A collection of travel essays exploring Mexico City’s diverse culture.
In his debut, Los Angeles Times “La Plaza” blogger Hernandez provides firsthand accounts of the people and traditions of one of the world’s largest, and most chaotic, cities. “Life in Mexico City,” he writes, “is a contact sport. It might be scary at first, unforgiving, violent, but to really grasp it, you gotta get in, release all inhibitions, all cultural blinders. You have to get down, and play.” The author does just that, partaking in drugs, alcohol, sweat lodges and a religious pilgrimage in an effort to better understand his roots. Born in San Diego to Mexican parents, Hernandez struggled to come to grips with his heritage. When explaining his situation to a stateside Mexico City native, the girl offhandedly replied that Hernandez was “not really Mexican,” spurring him to travel to Mexico to find out for himself. Throughout his journeys, the author recounts a land of unique people, many of whom in the younger generation regularly peg themselves as bandas (a term “[e]voking youth, rock-n-roll, and resistance”) and other self-selecting groupings. Yet beyond these emerging subcultures remains a far older tradition, deeply rooted in religious and spiritual purification. Hernandez attempts to rekindle his spiritual side by taking a pilgrimage to the sight of the Virgen de Guadalupe’s final appearance. After becoming overwhelmed by the fervent crowds, he backed out, disappointedly noting that a “real Mexican…would have seen the pilgrimage all the way through.” In a second attempt at spiritual rejuvenation, the author participated in a temazcal—a makeshift sweat lodge notorious for pushing its inhabitants to their physical limits. Overcome by the heat, a downtrodden Hernandez was forced to exit the lodge prior to the conclusion of the ritual—yet another example of his valiant, though ultimately unsuccessful, attempts at assimilation.
An intimate portrait of a land, its people and its customs.