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Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  398 ratings  ·  48 reviews
MEXICO CITY, with some 20 million inhabitants, is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. Enormous growth, raging crime, and tumultuous politics have also made it one of the most feared and misunderstood. Yet in the past decade, the city has become a hot spot for international business, fashion, and art, and a magnet for thrill-seeking expats from around the world.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Scribner (first published February 3rd 2011)
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Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aztec-metropolis
To take Hernandez’s book as simply a non-fiction travel book or as the cool kids are calling it these days, creative non-fiction travel book, would be a mistake. Hernandez’s book is fascinating precisely because he is NOT: 1) trying to find himself by teaching English in another country 2) throwing himself into hard labor in a remote indigenous village 3) has no philanthropic endeavors 4) and NO broken heart he needs to mend through ancient indigenous practices. Hernandez is on a mission to find ...more
Victor Giron
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
My mother is Mexican, from a small town in the western mountains of Mexico, in a state called Michoacan, west of Mexico City on the way to the Pacific Ocean. I was born in Chicago. Because my mother's family is so large and she's had such a strong bond with them all, I've been to Mexico practically every year of my life. As a child there were some summers where my sister and I would stay with one of my aunts and cousins the whole time, living just like Mexican kids though everyone around was dis ...more
David Sasaki
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
A nini ethnography

In 2009 the word still did not exist in Mexico. Yet by August 2010, it was nearly impossible to watch the nightly news without suffering through yet another segment, interview, or monologue about the country's nini Phenomenon. Nini, ni estudian ni trabajan, they neither study nor work. The first mention of the term I am able to find in the Mexican press comes from the February 2010 edition of Proceso magazine. In his article, The Mexican Ninis , José Gil Olmos says he first he
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Standard feature writing.

This book definitely could have some deeper insight especially given the complexity of the subject, but Hernandez never veers from choice to keep a psychological distance from his subjects and because of this, his conclusions tend to be sentimental and historically superficial.
Leah Rachel von Essen
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Down & Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century is a fascinating book by Daniel Hernandez that examines the subcultures of the city as well as its feel, something ever-difficult to capture without being in a place.

Through his distinctly male gaze, Hernandez explores the city, entering the fashion party scenes and making new friends in the punk scenes, among others; talking about the strangeness in CMX around the time of some well-publicized outcry against ki
Paul Pessolano
Jan 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
I don't know if this book was meant to be a travelogue, a personal history, or an expose of Mexico and Mexico City.

I can tell you if you want to read a book that will have you change your travel plans to anywhere other than Mexico City - read this book.

Daniel Hernandez, looking for his roots, goes to Mexico City. Mexico City is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, and it has all the problems, and more, that is associated with megacities. Hernandez makes cities like Los Angeles, New York,
James Creechan
Daniel Hernandez has written an amazing book that captures the impact of social change and NAFTA on young people in Mexico City. I knew that the book was going to be something special when I read a short clip on the inside cover from the amazing Alma Guillermoprieto — "The guy can really write", and her assessment of this young writer is spot-on correct.

Hernandez grew up in California and identified with Chicano culture, but went to Mexico City to experience the real meaning of "Mexicanismo". Hi
Shannon O'Mara
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an engaging read from start to finish. The author writes with an informed voice on very contemporary happenings in Mexico City- from fashion to politics to crime to religion- relating these things to history, his own American/Mexican background, and even broadens implications to worldwide avant garde culture. The focus of each chapter was never dry, and the backdrop of the city itself fills in details in the anecdotes, as if any more were needed. The inclusion of chapter notes at the en ...more
Liz Murray
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book. Daniel Hernandez paints a high octane, character fueled portrait of DF. It is so much more than a travel book. He takes you in to his world and his experiences in Mexico City all through a highly personal lens. His DF is populated by people he befriends easily and with whom he gets to spend real time with. It made me want to get back to Mexico City as soon as possible and for an extended time if possible. A fabulous book!
John Spencer
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gritty, poetic and very real life experience of the most amazing and the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. At times surreal in its chronicle of the danger, desire and beauty inherent in 21st century Mexico City. I could not put this book down. Eye opening and riveting reading.
Dec 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I had hoped the book was going to be better. For me it was about a lot of groups of people who into only didn't have anything in common with, but there were too many stories about people on the fringes.
It is still a good book, and I would definitely read other books by the author. But I wanted more about life in 21st century Mexico City.
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-history, travel
Read in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Mexico City. Hernandez excels at providing readers with a thick description of 1) the city's subcultures and 2) the transnational, postcolonial in-betweenness felt by many Mexican-Americans living in Mexico.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is urban journalism and story-telling at its finest. Hernandez mixes history, reportage and personal impressions in a well-rounded narrative that’s easy to follow and mucho entertaining. Bonus: the factual part is thoroughly researched and you might even learn something...

’Everything is thrilling in Mexico City because everything is out of whack.’

I bought this book in the Cafebrería bookstore in — surprise, surprise — Mexico City. Doug got something by Martin Amis and w
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Hernandez relocates himself from LA to DF in search of his roots, of brotherhood and acceptance, of the underbelly of el monstruo. Down & Delirious boasts some true investigative journalism, paired with the author's own search to understand and to be understood. I was less interested in the punk, emo, and fashion end of his investigative spectrum, but he freely dug toward the heart every cultural phenomenon and fad that jumped out at him, and paused afterward to reflect on the situations he' ...more
Aug 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Some interesting insights into Mexico, particularly the chapters on the Virgen de Guadalupe, the emo youth culture (and the "riot" in Queretaro where some emos were assaulted),and concerts in poor neighborhoods that end in fights. He effectively portrays his own cultural journey as a Mexican American trying to understand Mexico - the things he was taught in California are not always true, i.e. that La Malinche is not always seen as a traitor. He describes the smoggy, violent, exciting and surrea ...more
I only finished this book because I'm going to Mexico City soon and was hoping to glean something enlightening from it. There was some interesting anecdotal information about various Mexican subcultures, such as punk, emo, and other people living off the beaten path which I enjoyed. But not much in the way of typical life in Mexico.

