Mexico City has held a number of records over the years. At one time it was said to be the most polluted, at another the most populous. It has the record for the most simultaneous chess games ever played in one place. It also set the record for the highest number of people ever to pose for photographer Spencer Tunick.
As a number of these records show, the city’s inhabitants are very gregarious, and keen to attend outdoor events. The street markets, the fairs, the parks, attract thousands of people every weekend.
This penchant for collective outdoor activities leads to another possible record that the capital could aspire to: the place with the most demonstrations in a given year. Teachers, transport workers, street vendors, students, dairy farmers, and sugar cane growers are just some of the groups that in recent years have marched in the capital demanding solutions to problems, or protesting about some situation or other. Some groups have taken to camping out in the city, outside the Congress or one of the ministries where they expect their cases to be heard.
The downtown area of the capital, with its carefully placed monuments, couldn’t have been more convenient for marches if it had been designed with demonstrators in mind. A common march route is along the broad Reforma Avenue – often starting at the Angel of the Independence monument – down Juarez Avenue, past the Fine Arts Palace to the main square, or Zocalo – the biggest on the continent – a popular gathering place for demonstrators which is as easily filled for a political rally or a free outdoor concert.
City authorities are generally tolerant of demonstrations, which often involve blocking off major thoroughfares for several hours, causing traffic problems. But for many city dwellers, the demonstrations have become a serious source of annoyance, particularly when it keeps them from reaching their place of work on time, or from getting home.
But visitors, for whom the novelty hasn’t worn off, are less likely to be bothered. And although there are occasional scuffles with the police, the majority of demonstrations in the capital are non-violent, although often noisy.
One thing though, you can easily tell which ones are the teachers – they always seem to go out demonstrating during the school year, and never during the holidays.
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