In preparation for my upcoming move to the beautiful, crazy, smoggy, misunderstood capital of Mexico, I began reading this book a few months ago:
It was a spur-of-the-moment Amazon purchase that I do not regret making (unlike the rain jacket I picked up today at the airport on a whim). David Lida, the author and a prolific journalist who has lived in DF on and off for about three decades now, assembled this book from various pieces he has written over the years, interwoven with new content. Although it’s now 8 years old, the book still offers an interesting perspective on Mexico City’s goings-on.
I find some chapters to be quite funny, particularly those about cultural idiosyncrasies; others make me nervously bite my lip. Most recently, I finished a chapter called “Who’s Afraid of Mexico City?” in which Lida describes the infamous crime problem DF faces. I felt comforted (perhaps a poor choice of words?) by many of the comparative statistics– for instance, that in terms of car theft and homicide, Washington, DC actually has higher rates of occurrence. But what bothered me most were two main issues: 1) how deeply ingrained with corruption the police and (in)justice systems are, and 2) the overall sense, even among chilangos, of uneasiness and concerns about safety in everyday life. These issues merit more than just a blog post, so I won’t attempt to tackle them at length here.
Now, as I mentioned, this book was published close to a decade ago– some things have changed, some haven’t. All major cities are afflicted by crime, particularly those with a wealth disparity between the haves and the have-nots as vast as DF’s. (Rather, CDMX’s: the city has undergone a massive rebranding since it became an autonomous city rather than a federal district in January of this year.) But, as any tourist handbook will tell you, there are plenty of precautions one can take to avoid living in constant fear.
Certainly, Lida didn’t write this chapter/book to scare anyone away from his beloved city. Instead, he aimed to present a more accurate account of what the crime is really like, and to combat the way in which the media sensationalize it.
The take-away here is this: not to live in fear, but to live cautiously, remembering that that newspapers and TV networks profit from covering juicy crime stories. Oh, and that this book is definitely worth your while.
My task now is to go forth and explore the Ciudad de México to find out for myself what David Lida is talking about.