Monday, May 9, 2011

Mexico City Transformed

Something I've been saying for quite a number of years living here in Mexico City...nice to see some recognition from abroad. Transformation doesn't come's been a long series of steps, some large some small.

The Toronto Star writes:

MEXICO CITY—Why can’t Toronto be more like Mexico?

Not the country. The city.

Just a few years ago, the question would have seemed absurd.

After all, Mexico City has long been written off as a hulking urban disaster zone — too big, too violent, too crowded, too dirty.

Don’t even mention the traffic.

The motorized madness can still be horrendous, and the Mexican capital faces many other stubborn problems. But under visionary Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, the most populous city in the Americas has been transforming itself in numerous and surprising ways, most of them jarringly at odds with the place’s recent and mostly dire reputation.

Poverty remains widespread, but the city that goes by the name of Mexico now boasts a host of improvements, including extensive dedicated bike lanes, a highly popular bike-sharing system, much winsome public art, handsome pedestrian malls, enhanced public transit, reduced crime levels, diminished corruption and even improved air quality.

“This is not to say we have turned into Vancouver,” concedes Jorge Fuentes, spokesman for the Mexico City Secretariat for the Environment. “But, each year, the indices get better.”

Meanwhile, the metropolis that began life seven centuries ago as the Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlan has become an oasis of liberalism in a largely conservative land.

“Mexico City has become more tolerant,” says Jorge Carrasco, a reporter for the weekly newsmagazine Proceso. “Everyone goes around as they wish. Everyone dresses as they wish.”

Toronto’s legions of bike-riding “pinkos” — to use Don Cherry’s felicitous epithet — can only look on in envy and, perhaps, despair.

During his five years in office, Ebrard has de-penalized abortion within the capital region — this, in profoundly Catholic Mexico — while also passing laws that legalize same-sex marriage, authorize adoption by gay couples, and permit euthanasia in some circumstances.

Rob Ford would be horrified, of course, but Rob Ford was not singled out this past December as the world’s best mayor by the City Mayors Foundation, an international organization that promotes sound local government.

Ebrard was.

Nor was Rob Ford’s city honoured last year by the Green Index for having a top environmental management plan.

Mexico City was.

Can we possibly be talking about the huge, fuming, cacophonous conglomeration that only a decade ago seemed to be hurtling pell-mell for urban Armageddon, where upwards of 20 million people were shoehorned into a toxic valley haunted by armed thugs, where 3.5 million cars daily befouled the thin highland air, and where almost everybody suffered from chronic bronchitis?

In a word, sí.

It’s the same place, all right — but the place has changed.

Rest of the story at the link above. I'd love to hear your comments if you're in Mexico City, have ever visited, or want to know more.

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