The public sphere and the wonderful cultural offerings of Mexico City (CDMX)

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros
6 min readMay 18, 2019

I grew up enjoying so many cultural amenities and opportunities in Mexico City, including museums, cultural centers, libraries, parks, open air concerts and art cinemas. I had forgotten that these offerings were actually available to me as a high schooler, and later as a university student, for free or at very low prices. As a middle class young kid full of curiosity, I would not have been able to afford an opera, spend every other afternoon at the Cineteca Nacional, stroll into fantastic museums and art galleries anytime I wanted, or attend creative writing classes, had their cost not been publicly subsidized. I realize now that all of these were to a large extent the benefits of living in a country where the State has a firm commitment to supporting the arts and culture. I do not deny that such public spending is probably regressive, in that the rich are able to benefit from those amenities more readily than the poor, particularly the most destitute, who cannot even imagine having the free time for these leisure occupations. But I must say that the social mobility I have enjoyed, and the possibility of becoming a scholar and a professor, is a direct consequence of those cultural opportunities, that were paid by the Mexican government.

The Cineteca Nacional before it burned down in 1982 — a truly traumatic event for those of us who remember it

Yesterday I took a walk around downtown Mexico City and was able to see how this cultural milieu is still thriving. The places I visited were all minor cultural institutions, not the landmark museums everybody would recognize. I first discovered a wonderful space in the park of the Ciudadela, where multiple groups of men and women, of almost every age were learning to dance danzón. Some were informal groups and couples with their own boombox in a small corner of the park, but there were also some more formal classes being taught in a stage by what I believe was a group sponsored by a labor union that had its headquarters by the park. Then I walked into the museum Centro de la Imagen, which was bustling with activity as a group of artists were putting up their new show of photography. I was still able to see two small exhibits with thought provoking pieces on the nature of words, books and, of course, images.

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros

Mexicano orgulloso, migrante renuente. Economista ITAM y Politólogo Duke. Senior Fellow en CDDRL y Director Centro Estudios Latinoamericanos Stanford University