Is Mexico City Safe? A Local’s Perspective

Mexico City Safe

It might have been built on top of  dry lake in a highly seismic area. Yes, it might be next to an active volcano. And yes, media outlets might often report on whether it’s overall safe or not … but Mexico City is still an economic, cultural, and culinary hub. So, is Mexico City safe? Let’s talk about it from the perspective of a local.

The Basics

Mexico City is Mexico’s capital. According to the Mexican government’s last official figures, its population is 8.9 people. If we take into account its whole metropolitan area, the population goes up to around 21 million people. The city itself is located in a valley at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level. 

Researchers believe that a tribe named the “Aztecst” funded Mexico City under the name “Tenochtitlan” in the 1300s. The city was initially built over a lake. There, the Aztecs developed a hydraulic infrastructure with dams, canals, and the so-called “chinampas” (i.e. a type of floating gardens that provided early inhabitants with food). They also managed to control the lake’s water levels to gain land; all while having a careful co-existence with the lake. When the Spanish arrived and started colonizing in the 1500s, they carried out a series of efforts to reduce water levels in the lake. It completely dried up by the 18th century. After colonization, Mexico City suffered a series of changes including the construction of buildings that served as political, religious, and economic houses.  

Mexico City Safe
Panoramic view of Mexico City

Today Mexico City is probably Mexico’s most cosmopolitan and liberal thinking city. It is one of the few places in the country to allow abortion, some forms of euthanasia, and same-sex marriage. At the same time, it houses over 150 museums, the country’s Stock Exchange, hundreds of multinational companies offices, a park larger than New York City’s Central Park, along with hundreds of culinary, and touristic attractions. 

Where to stay safe in Mexico City?

Going back to the initial question… Is Mexico City safe? Well, it probably depends on the place you’re at. The city is divided in 16 municipalities (formerly boroughs). At the same time, the municipalities are divided into over 200 “colonias” (neighborhoods). Some neighborhoods are safer than others. 

Mexico City Safe
Aerial shoot of Polanco neighborhood

The modern and more wealthy areas of the city are usually safer. For instance, neighborhoods including Roma, Condesa, Juárez, and Polanco are full with restaurants and bars. They are safe to visit during daytime and nighttime. Other areas are a bit more tricky. For instance, if we talk about the “Centro Histórico” (i.e. Historical Center), there’s areas that are very tourist-friendly during the daytime, but that is probably better not to visit at night. Furthermore, wandering around Centro Histórico can easily lead to ending up in neighborhoods such as La Merced, which are better to avoid. There are also areas that are an absolute no-no. These include Tepito, La Colonia Doctores, Iztapalapa, and the bordering municipalities of Naucalpan and Ciudad Neza (which are both in the neighboring State of Mexico).

How to stay safe in Mexico City?

Mexico City has similar crime leves to those in American cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State has no restrictions on their employees traveling to the city. They, however, do recommend to “Exercise Increased Caution”. At the end of the day, Mexico City is a megapolis. It’s good to exercise the level of cautious you’d exercise in any other big city. Here’s some risks tourists might encounter and my advice (again, as a local) on how to tackle them.

Is Theft an Issue?

Mexico City Safe
It’s important to be specially careful in crowded areas of Mexico City.

Theft and pickpocketing are common issues in Mexico City. This means having your personal items as close to your body as possible is the best bet. Cross-body bags with zippers are a good option (and, as a local, whenever I go to places with big crowds, like festivals or the underground, I tend to tie a jacket around the bag as well… just in case).

It is also imperative to be careful with your cash. It’s probably better not to carry around all the cash you have for the trip with you every single day and to keep the cash you’re carrying in different locations (e.g. your bag and front pocket). When it comes to ATMs, it’s safer to use those inside malls and shops and to try to always withdraw money during daytime and be discrete while doing so. Lastly, it’s better not to walk around with expensive jewelry or watches (i.e. don’t flash the bling) and to keep any electronics inside your bag. If for some reason you end up getting robbed at gunpoint, it’s better to let the robber take the things they want. It might be frustrating, but it’s not worth risking your personal safety for any objects.

What About Petty Scams?

Just as other touristic destinations, Mexico City is not exempt of street scams. Some common ones include a person approaching you and saying they had some sort of issue and asking to make a call with your phone… right before running away with it. Others have to do with fake tickets outside entertainment events and fake bills. It’s always good to buy any sort of ticket from a reputable source and check your change. Lastly, always stay way from people doing “magic tricks” or asking you to sign petitions.

