When we left the airplane after landing in Mexico, we filed through the expected lines, turned in our forms, and had our passports inspected as always.
I always feel a moment of suspense when I go through Mexican customs because they have all passengers press a button on a post. If you get a green light, there’s no problem but if you get a red light, you have to expect that you will be getting a thorough inspection by the airport guards. It seems infinitely more just than the US airports where if you look at one of the guards wrong or maybe if you have darker skin and dark hair, you usually get a more careful inspection.
One of the things that always amaze me is the number of people in the airport. This airport is always packed with travelers, families, friends, people wanting to sell things, people cleaning, and people standing in lines for one reason or another. It’s truly surprising the number of people that this airport processes at all hours of the day and they are here in the thousands.
We had decided this time to take the metro. While the metro station is very near the airport, it wasn’t entirely clear where its entrance was located. We left the beautiful interior hallway that runs the length of the front of the airport for the sidewalk. This was our choice. I wanted to smell the air and physically just feel the city. There were a lot of taxi drivers along the front of the airport. Most smiling and waving us in their direction or trying to convince us to take a ride with them.
When we reached the end of the walkway, we asked directions again to the metro station. There’s so much new construction in this airport that each time we arrive, it looks different, bigger, and it’s changed just enough that you don’t quite recognize where you were before. Anyway, one gentleman that we asked pointed us in the direction saying, “Direcho! Direcho! Just follow the smell.” I thought it was a strange comment but quickly discovered why. There was a pile of compost near the entrance of the metro that was intended for new gardens that were going in.
Once we descended into the Metro, the smell of the compost went away to be quickly replaced by the smell of people and a feeling of closeness and humidity. We had yet to find which metro line would take us to find our eventual stop, Sevilla. While we were looking at the metro map on the wall, another passerby offered to help. One look at me and he offered to speak in English but Mario quickly convinced him that Spanish was fine. He gave us directions that were helpful and concluded by telling us that Mario spoke really good Spanish. Mario had lived in Mexico City for 20 years. We were amused by the comment but at the same time recognized it as this stranger’s attempt to complement some foreigners and make them feel welcomed.
We were still a little confused but a kind lady recognizing our confusion allowed us to walk with her for a moment and then once again pointed us in the right direction. By the time we had descended to the level of the train, it was feeling hot which was a big contrast from the cool temperature we had first felt in leaving the airport. The bright orange cars of the train soon pulled up and we got in.
One of the first things I noticed was that the trains are all electric. The second thing I observed was that the metro’s trains all have tires. The ride of the cars was pretty nice because of this. After entering the car, I noticed that most of the people in the car were looking at me. It took me a moment to realize why. I was a light skinned, tall, blue-eyed person while everyone around me was dark skinned and dark haired. I was a little bit out of the normal for a subway rider. The stares didn’t bother me too much but It was an odd sensation. I had the thought that maybe this is what being latino might feel like in the U.S. while walking around in my home state of Vermont. It seemed fair to me that roles might be reversed.
The next thing that happened was perhaps the most amazing thing about the metros in Mexico City. A man in his thirties came down the car with a speaker attached to his back. It was blaring music. He was selling DVDs that he or someone else had copied. He was shouting over his music that there were 120 songs on his DVD for just 10 pesos — something like $1.00 US. After he was done, then came a lady in her twenties with a DVD/Video player on her back, music also blaring, she was selling videos for children which she had also copied from some source and was selling for 10 pesos. Then came two little boys. They looked less than 8 years old. They were singing at the top of their lungs, totally out of tune, and asking for money. Finally came an indigenous lady, who looked very old. She was singing a beautiful song and offering chiclets for sale. The vendors timed their entry into the metro car so that each one started shortly after the other had finished. It was almost like a barrage of advertisements on television. People, at least the vendors, respected each other on the subway. This routine repeated itself until we reached our stop.
During the routines of the peddlers selling their wares, I observed the lady sitting across from me. She was carefully applying her makeup. I was amazed after all the jostling from the train’s slowing and stopping that she was able to accomplish her task. She was going through her whole routine of applying makeup to her eye-lashes, eye-brows, and on her lips and face. I thought it a little bizarre to see this in the subway until I noticed another lady torturing her eyelashes with an eyelash curling device. She was working very diligently to make her lashes curl. The trouble was they seemed to spring back into their original position almost as soon as she released her device. I was watching her with amazement. I’ve never seen such torturous work on a subway before. OK… I decided, so this is a cultural phenomena. It must be normal for Mexicans to apply makeup during their subway ride. Later, I was told that people sometimes spend hours traveling from their home to their place of work. So… this behavior made sense for those people who didn’t finish their morning routine before leaving the house.
We finally arrived to La Sevilla, the stop which was our destination. We climbed up the stairs and soon were in the outdoors.
It was a relief to be out of the noise of the Metro vendors and back into the cooler air and sunshine. “Yeah, ” I thought. “This is going to be a great trip.”
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