¿Why visit Mexico City?

Please come along!  Visit this vibrant city over the next couple of weeks on this blog, including photos I’ll be taking of Pope Francis’s visit to the city. With millions of people participating, it will be quite an event. Have you been there yourself? Welcome to share your own experiences or comments.

Sunday afternoon public salsa dancing

Sunday afternoon public salsa dancing in the park near the city library.


Mexico City fills to overflowing a huge valley that even just a century ago was mostly a lake. Humans pulled the plug on the water and filled in the lake, spawning a huge city that combines new land butting up to old shoreline and islands. Like Damascus – the city my family came from – it’s an ancient metropolis where you can dig down and find thousands of years of human history. Unlike Damascus, it’s a city I can still go to. I’m attracted to its latin spirit, its vendor calls, colors, food and much more. It’s a place where modernity has asserted itself, but where tradition and history are still the connective tissue.

As a young student in the United States I don’t remember learning more than a paragraph or two about Mexico. The basic lesson was about a bloody Aztec culture the Spanish subdued and then how Americans would be forced to invade and sort things out for the Mexicans, who certainly weren’t capable of doing that on their own. Not much has changed really – the same stereotypes are today propagated by popular media and political discussion. Coming up short is any kind of appreciation for the lives and traditions of the 120 million people who live in Mexico, much less the 21 million who live in the Mexico City (Distrito Federal/DF).

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be posting photographs and writing as a repeat visitor who in some ways feels at home in the DF, and in many ways never will be. I don’t intend to gloss things over – I know it’s a tough city, and in many ways a difficult country to live in. But Mexico gets plenty written about its rough and unpleasant sides. These posts are for the people who ask why I would ever want to go to the DF. They may not be the reasons you would choose the DF for a travel destination, but they are the reasons that I do.

Posted in Mexico, Travel

6 comments on “¿Why visit Mexico City?
  1. marly youmans says:

    Looking forward to your photographs…

  2. Jean Morris says:

    I’ll be following along here. Never been to Mexico City in person, but often through paintings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and novels and articles by writers I love, most recently Valeria Luiselli and Francisco Goldman. Hope you both have a wonderful time on your latest visit.

  3. Steve Tozer says:

    Jonathan, I really like this blog layout. I don’t read many blogs so I’m no expert, but this photo-text layout, together with the scrolling function, make for a really informative and entertaining blog. Jean’s mention of Kahlo and Rivera reminds me of how beautiful Coyoacan is, and how easily you can get there from where you are. There are no royal blue walls quite like those in Coyoacan, and you can visit Trotsky’s grave.

  4. Natalie says:

    Me too, Jonathan, I’m following you!

    • Jonathan Sa'adah says:

      Thank you all. Steve – we are actually planning to visit Trotsky’s grave! Jean – art has and does affect this city. It’s not just Rivera, but the art of many Mexican artists is widely appreciated here, now, and by a lot of people. I remember last year being moved by a large room in the Modern Art Museum which just had cut-out figures lining of living and dead Mexican artists lining the walls. There was a small central area where you could walk, and then 5-6m deep of these two-dimensional black and white photos, as if they were looking at you.
      Marly, rr, and Natalie, thanks for leaving notes.

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How Many Roads? is a book of photographs by Jonathan Sa'adah, available for order, offering an unglossy but deeply human view of the period from 1968 to 1975 in richly detailed, observant images that have poignant resonance with the present. Ninety-one sepia photographs reproduced with an introduction by Teju Cole, essays by Beth Adams, Hoyt Alverson, and Steven Tozer, and a preface by the photographer.
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