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LatAm in Focus: Francisco Goldman on Chronicling Mexico City

Angel de Independencia en la Ciudad de México

Cars drive past the Angel of Independence monument. (AP)

June 06, 2017

Award-winning author Francisco Goldman spent nearly two decades living off and on in Mexico City when he decided to take on a daunting task: learning to drive a stick shift in the biggest megalopolis in the Americas. Sure, he knew how to drive, but it was a whole different matter to do so in Mexico’s capital, which he describes in his book The Interior Circuit as having “octopus intersections and roundabouts like wide Demolition Derby arenas.”

In a conversation at Americas Society with poet Mónica de la Torre—a senior editor of BOMB magazine who’s also from Mexico City—Goldman explains how his driving adventure started in 2012, five years after the death of his wife Aura Estrada. Using the Guía Roji, an atlas for Mexico City’s chaotic streets, Goldman dives into a driver’s game of chance, relearning the city as he emerges from a long, intense grief.

But the discussion with de la Torre starts even farther back in time, with Goldman remembering his first impressions of Mexico City when he was covering Central America’s civil conflicts. “It just seemed to me like every street was a circus,” says the Guatemalan-American writer, who describes his feelings for the city as being like “falling in love with the girl next door.”

It just seemed to me like every street was a circus.

His memoir, like the conversation, wends its way through more recent realities for the capital, covering corruption and narco-politics, the #YoSoy132 student movement, the murder of youths kidnapped from a nightclub in the Zona Rosa neighborhood, and the sprawling black market of Tepito.

“One of the things I love about Mexico City is the energy of it…Everybody lives on the edge, everybody’s hustling, everybody’s trying to find a way to get by, everybody’s doing it with such zest,” says Goldman. “Tepito is where that’s most concentrated. Tepito is the place where everything is for sale, where anything can be bought.”

This event was held in conjunction with the Americas Society Visual Arts exhibition Erick Meyenberg: The wheel bears no resemblance to the leg. On display through July 22, 2017, it chronicles the making of a multilayered project by Mexican artist Erick Meyenberg who worked for two years with a local high school marching band in Mexico City.