Are Water and Food Safe for Consumption?

Mexico City Safe
Street food stall in Mexico City

Even though traditional Mexican cuisine is an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and Mexico City offers hundreds of reputable places to eat, it’s always good to take some safety measures. First and foremost, please don’t drink water straight from the tap. Even though the city does use purifying water plants, water still travels through old pipelines that may contain metals and bacteria. Either filtered or bottled water are the safest options. If you’re staying at an AirBnB, for instance, you could get a 20-liter reusable bottle to drink throughout your stay. Well-stablished restaurants do serve clean, drinkable water, so that shouldn’t be a concern. Water and ice offered in street stalls, on the other hand should better be avoided.

Food poisoning might also be an issue and could happen even at well stablished restaurants (as in any other city). When it comes to streets stalls, it’s probably wise to always go to those with large amounts of locals eating. If the place is popular, the food is probably good quality (and affordable). As a tip, take a look at the way food is cooked anyway.

Lastly, when it comes to alcoholic drinks, always watch what was put in your cup. If you’ve ordered anything bottled, make sure the bar tender or waiter opened it right in front or your eyes. 

How to get around? What’s the safest transportation?

Mexico City Safe
Mexico City’s Underground

I’ll go straight to the point here. Getting around Mexico City can be chaotic. “Chilangos” (the nickname Mexico City residents have) are reckless when it comes to driving. Traffic is insane and public transport is heavily crowded and not always that safe, so watch out. If you decide to drive, be highly cautious, specially at crossings, intersections, and red lights. Also try to keep the car’s windows shut and doors locked, since robberies might indeed happen in certain areas.

If you decide to use public transportation, I’d recommend the underground at non-rush hours since it’s the fastest and cheapest way of moving around the city. Be aware though, that during rush hours it is highly crowded and pickpocketing is common. If you’re a female, you can benefit from the “Women Only” carriage. There is also a bus rapid transit system with 7 routes and a huge number of buses and minivans around the city. I wouldn’t recommend any of these though, due to the high number of both, pickpocketing and armed robberies in these means of transportation.

Another option to move around the city are taxis and private cars. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure it is from an official taxi base and that it is white and pink and has the letters “CDMX” printed on it. Try not to stop taxis in the street and either phone or walk to a taxi base instead.

There’s a phenomenon called “Express Kidnappings” .which consists on (usually fake) taxis temporarily abducting the passenger and forcing them to withdraw money from an ATM. The chances of experiencing an express kidnapping is slim, but still present and another danger of taxis is the driver trying to charge the passenger more than they should. This kind of incidents can be avoided by using Ubers, Cabifys, or another service named “Didi”, which are all very affordable in Mexico City if you compare them to prices in some American or European cities.

Should You Worry About Natural Disasters and the Environment?

Smog in metropoltan area
Smog in Mexico City

Devastating earthquakes have hit Mexico City in the last 100 years. The most recent one being on September 19th, 2017. Mexico City is in constant danger of suffering another earthquake, but so is, for instance California. If you’d like to have more peace of mind while visiting, you can always download an app such as SkyAlert, which sends out a warning before the earthquake hits, giving you time to react. The city also has a system of speakers connected to the National Seismological System. These speakers also alert people before quakes. It’s also good to know the safest areas inside a building and emergency exits, again, just in case.

Mexico City is also famous for its high levels of air pollution. The government has taken different measurements to reduce these levels since the 1990s. However, smog is still visible in the city several days a month. According to The Guardian, in 2016, the levels of air pollution in Mexico City were twice as high as the WHO recommends. Nevertheless, the city’s air pollution is sill comparable to that in Sao Paulo, Paris, Prague, and Brussels.

Other general tips to remain safe in Mexico City include trying to learn a bit of Spanish to make it easier to move around, trying to blend in as much as possible, carrying around copies of any important documents (i.e. passport) with you. Which, in my opinion, are tips you should follow regardless of where you travel. 

Paseo de la Reforma
Paseo de la Reforma, an important touristic spot.

My conclusion?

So in conclusion, is Mexico City safe? Well, most of the risks involved with visiting Mexico City are also involved with visiting any other megapolis. As long as you’re always aware, and avoid any dodgy areas, nothing should stop you from having a great time!

If you want to read more about culture, go here!

