It was one of those unforgettably painful moments – staring, horrified, at a deserted departure gate instead of calmly boarding the Air France flight from Paris to Mexico. Your heart sinks and fury joins an already high dose of adrenalin pumped up by tearing through the airport. Together with three other hapless passengers I had somehow gone off-track at Roissy (CDG), or rather Roissy had lost us between airport buses, fire-engines blocking the way, corridors leading nowhere, a woeful infrastructure and generally unhelpful terminal staff. Roll on the new terminals, still under construction, because in the meantime I don´t recommend the airport to anyone.
So, after heated argument with the airline which actually ended quite amicably, we ended up in a nondescript airport hotel (reached by another bus) where we settled into the bar with the help of Alain, a genial barman. Outside it rained, in sympathy with us it seemed. Gradually our sorrows were drowned and early next morning I was back at Terminal 2, slightly dazed.
That wasn´t the best start to my two-week trip to Mexico to develop the food book I´m working on. But all was well 12 hours or so later when I landed back in the energy of Mexico City to join the photographer (who had actually caught the flight). It´s an extraordinarily unpredictable yet completely seductive city which I´ve visited on and off for about 15 years. The highs and lows fight for front seat but somehow, whatever happens (which for me included quite a serious taxi-mugging at knife-point 10 years ago), you´re completely won over by the people. Humanity is great here.
And then there´s their audacity. A demonstration we witnessed a few days ago was led by a crowd of completely naked women and men in boxer-shorts and cowboy-hats wending their way through the traffic on the main axis of Reforma. As usual they were demanding land rights – an issue that goes back to the Revolution (that’s nearly a century) but is still unresolved in some rural areas. That too was what the Zapatistas were all about back in the mid-1990s. Will it ever change? Maybe one day, if corruption is eradicated from the hgher echelons of society.
Today I´m in Morelia, sitting in a cyber-caff with rock n roll thumping out of a speaker beside me, girls´ satin party dresses displayed out front (because everyone here tries to double their income) and explosions coming from the main square outside. Fireworks and brass-bands are par for the course in Mexico – plus church bells which this morning started at 5.30… In between the cyber-cafe and the square are magnificent 17th century stone arcades animated by a flow of students from Morelia´s university round the corner. Then there’s the street-food just down the street… but I’ll stop there.
Yet again, you can´t beat that incredible mix of dynamism, history and big hearts.