We were honored to have the city’s Secretary of Tourism join us at Izote last night with his lovely Argentinian wife. Carlos MacInlay, an animated and very warm man asked me for my notebook–to diagram the impressive history and struggles that this ancient city has gone through to get to where it is now. He drew a map showing the vast area in the north (downtown) where after World War II, thousands of factories opened. Then he pointed out with arrows the migration that occurred that populated the once rural area to the south. Then he began listing what happened in the 80s…it was currency crisis, an 8.5 earthquake, an environmental near-meltdown, governments collapsing, it was if, he said, that Mexico City had gone to the doctor and gotten terrible news. “You’ve gotta do something different!” the doctor declared.
The factories spewing pollution were for the most part relocated or closed. Cars that polluted the most were banned, a series of UNESCO heritage sites were declared (four in the city) and mostly, people woke up and changed. Now there are 13,000 survelliance cameras in the city, there are 12 million tourists a year and today tourism accounts for almost one million jobs. In the areas where I visited it felt safe, shady with overhead trees, and had the delightful intimacy of a small neighborhood. You’re afraid to come HERE? I thought.
I am looking out at the busy Reforma boulevard, usually a moving parking lot, and it is silent but for the passing of bikes and runners. They close it every Sunday until 12. Carlos gave me a treat when he let me borrow his pass to rent an EcoBici, so I’ll cruise these car-free streets after breakfast.
But the minister has more, much more. Medical tourism, for example is a major effort and they are coordinating with US hospitals so they can have the surgery done here and the follow up in the states. Each medical tourist brings in up to $25,000 so it’s a fantastic market. They’re also chasing the LBGT, gastronomy and historic tourism segments. It’s working, the only thing left is for people like me to share this news, and I had fun reading my proposed headline for my story, which gave Carlos a chuckle: Afraid of Mexico: Don’t worry they’re not after you.