Millennial Humor: Sad and Bizarre

Millennial humor

A mix of circumstances has made, us millennials, uncertain, sad, and anxious about our current state and future. But that, somehow, also gave us a rather odd humor. A humor so dark and bizarre that only generations living after pretty bad events in history, such as World War I have had. Let’s see who even are millennials; what hurt us so bad; other generations with a weird humor; the pillars of millennial humor; memes; and how brands are exploiting all of this.

Who are millennials? What affects our sense of humor?

Millennials are the generation that was born between 1980 and 2000. We are the first “digital native” generation. In addition, we saw the birth of iPods, iPhones, and social media networks. We lived through the “Disney Decade” and watched MTV in the 1990s and early 2000s. Globalization is a normal (and integral) part of our lives.

At the same time, though, we’re much more hopeless and uncertain about the future than the generation before us. Although we grew up with Disney and MTV, we also witnessed 9/11. We saw the very first iPhone launch, but also underwent the 2008 financial crisis. We’re more politically and religiously dissatisfied than young adults were 25 years ago. American millennials have at least 300% more student debt than their parents but are half as likely to ever own a house. Oh, and to add to the uncertainty, climate change, an issue we partially inherited from previous generations will be pretty much irreversible by 2040 (so, cheers for that, Boomers).   

Our way of seeing the world and sense of humor are the product of all the aforementioned circumstances. We are fearful, disillusioned, and anxious. And instead of searching for meaning or certainty, we tend to play and joke with our rather miserable emotions.

Dadaism and Absurdist Humor. How do they relate to millennials?

We are certainly not the first generation that uses humor to deal with uncertainty and an overwhelming political, social, and economic climate. After World War I, a group of European leftists started rejecting the conventional notions of art and exchanged the aestheticism of warmongering for absurdity and irrationality. This movement was called Dadaism. It served as an attempt to express people’s frustration regarding the world after the war.

Millennial humor - dadaism
Book cover for Dadaismus, by Dietmar Elger, featuring “L.H.O.O.Q.”, a piece of art by Marcel Duchamp. “L.H.O.O.Q.” is a clear expression of Dadaism.

Interestingly enough, another movement, called Neo-Dadaism was born after the Cold War. Neo-Dadaism was a response to the consumer culture and mass media of the 1950s and 1960s. It used non-traditional audiovisual manifestations and popular imagery with an absurdist contrast to both mock and celebrate consumer culture. 

Millennials still use absurdist humor to express how disillusioned we are when it comes to the state of the world. Absurdist millennial humor is primarily shared on the internet, which allows interactivity on different platforms and collaboration amongst different users. This can include the creation and sharing of bizarre, ironic, or obscure memes (we’ll get into that later in the article).

The “Pillars” of Millennial Sense of Humor

Marla Tabaka, from inc.com, brilliantly summarized three characteristics that could be seen as integral parts of the millennial sense of humor. These are: 

  • Absurdity: The kind of stuff millennials find funny might seem completely senseless to other generations. As previously mentioned, we enjoy absurdist humor because of the escapism and freedom of expression regarding frustration it helps us achieve. What we share and create online might be bizarre and ridiculous, but it’s not as bad as real life.   
  • Universality: According to Tabaka’s conclusions, people can look at a specific picture or expression in a meme and immediately understand and relate to what the author is trying to express. She also says this creates a sense of community amongst the “meme-viewers”, even if they do not personally know each other. We enjoy relating to other people’s lives, even if we have never met the other people.
  • Self-deprecation: According to the author, we have embraced self-deprecation because it helps us to relate with the people we’re interacting with. Self-deprecation is also usually communicated using memes. 
Millennial humor
Meme featuring absurd, universal, and self-depreciating features.

Tabaka uses the following example to show the three “pillars”: a meme showing two photos of Gollum, from Lord of the Rings. One is a “normal” Gollum, and the other one shows Gollum with eyeliner and red lipstick. Above the photo there is a text saying “When bae asks for a pic at 2am but you already took your makeup off and then you remember that one app you got”. She states the whole thing is absurd because we do not look like Gollum. It’s universal because most of us want to look good. Lastly, it is self-depreciating because of the implication we look like Gollum in the first place.

Here’s yet another example:

Memes, lol

Millennials are very used to the internet and most of our “culture” comes from it. The internet’s ability to nurture collaboration makes it the perfect place for displaying our sense of humor and the maximum expression of our sense of humor online are memes.

