LIFE LIVED IN PUBLIC – Mexico City Streets

LIFE LIVED IN PUBLIC – Mexico City Streets
Photographs by David Bacon

In most of the world people live much of their lives outdoors, in the street.  Mexico City is no different.  A lot happens in the street here.  Public life means not so much events for public consumption, but more life lived in the public space.

Walking through the old centro historico the first thing you see are people working.  Two men break through the asphalt for a street repair project.  People carry things – an anonymous bundle clutched to the chest, tacos being delivered for someone’s lunch.  A woman in a bright red dress balances a tray of pan dulce on her head, striding down the sidewalk past the Alameda, the legs of the folded stand she’ll use to set up her stall hanging from her arm. 

In the park a nanny puts a sock on the small foot of the child she cares for. A street sweeper poses with her broom.  A guard stands at attention in front of a jewelry store on the Zocalo.  How long can he keep it up?

Tired workers sleep in the street too.  An older woman takes a nap at lunchtime, the way I did in the factory years ago, grabbing a few minutes before going back to work.   Two bicycle messengers are asleep, one on a bench and another beneath it.  A line of workers sits back, some nodding out, against the building they’re fixing up.  

Of course, not everyone is working.  Two older women are deep in conversation, their walking canes planted beside them, while two younger women seem a little doubtful about the words of their companion, as he guides them past one of the street obstructions around the National Palace.  Not far away, next to the cathedral, a young man puts on greasepaint in a fanciful calacas, getting ready for the next Aztec dance.

As evening starts to soften the light, a bench on the Reforma, a very public space, becomes one of temporary seclusion for two lovers – a moment together they likely can’t get with family at home.  

And then a final jazz riff from the sidewalk trumpeter.

Permission given by David Bacon

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