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A sea of life with some 16 million souls crowds Mexico’s capital.
Photograph by Stuart Franklin
Mexico City Region Map
Click for Mexico City Region map.


Hear author Michael Parfit.
WE FLY TO MEXICO CITY, capital and center of Mexico, and one of the world’s largest metropolises.
      “Even from the air Mexico City looks exuberant,” Parfit said. “You read about it being an incredible disaster area, but it looks like an exuberant disaster area.
      “The place is just packed with people, and all of a sudden you see from the air what looks like a bloom of poinsettias blocking the street . . . and later you find out it’s a market; everybody has a bright red-pink awning for his market stall. People are selling things at every street corner.
      “The sense I had on the ground was that you could probably drive the rest of your life and never get out of town. The sense I had in the air was quite different, because Mexico City has geographic boundaries. It has volcanoes right on the edge of town, big mountain ridges that hem it in.
      “And the smog is really different here. It billows. It’s like the place is smoking, vigorously. In Los Angeles the smog just sits there; in Mexico City they’re cooking it up.
      “You get the sense that this is a city built on a shaky physical location on the planet, and that the city is simmering and burbling. A volcano is erupting over there? Doesn’t really matter. Volcanoes erupt, earthquakes destroy towns, politics go crazy, people are gunned down. This is all normal life for Mexico. And at the same time people are having fiestas in the street and putting up their poinsettia markets. There is a willingness to work and an urgency here that’s a part of the drive that Mexico City represented to me.”

WE LAND in the middle of this urban brew. Click below for photo stories about the urban well-to-do, who also must deal with the economic crunch, about a family of street clowns, or about air pollution.

Mexico City Up Close
Trading Floor
The rewards of a fractured economy remain uneven, but many live very well.
Family Clowns for Survival
The desperation to work, to survive, drives one family into the street as clowns, for pesos.
Rush Hour Traffic
Air Pollution takes a fearsome toll in a city clogged with cars.

Option for Air Pollution story:
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Faster download—Smaller photos

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