I had a short visit to Mexico City on Sunday and Monday and have three distinct impressions. They are not presented in any order of importance. The first picture is of the "angel" on Reforma- which is an important public monument. Next to it is the Sheraton Maria Isabel - which was the scene of riots in the past and next to that is the American embassy. So Reforma is one of the centers of the city - although compared to when I first came to the country - Mexico City now has a lot of centers. So here are three impressions --
#1 - Mexico is enthusiastic - That may be an odd way to describe it but in the last couple of trips to the country in all sorts of places from the Yucatan to Xalapa to Aguascalientes to Mexico City - I have failed to notice the ennui that seems to pervade the American psyche at this point. Mexico did not suffer the kind of economic dump that we did beginning at the end of 2007. The peso has remained in the 12-13:1 range and all over the country there are signs of growing prosperity. The middle class is visible and growing.
That does not mean that Mexico is silly with its enthusiasm. There are real problems. On this trip I only noticed one officer with the face mask described in a post I did from Xalapa. He was in the airport this morning and I wanted to get a picture because both he and his drug sniffing dog were wearing masks. The dog's was more of a muzzle. But for obvious reasons I did not try to take a picture.
I am not a big fan of Mexico City - it is very large and very complex. (I am not generally a fan of big cities.) This time I stayed in the Reforma area (more about that later). I got caught up in the annual Coca Cola Caravan and so my cab driver was unable to drop me at my hotel - which precipitated a walk of some length. But as I walked I saw families coming back from seeing the parade - as with many social events there were all ages coming back fathers, mothers, grandparents all taking a hand in bringing the little ones back.
The hotel I stayed in (Holiday Inn Express) was superb and inexpensive - it had both a good breakfast for free and free internet and it is close to many things including a big shopping mall next door. The shops along the Reforma (I walked to my appointments on Monday) were open and seemingly prosperous. So enthusiasm is one word to describe the spirit. At earlier times I've understood cynicism but that at least for now seems a bit muted.
The second picture is of no particular importance except that it is the desk which I have used at the United Club many times over the last twenty years. At one point I was stuck in the airport for about 20 hours- when a flight was delayed - so this desk is very familiar.
#2 - Mexico is changing - the Mexico City airport is a good example - almost every time I fly through there there is some new wrinkle. On Sunday night I was stuck in the customs line with a young woman who is doing a Deloitte project studying the feasibility of creating an APP for online grocery shopping through Walmart. That would have been unthinkable even five years ago but the internet is becoming ubiquitous. I now spend a lot of time on Skype with colleagues and friends in Mexico. Telmex - keep your damn monopoly - it no longer matters. (Unless of course you want a land line.)
The path from landing through customs seems to take a slightly different path each time I come through the airport. Each time I come to Mexico there are new places where both cellular and internet are more widely available. AT&T has set up a new plan (which is great) to give you 80 minutes of talk time in Mexico for $30. I generally turn off data in Mexico because it can be very expensive but that is no longer a big problem - pop into many shops and there is free wireless.
Last night we went to a VIP theater - which I have described before (good food and drink and premium seating) and saw a recently released movie. While not all of Hollywood's pictures get there - the blockbusters do. Action and Disney are still sure sellers in Mexico. We saw a movie called the Words (which in Spanish was translated into the Secret) which was actually pretty good.
#3 - Mexico has become a partner not a client - when I first came to Mexico I had the distinct impression that many of the US-Mexican relationships were more like clients than partners. I think that is a lot less true. Yesterday, I met with the Secretary-General of an education organization and was impressed at how informed he was about developments in the US and Europe. We talked about several initiatives that he is thinking about with the new government and beyond and he had some interesting perspectives. I also met with an attorney who is working on a big case in another part of the country. He had spent a lot of time thinking about how his case might operate in other countries.