At once intimate and wide-ranging, and as enthralling, surprising, and vivid as the place itself, this is a uniquely eye-opening tour of one of the great metropolises of the world, and its largest Spanish-speaking city.
Horizontal Vertigo: The title refers to the fear of ever-impending earthquakes that led Mexicans to build their capital city outward rather than upward. With the perspicacity of a keenly observant flaneur, Juan Villoro wanders through Mexico City seemingly without a plan, describing people, places, and things while brilliantly drawing connections among them. In so doing he reveals, in all its multitudinous glory, the vicissitudes and triumphs of the city ’s cultural, political, and social history: from indigenous antiquity to the Aztec period, from the Spanish conquest to Mexico City today—one of the world’s leading cultural and financial centers.
In this deeply iconoclastic book, Villoro organizes his text around a recurring series of topics: “Living in the City,” “City Characters,” “Shocks,” “Crossings,” and “Ceremonies.” What he achieves, miraculously, is a stunning, intriguingly coherent meditation on Mexico City’s genius loci, its spirit of place.
Novelist and journalist Villoro (God Is Round) delivers an erudite and idiosyncratic look at Mexico City and the "fears, illusions, utter annoyance, and whims of living in this place." Combining the intricacies and peculiarities of the contemporary city with recollections of his childhood there, Villoro describes, for example, how at the age of "ten or twelve," he and friend would go on hours-long expeditions by sneaking into the back of a milk truck. For people waiting in line to engage with one of the "infinite tasks of government" that take place in Mexico City, a street vendor's torta de tama "works as a tranquilizer," Villoro writes, "but only as long as you're chewing it... after, it becomes a long-term annoyance, harder to digest than the bureaucratic business itself." He also describes the city's caf s, its commuting culture (certain streets "are a parking lot that sometimes moves"), pre-Hispanic mythologies, and the lives of its street children. Throughout, Villoro weaves in literary references (Amado Nervo, Alfonso Reyes, Ezra Pound) and offers stinging critiques of the country's plutocracy, whose "luxury depends on poverty." Though Villoro's fragmentary approach can be disorienting, this is a stimulating portrait of one of the world's most mind-bending metropolises.