Stompin' at the Savoy

Prior to World War II, Mexico's greatest cultural influence came from France rather than the United States. In the early 20th century, many office buildings in the historic center of Mexico City were designed with commercial arcades that cut through the ground floor, an architectural innovation from the 1800s in Paris. Such arcades inspired an unfinished book of some thousand pages by Walter Benjamin, and were part of what inspired him to call Paris "the capital of the 19th century. "

This is one of the few such arcades that still survives downtown, on calle 16 de septiembre #6, almost at the corner of the Eje Central. Its offerings include a men's haberdashery, a cafe and, in the right-hand foreground, a branch of Mazapanes Toledo, which has prepared and sold marzipan candies since 1939.

In the back of the arcade is a movie theatre known as the Cine Savoy, which has been there since 1943. These days it caters to the sort of clientele, exclusively male, that tends to go to the cinema clad in raincoats, regardless of the weather. One of my favorite Mexican writers, J.M. Servín, has a chronicle about his visit to the Savoy in his delightful new book, D.F. Confidencial.