A meme, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations”. The concept of internet memes first started to become popular in the 1990s. However, an article published by the BBC states that it wasn’t until the mid 2000s (2007/2008, to be more specific) that memes started portraying the reality and frustration millennials deal with. The mid 2000s were key because of the 2008 financial crisis. Memes became an outlet for millennials to express their insecurities during the time. They allowed users to share their thoughts and worries with others and get a response almost immediately. Before this, memes mainly consisted of puns and images of cute animals (i.e. cats).

Here’s some examples of those thoughts and worries (all in the form of tweets):

https://twitter.com/vitqls/status/1103890693171212288
https://twitter.com/hoegenic/status/1101211185427480577

Exploiting the millennial sense of humor

Interestingly, and perhaps also obviously, marketers are now targeting millennials, the current largest consumer group in the US, with humor (and thus memes)… after all, if they want millennials to listen and establish relationships with them, they’ll have to speak their language. An example is Wendy’s (the fast food chain) on Twitter, which has become famous for its savage tweets and on-point jokes:

When done correctly, using memes in advertising can be very effective. Advertisers need to be aware of the latest trends and should always avoid being too “over-promotional”. In addition, any content must be actually be funny and advertisers must always make sure they fully understand the meaning of any given meme. 

In addition to advertising, companies have started exploiting the millennial humor  in some less expected ways. An example is FuckJerry/Jerry Media. FuckJerry is an Instagram account that managed to grow into a production and marketing company named Jerry Media (they’ve been involved in a scandals including  Fyre Festival, but that’s another story). The company released a card game called “What do you meme?”. 

The game basically consists of a set of graphic cards with a popular meme each, and a deck of cards with some sort of phrase (i.e. caption cards). People then take turns to become the round’s judge. The judge places the graphic card in a small easel. Then, the rest of the players choose the caption card that they think better fits or complements the chosen meme. The judge then chooses the funniest card, and the person that played it wins the round. The game is an interesting experience. It basically summarizes most of the points shown in this article: millennial’s cynicism, how millennial humor is basically universal and how absurd and self-depreciating it is:

Video review for “What do you meme?”

If you want to read more about memes (The Ugandan Chungus in specific), you can go here. In the meantime, enjoy this gallery (featuring images from “Casual Nihilism™” on Facebook):

Elon Musk Deletes His Facebook Pages

Facebook’s data breach has been the centre of attention for the last few days now. #deletefacebook has been all over Twitter over the past week and continues to dominate talking points all over the world. It was also caught up with two very big named CEO’s. Brian Acton, the Co-founder of WhatsApp – (who itself is a Facebook property when it was sold to the company for about $19 billion in 2014), tweeted the following:

Elon Musk apparently was not aware about his own company’s presence on Facebook, until the SpaceX and Tesla CEO responded to a tweet calling him out to delete the pages in regards to the sudden boycott Facebook movement.

Musk responded to the comments and in less than 20 minutes, he had taken down pages he didn’t even know he had. Both SpaceX and Tesla Facebook pages had over 2.6 million Likes and Follows, and very high engagement rates with the audience. Musk’s big statement on Facebook comes on what might just be one of the worst weeks for the social media company. Over the week, it was leaked that Cambridge Analytica (a consulting firm that closely works with data, and apparently also with United States president Donald Trump’s election campaign), had unethically gathered data from about 50 million Facebook users. People all over the world have then showed concern over the disregard for their private information. It was reported that Mark Zuckerberg had lost an estimated $5 billion in a matter of hours over the situation. On early Monday this week, politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom heavily criticized Facebook and demanded Zuckerberg to provide more explaination.

After proving in fact that he really is “the man” on Twitter, in another tweet, Musk wrote about using Instagram and that how he believes that the social media was “borderline” since Facebook’s “influence” is “slowly creeping in”, despite Instagram being owned by Facebook. Only a matter of time until both SpaceX and Tesla’s social media managers will have to go and find other platforms.

Apples Big Deal: Refurbished Products

iPhone refurbished apple product

It happens to everybody dropping our phone and breaking the screen into 1000 pieces. Now we need to decide: repairing or replacing. Since electronic devices are getting more and more expensive every year, to be up to date often means spending more than 1000$ on a new phone for instance, the iPhone X. However, Apple has a plan to gain more money. They are offering refurbished products with up to 9% discount on an IPhone 7, at the moment, in their online store. The constant price increasing makes purchasing a refurbish phone so attractive and affordable. This is a part of Apples Renew program. The decision buying a refurbished product does not only include saving money it is also a great way in making a conscious decision for the environment.

iPhone refurbished apple product

What does refurbish actually means?

