One of the world’s biggest cities is bursting at the seams with energy, culture, great food and enough surreality to keep it endlessly fascinating
Author Joe Keohane Photography Holly Wilmeth
MEXICO CITY, a.k.a. “El Monstruo.” The French poet André Breton called it the most surreal place on earth, while writer Salvador Novo said you don’t live in Mexico City, you merely practice it. For generations, writers, wanderers and musicians have flocked here from around the world, drawn by the city’s mad improvisational energy and deep culture, its freewheeling lifestyle and seeming lack of any organizing principle.
Formerly Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, Mexico City still suffers from a reputation earned in the later years of the past century, but the city known by the roughly 20 million residents in its metro area as “D.F.,” for Distrito Federal (akin to D.C. in the U.S.), is booming. Real estate prices are rising; the film, publishing and music industries are among the strongest in the Spanish-speaking world; and a new mayoral administration has launched a slew of programs to cut smog, improve mass transit and enhance public safety, making it easier to enjoy the city’s 160 world-class museums, countless acres of beautiful parks and some of the best food going.
An endlessly surprising, utterly fascinating mix of the sublime and the surreal, D.F. is beloved by its people, known as Chilangos. Come here and they’ll squander no opportunity to tell you about it, argue about it, sing its praises. And here’s the thing: After a few days, you will too.