s something else I miss. The music. Especially one particular song. It brings back memories of football games at the Estadio Azteca. Of lazy afternoons on the canals of Xochimilco. Of the Bicenternario celebrations. Of evenings wolfing down tacos in restaurants with mariachis prowling for custom. It’s the song in the video below. Although the video is a less traditional, but very Mexican, twist on the original.