Some people in Mexico City – mostly European immigrants – from time to time twist their mouths into a Gallic moue and complain about how this place has become agringada – “gringofied,” or Americanized. Without a doubt, in well to do neighborhoods Starbucks has become ubiquitous, and Wal Mart Mexico is now the largest private employee in the country. There are also the predictable outposts of McDonald’s, Burger King, and most omnipresently, KFC. In ritzy areas, shopping malls, of the mega and strip variety, are becoming ever-present.
However, despite these perhaps inevitable indicators of “progress,” Mexico City remains an emphatically Mexican city. Each evening, an hour or two after sunset, I hear a shrill steam whistle that tips me off that a vendor of baked sweet potatoes is passing by. He will sell them plain (the way I like them), or dress them with condensed milk, sugar and/or honey. Another whistle lets me know that the knife sharpener is on the block. The gas man cries out when he passes by, as does the guy who repairs curtains and the other who buys old newspapers. This is the way business was transacted centuries ago, and has nothing to do with the contemporary U.S. I wonder where the Europeans are when all these guys appear.