The Urbanist’s Mexico City: Talking Points

The Headliners
Who D.F. is talking about.

Singer and socialite
Born José María to an elite Mexico City family, the stylish, transgender Zemmoa is now the fashion set’s “It” girl. She plays with gender and image, treating her personal style as Pop Art. As hostess at the invitation-only M.N. Roy, she’s gatekeeper to the city’s cliquish nightlife. And she moonlights as an underwear model.

Photo: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg via Getty

Enrique Peña Nieto
Former governor and presidential candidate
It was a Sarah Palin–esque moment last month: Enrique Peña Nieto, the handsome, 45-year-old presidential front-runner and former governor of Mexico State, steps onto the stage at Guadalajara’s prestigious international book fair and is asked a softball question about three books that have influenced his life. But he stammers, able to name only the Bible. When pushed, he can’t cite prophets or passages.

Photo: Patrick McMullan

Kate del Castillo
One of the most successful crossover actresses to come out of Mexico, Kate del Castillo went from telenovela La Reina del Sur to Hollywood, where she played Pilar on Showtime’s Weeds. She recently sparked controversy by publishing an open Twitter letter to the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel. “Today,” she wrote, “I believe more in [drug lord] El Chapo Guzmán than in the governments that hide all the truths, even if they are painful, those same governments that hide the cure for cancer and HIV, etc. for their own benefit and wealth.”

Photo: Aaron Salcido

Daniel Hernandez
Journalist and author
Having landed staff jobs at LA Weekly and then the L.A. Times, Hernandez was an ascending journalistic star in his native California when he decided to move to Mexico City in 2007. The U.S.-born son of Mexican parents, he immersed himself in the city’s subcultures. The resulting book, Down & Delirious in Mexico City, is a wild adventure through dark alleys and underground communities. The Spanish translation was just released as El Bajón y el Delirio.

A Five-Year Timeline of the Americas’ Most Progressive City

The city government didn’t make any friends with Mexico’s conservative federal government or powerful Catholic Church when it legalized abortion in the capital in 2007.

Further antagonizing the Catholic leadership, Mexico City became the first city in Latin America to legalize gay marriage. The same year, the city passed a law allowing gay couples to adopt.

The Prepa Sí program pays nearly 240,000 Mexico City high-school students to stay in school, doling out between 500 and 700 pesos a month. The high-school-dropout rate has since fallen from 21% to 6%.

The city’s assembly began considering a law that would create two-year trial marriages. That way couples could cohabitate without Catholic guilt and then split up without a divorce if the union dissolves.

Mexico City is going bigger and farther with transit programs than any other city in the hemisphere. In 2012, the city expects to launch a new 25-kilometer metro line, a 31-station light-rail Metrobus line, and an expanded bike-sharing program, bringing the total to 275 stations.

The Urbanist’s Mexico City: Talking Points