Barrios Bravos: Greater Tepito

It has been just over one week since my last blog post. That one, about my decision to leave Mexico City, was my most-read post since I’ve been doing this blog. Judging by the number of views, likes, and comments, it caught many of you by surprise. To borrow an old expression, I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest this past month, and these final days will offer no respite.

That said, I plan to continue this blog, more or less in its current form. I still have a thousand other stories to tell. With the “end” in sight, memories of my time here have come flooding into my mind, most of them good, not bad.

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Mexico City has its share of bad neighborhoods. It seems that every delegación (borough) has at least one. Cinder block houses, corrugated sheet metal roofs, stray dogs, reggaetón music blasting at all hours of the day or night….Often, these “barrios bravos” (“tough” or “brave” neighborhoods) are located along Periférico, the ring road that circles the city and is a proper high-speed highway for much of its length. Other times, they descend steeply down into canyons. Green city buses that ply the adjacent streets are subject to frequent robberies. Sometimes, police are afraid to enter. Many times, all that separates one of these barrios bravos from an upscale, gated community is a busy street.

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At a Crossroads

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. As I “celebrate” eight months as a Mexican resident and six months as an English teacher, I also ponder a darker reality – I don’t know if I’m gonna make it down here.

I was mugged on Friday. At gunpoint, and literally just steps from my front door. It was a long day – three classes spread throughout the morning and afternoon, a trip to the mall to buy myself a new suit – much-needed, as six months of commuting by Mexico City public transport can really put your wardrobe through the ringer – and an early evening showing of “The Hangover Part 3.” I was in the mood for a laugh and the movie mostly fit the bill – especially the mid-credits “coda.”

It was 9:30 pm when it happened. There were still a good number of people out-and-about in my middle-class neighborhood of Letran Valle. The neighborhood Oxxo (mini-mart) had its usual long line of TGIF celebrants buying beer; the nearby taquería was bustling. My street, lined with trees and a mix of single-family and apartment-style dwellings, is just four blocks down from the Oxxo, and it was perfectly quiet that night. Too quiet, as it turned out.

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Seriously, What’s the Problem?

I read a terrific CNN blog entry Wednesday about America’s (and the world’s, but mostly America’s) misconceptions about Mexico, their muyyy complicated neighbor to the south. The link is below:

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/27/mexicos-misconceptions/

I wanted to digest the article for a day or two before offering my own opinion. I encourage you to read it yourself. It is insightful and generally accurate, although I partially disagree with one of author Ravi Agrawal’s major points. He comments that the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China should make way for four other, less-respected, faster-rising countries: Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, and South Korea. A well-intended observation, but he’s being too generous with some of the aforementioned countries – and not generous enough with others.

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