I am on a mission here in Mexico City. I’m looking for a cool place to call home (for a little while).
I’ve booked myself into a nice hotel near my target neighborhoods and I’ve given myself a week to find un hogar, so I hit the ground running.
Every time I Google Mexico City, the neighborhood known as Condesa comes up. It’s supposedly the coolest, trendiest, most up-and-coming colonia in the city. Naturally, it’s my first stop.
I hike several blocks from my hotel straight to an area dense with restaurants, cafes, and bars. As I take in the neighborhood, the question I hold in the back of my mind is, “Can I see myself living here?”
My first feeling is surprise. The neighborhood isn’t at all like I expected. It is less bohemian urban vibrancy and more upper-class suburbia. The streets are trimmed with trees, the dogs are of the ankle-biting variety, and there are more apartments and houses than places to hang out.
The residents are surprisingly tall… and white. It seems like a different country from the Mexico I’ve seen thus far.
If I had to compare Condesa to other places I’ve lived, I’d say it’s like Melbourne’s Chapel Street with the pretention of the South Yarra side and a dash of Bogota‘s Parque 93.
My requirements for a neighborhood are maybe a little on the unrealistic side. I want a selection of cool cafes within stumbling distance and a vegetarian restaurant or two nearby. I need somewhere to buy tofu (or at least soy chunks) and a market to pick up fresh fruits and veggies. A few cool artistic spaces and a nice park to people watch in are definite bonuses… and I want to be close to public transportation.
And while Condesa might seem to fit the bill, something is amiss. It lacks the touch of grit that I’ve grown accustomed to in Latin America. Here, there are no homeless people, no trash spilling out into the sidewalks, no gaping potholes… nada.
I am making snap judgments here, seeing as how I’ve only just landed. But if Condesa were a snapshot, it would be of an attractive, pale-skinned 20-something female sitting at an outdoor café, gulping an oversized espresso that matches her oversized sunglasses, a cigarette dangling from her limp wrist with the leash of a Chihuahua grasped in the other. Her boyfriend would be sitting across from her, snug in his vintage suit jacket and skinny jeans, peering behind hipster glasses at his Blackberry.