Published July 2001
Hi -- I wanted to send you a little something you might like for your website, to add to the Mexico City, Is it safe article. I am a writer based in New York. Thanks!
A friend and I recently returned from one of the most wonderful weeks of travel ever, immersing ourselves (between the work I was there to do) in the beautiful mess that is the DF. Being a New Yorker, I'd like to consider myself fairly in touch with what makes a situation safe or unsafe -- we moved throughout the metropolis via pesero, metro, on foot and by radio taxi unmolested, met the nicest people, fell in love with the sophistication and class of this wonderful town.
The most frustrating points of my trip were dealing with contacts in the city, which happened to be in public relations and tourism. All insisted that walking alone was unsafe, that taking the subway was not wise, and leaving the hotel after dark was inadvisable. (We stayed at the Camino Real, perfectly located). One time, I met someone I knew at the Chapultepec Metro -- she was very concerned that I was out alone, at 11 am on a weekday. It was really unfortunate, the level of paranoia. And this from people whose job is to promote the city!
I'm not one to ignore the advice of locals, but this time, I simply did not feel as if there was any reason to listen, based all our first hand experience. They told us not to go to Coyoacan on a sunday because of pickpockets (if we had listened, we would have missed out on one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in North America, and one of the most exciting experiences of our entire trip).
The dumbest thing we did was take a radio cab to the Gran Hotel on the Zocalo at midnight, hoping to get into the rooftop bar at the neighboring Majestic -- it was closed for a private party. So we walked (once again, unmolested) through the heart of the historic area to the original Sanborn's. The nightclubs on the cross streets were crowded with yuppies, well-dressed types mingled with mariachi men walking from the Plaza Garibaldi -- I wish the street we were on had been a little busier, and I wouldn't advise midnight strolls from the Zocalo to the Alameda, but the point is, it wasn't that bad.
The worst thing about Mexico City (besides the air) were the foreigners, easily identifiable by their safari gear, backpacks and outstretched arms holding Lonely Planet guides up to the light.
What an insulting way to behave: If you did that in Paris, London or New York, you'd look stupid, right? Paris, London and New York are not the jungle. Well, neither is Mexico City, and for God's sake, dress appropriately. I couldn't believe it. Saw one right in front of the Four Seasons, for crying out loud!
If people want to email me, I'm happy to answer questions. I'm planning a return trip in late September, and I can't wait. Safe travels!
david landsel, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: An important note -- the mexican press recently released a report from whomever's job it is to report crime stats in the DF, that overall crime was down 30 percent in the city. That's good news! (Saw that in the Mexico City News, mid June, 2001).
David Landsel flew on one airplane too many as a travel writer for the New York Post, before deciding to take a break. He's currently psyching himself up for a Brooklyn to Los Angeles move.