Tuesday, March 16, 2010

David Lida's First Stop in the New World

I read David Lida's First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, The Capital of the 21st Century (2008), which is well worth your time if you have any interest in Mexico.  Lida is a journalist who has lived in Mexico City for quite a few years.  This is not an academic book, but rather a knowledgeable romp through all aspects of the city, from the rich to the poor, good and bad cuisine, crime and safety, high and low art, and of course to politics.  It is like a good non-fiction accompaniment to Paco Ignacio Taibo II (who inexplicably is not mentioned in terms of fiction focusing on Mexico City).

What comes out is a city whose inhabitants are constantly innovating, adapting, and persevering.  It is the ultimate in rational choice theory, such as this commentary on voting:

Most chilangos negotiate their loyalty on a rational basis, measuring where they perceive their greatest interests lie.  In Mexico City, no one votes at the point of a pistol.  You may show up at a rally because someone will give you a sandwich, but that is not a guarantee of your vote if someone else will give you two (p. 318).

The book has many chapters but not much structure, which might just be appropriate because the city itself has millions of people and almost no structure.  Lida provides a sampling of just about everything, so you can even read different chapters that interest you more.


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