Phillip Smith

Mexico: Day One, Mexico City

El Angel de la Independencia in Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I left for the airport at 4 AM on January 6th. It’s always pretty quiet in Toronto at 4 AM and this day was no different.

This is my first time departing from the American Airlines terminal. It’s pretty run down. The U.S. Customs agents hadn’t even started their day yet. We all waited staring at these big metal gates, like the ones you see on TV at the border between two countries that don’t want each others people to come in. Eventually, and probably reluctantly, they opened the gates.

“What’s your business in the United States?”

“I’m going to Mexico.”

“I didn’t ask where you are going, I asked what your business is in the United States.”

“Um, I’m traveling through the U.S. to go to Mexico?”


I’m at the Dallas airport around noon I think. I’m looking for some food. I hear thunderous clapping. I think the Rolling Stones must be getting off a plane or something. I wander over to check it out. Hundreds of U.S. Army troops are returning from Afghanistan. They’re receiving a standing ovation from everyone in the airport. It’s both beautiful and frightening. I duck into the Au Bon Pain.

The plane lands in Mexico around 3 PM. I quickly read some information about what you can and can’t bring into the country – not the best timing, I know (honestly, I’ve never been great at planning trips). Whoops, I’ve brought along two laptops. Seems that you’re only allowed to bring one. No worries, I probably won’t get searched. Put my bags through the X-Ray: no problemo. Push the button that “randomly” picks people for searches: red light, oh shit. Act stupid, speak English, smile, and slip through with two laptops and a warning. Today is my lucky day.

Taxi downtown to the Zona Rosa. Walking around and I’m struck by the U.S.-ness of Mexico City: McDonald’s, 7-11, Chilli’s, GNC, Starbucks, and so on. I wander over to El Angel de la Independencia and take in the city for a while; it’s huge, but not intense like Buenos Aires. Nothing like swirling chaos around the Obelisco on 9 de Julio.

Dinner at Fonda del Refugio because it was written up on Wikitravel. Guacamole, little fried quesadillas, and chicken with mole sauce. Hey! When in Mexico… No celebrities, sadly, only a bill for 300 pesos.

It’s a Friday night. Zona Rosa is on fire. Boom, boom, boom goes the disco music until 4 in the morning.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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