Sunday, August 20, 2006
A coupla times a week I teach an early class on the eastern side of the city at the Benito Juarez Airport. I usually take the metro out there and I have to be on the train at 6 to get there at 7. I descend into Metro San Antonio at around a quarter to six if I'm making good time on the western side and it's usually a pretty tame affair. At six the Metro is still tolerable in that neighborhood. It's a long trip and I need to transfer 2 times.
By twenty to seven the train shoots out of the ground on the eastern side of Mexico City and on a good day the sun will just be starting to come up, breaking dramatically over the sprawl of Delegation Pantitlan. Sitting right in the middle surrounded by a six lane highway, baffling traffic glorietas, thru-ramps, a water pump station, steaming taco stalls, Tamale hawkers, and a bus plaza for incoming suburban busses, is Metro Pantitlan.
Pantitlan is the terminus of 4 metro lines, and many many suburban Collective busses. The busses are all private, loud, large, and in all manner of shape. Some are relatively new while others belch diesel clouds. The first indication you are getting near the pantitlan area is the acrid, smell of sulphur. In the surrounding crowded neighborhood light industry and people are packed in tight little streets. By the time I reach it, Pantitlan is in full swing with no signs of stopping.
It seems that the entire city of Mexico is trying to squeeze through it's turnstiles. Everything is grey slab concrete. Papers swirl around in the bus plaza below the platforms as busses, hundreds of busses with names like "Pepe, 'Lucia", and "El Perdido" make thier way through the unorganized lanes. Out on the streets a endless river of trucks, busses and cars are slowly trawling by honking incessantly. Some honk in rhythm others use special "General Lee" styles of musical horns. In places of mass transit there is always an Ad-hoc establishment of food stalls and other market items like cellphones for sale called "Tiangis". Down in the bus plaza a woman is making tortillas, tacos, and quesadillas, while her husband sells fresh squeezed OJ. Dogs abound. There are dogs in the plaza, doggies on the platforms, dogs in the street and a special black doggie that I've named "el pancito" who always wanders in the same place on an overpass stairway I go through.
When I first set my eyes on Pantitlan I realized that here is the Real Mexico City. While the fountains and plazas of Coyoacan and La Condessa are much more attractive and pleasant to actually be in, Pantitlan Station is where all the other millions of Mexicans who're priced out of the downtown real estate index come into the city at 7 in the morning to work. Horse carts sometimes clop along with the traffic and men with cardboard boxes full of plastic cell phone holsters await the next train to the Zocalo. Mexico City has many such "nodes" where people transfer from the State of Mexico to urban transit in the city. Of course there isnt any visible line where the city ends and the outskirts begin. It all seems to be one solid flat slab of humanity. A slab that I am soon to leave after nearly 2 years.
But it will always be here as has been the truth for thousands of years. And I look forward to coming back soon.