Mexico City's Cultural History

BY Dimitri Voulg

Mexico City's Cultural History
Photo by The Pack


Colonised, and neo-colonised

Though recently “discovered” by young remote workers during the pandemic, Mexico City has always attracted people from all over the world who are looking for a fresh start and interested in its cultural richness.

CDMX comes with heavy colonisation baggage. The city was built by Spaniards in the 1500s on top of what once was – according to historians – one of the most fascinating, sustainable and technological cities of its time, the prior Mexico-Tenochtitlan. What we now call Mexico City (or CDMX), has always welcomed visitors and migrants with open arms, coming from all corners of the globe in different moments of history. During the beginning of the 20th century, people escaping facism from Spain, Germany, Austria, Lebanon, Turkey or Syria, as well as jews from Europe and the Middle East, relocated to the city; influencing its DNA and contributing to its cultural richness, as well as prompting neo-colonialism.

From Kahlo to Trotsky and Carrington; bohemians, aristocrats, communists, artists and refugees have all found a home in the city. During the mid-20th century, the South in particular offered intellectuals and foreigners a fertile environment for their art and ideas.

By the end of the 20th century, the once prosperous – now coveted again – downtown area struggled with abandonment, deterioration, and squatting, in the wake of rent freeze programs and the devastating earthquake. Slowly, by the 2000s, young artists, creatives, and migrants – especially from South America and Mediterranean Europe– had established themselves in the area, sparking its regeneration.

With a fast-growing cultural scene, from contemporary art to underground parties, people dubbed CMDX “the new Berlin”, a comparison made popular by some Vice article...Partly curious, partly offended and partly flattered, locals scoffed at this idea without knowing how much this feeling would intensify as the city became more attractive to foreigners due to the Covid pandemic. In 2020 – with no government subsidies, and more than half its population living hand-to-mouth – the city couldn’t afford the luxury of completely shutting down for an entire year. It was this need, combined with its anarchic and resilient personality, that led the city to be one of the few “open” during this time. This along with its accessible prices, skillful gastronomy, and the illusion of a narcotic paradise, made CDMX a favourite for digital nomads, hipsters, and “enlightened souls”.