You will receive an old and used device that would break in a few weeks. Refurbishing policy is only to force you into buying a new phone to grantee more profit for the company. An iPhone 7 for 500$ is too good to be true. There must be something wrong with it.

We can see this stigma in today’s society. “Cheap” often implies that there is something wrong with the product. People have the misconception or the assumption that refurbish stands for broken or products that have a defect, but don’t worry, this is often not exactly true. Surprisingly, a refurbish device has to go through more tests than a new one. In Apple’s case, they will test the device beforehand to provide information about the broken parts in the product. In order to fix the device, they are going to replace the broken modules like the change of the battery, screen or the package for an iPhone. Apple guarantees that after changing certain modules, the phone still meets the usual, accustomed Apple standards. A check- and clean-up will be done before sending the product out to provide and a high standard.

Pay attention to the following points:

  • Only buy refurbished products from trusted sources – Do your research before buying a refurbished item and use websites which are well known and trusted, because scams can happen. Purchasing the product from a trustworthy website will guarantee that certified experts made the repairment.
  • Look out for warranty – If the company believes in their product you can do it as well. A company will not put their reputation in danger by sending out the broken devices. Doing this could decrease their reputation and income over the long run.
  • It was a used device – Even though they are making tests to determine the problem, some mistakes can be overlooked and they could only appear while using the device.
  • Limitation – There is only a certain number of refurbished products available on the market. Finding the desired colour might not be possible. If a product is out of stock, you will have to wait until they restock it.

What are the benefits?

We all know that Apple stands for “cheap” and “affordable”. However, everybody likes to save some money. Apple has a 9% discount on their iPhone 7 in their online shop. Every refurbished iPhone has an one – year warranty and it also includes a new adapter, case and box. There is also an option to buy AppleCare along with it. Buying a refurbish product does also mean making a conscious decision in being environmental friendly by using recycled products, but who cares for the environment as long as you can get an iPhone on discount to be the coolest among your friends?

iPhone refurbished apple product

Where do the new parts come from?

Do you belong to the group of people who have at least one unused phone laying at home in a drawer? If you do, this might be interesting. But what can we actually do with our old and unused phones? It might be a surprise, but Apple also provides a solution for that. They give you the opportunity to recycle your electronic devices. Also, if you have a phone which is fully functional, Apple might give you some cash for it.

This is a part of the AppleRenew program. This means apple is collecting old Apple products and non-Apple devices. The functioning modules are going to be reused for other products, for instance, Apple refurbished devices. If the parts are unusable, Apple will recycle them accordingly. The devices can be drop off at your nearest Apple Store.

 

iPhone refurbished apple product

How to repair an iPhone?

Are you one of the few apple users who have a broken screen or is your battery not wIorking anymore and you don’t have the money to buy a new one. Accidents can happen quickly and there are ways and possibility to get your iPhone fixed. Try to stay away from YouTube tutorials like “How to change your iPhone screen quickly” or “Easy way to change your Phone battery”. The last words you can associate with those videos are “quick” and “easy”. If you are not an expert, the damage afterwards will be harder to fix and the expenses will be much higher.

Steps to repair your iPhone:

  1. Take a deep breath: Keep calm. Apple is offering you a solution for every problem you can think of. There are a lot of ways and possibilities you can use to get help in order to fix your iPhone.
  2. Analyse the damage: Take a closer look at your iPhone to know what happened to it. Is it just the screen? Is it still usable? Attention! If you have a broken screen with a screen protector, do not remove it. If so, glass could potentially come off.
  3. Inform yourself about the prices: Everybody knows that Apple has affordable and reasonable prices, especially with fixing screens and replacing batteries. They are providing price lists online to inform their customers about the costs. After seeing the prices ask yourself if you still want to get your phone fixed.
  4. Contact Apple: If you decide to fix your phone there are multiple ways in doing so. If you have a strict schedule this solution would be good for you. Go online or give your apple centre a quick call and they will send you a box and arrange the shipment to an Apple Repair Centre, as well as the cost for it. Making an appointment is not necessary you can plan everything according to your schedule. After approximately one week you will receive your iPhone back. AppleCare users can use the express option. If you have time and an Apple store close to you arrange an appointment with them. Often, they will send your iPhone to the Apple Repair Centre, because they can’t fix it locally.

Recycling, refurbishing, renewing and repairing Apple knows it all.