The writing was a bit dry, and the potential for a good read was totally there due to the nature of the content, which was adventurous and suspenseful at times. But t
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I was born in Mexico City. I’m a “chilanga” from the southern part of Distrito Federal with family that’s been there since forever. Yet many of the things that Daniel Hernandez writes about are as foreign to me as if he were writing about Mongolia. However, I did find his empirical tales highly captivating and insightful.
A son of Mexicans that was born and grew up in the States, Hernandez’ journey to find his roots takes him to places in Mexico City that I’ve never even thought of entering. Whi
Joy Hepp
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of Hernandez’ greatest talents as a writer is being able to pave the way for readers to enter the worlds he inhabits and create a space for them to explore on their own. Down and Delirious in Mexico City conjures up the megalopolis’ wild urban spell and the youth who are stirring its cauldron.
One of Hernandez’ greatest talents as a writer is being able to pave the way for readers to enter the worlds he inhabits and create a space for them to explore on their own. Down and Delirious in Mexic
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Picked this up as I was looking for travel guides to Mexico City, and it seemed like it would be fun to read essays about life in the city. I think the author was aiming for a younger and hipper audience, because many of the chapters have to do with the music/fashion/ and drug scene for Mexican youth, but there were still essays on Mexican identity, relationship with the Church, and human/environmental interaction that I found insightful. I ended up abandoning it when the essays started to focus ...more
Summer Pączek
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I read it in one whole night! Well versed and quite empirical! Reading it made me go on a little trip to my native land.
Daniel touches on the tense political environment that is transforming Mexico's society. How political tyranny has affected the population's collective unconscious and subcultures have emerged and others transformed (punks, goths, emos, oligarchs,transvestites and transgendered groups, victims of kidnapping, death cults, indigenous traditions and civil society as a
Alex Rivas
I enjoyed the very first story of the book, the one that has to do with the Day of the Virgin Guadalupe. I grew up just a few blocks from such landmark "La Basilica de Guadalupe" or "La Villa".

I give the author credit for having the courage to move down to such an unsafe place as is today Mexico City to collect memories and material for this book, however too many pages were written to document in detail certain aspects of Mexico City I have no interest whatsoever like the underground cultures o
Rebeca RoMe
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a young adult, and Mexico City inhabitant I can tell that this book offers a deeper point of view on my own hometown. I think the author's writting is amazing and since I've been in touch with some of the underground groups he's talking about and being close to some places and facts I can tell that he's very objective and offers a valuable different point of view, one that is not damaged by prejudice.
This is definitely not a turistic guide, but the quest for the complexity that underlies in
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: latin-america
If you want to know a little about Mexico City that goes beyond sort of the stereotypical stuff, this is for you. Hernandez talks about some of youth/counterculture issues in Mexico city since the 2000s from his point of view as a journalist in the city. Each chapter is a different topic that has an ever-so-slight investigative journalism touch to it. But Hernandez is interacting with all of this subjects and so you get a little bit of personal reflection, what it means to him specifically. I wo ...more
An interesting analysis of Mexico City in the 21st Century. Although superficial Down and Delirious in Mexico City remains an engaging, if not penetrating, study of the city's fraught heart.

Down and Delirious did not stand up so well to a second reading...mostly a book about a facile hipster trying way too hard to be George Orwell...lacks all of the literary chops and social commentary that Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London had.

Hipsters probably will enjoy it, but everyone else will be
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
good book about living in DF as a young hipster. Lots of art, music, carousing, pollution, cleansing, metro rides, sex, noise. Author looks at some interesting groups there like the punks, santa muerte cults, san judas cults, high fashion industry, emos, repatriated cholos. good book about urban (with capital u) geography and sociology. Has some really nice bibliography sources i need to follow up.
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Essential guide to the spirit of Mexico City. The book blends pop culture reportage, participatory journalism, and travel narrative. Each chapter's subject serves as a leaping off point for a consideration of the city's tumultuous history of "cosmic violence" and an intimate appraisal of Hernandez's relationship with the megacity. His idea that to survive and thrive in the DF one must become a mutant hit home after struggling with the altitude and smog during my visit there.
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is more like a series of articles than a true memoir, but it's a fun read and full of information on young people in Mexico City. Hernandez give the average age of a DF residents to be in their late 20s, not my generation but a lively and interesting group. His stories make them seem more style than substance, unlike earlier generations of Mexicans who were true intellectuals. I'm hope the intellectuals are still out there and that someone finds and writes about them.
Michael Andersen-Andrade
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a long time aficionado of Mexico City I thought I knew most everything about it, but this book took me to parts of the city and cultural scenes I've never explored before. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it made me so eager to get back to el D.F. that I'm flying down next week for a Chilangolandia fix with a new eye for uncharted territories.
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a fantastic deep dive into contemporary Mexico City, by a Mexican-American journalist who moves there after several long visits. not all of the prose is great, but the author gives a compelling account of life in DF in the 21st century, especially its sometimes grim and strange subcultures. His love for and fascination with the city are compelling.
Vuk Trifkovic
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Nice take on Mexico, America(s) and global world. In truth it's bit patchy given that at times it reads much more personal and at times a bit journalistic. But a very good insight into a modern metropolis. I do wish he explored the non-hipster scene bit more, rather than just scratching around surface of sonidero / indigenous culture, but a good read nonetheless...
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New Book Club in 2013-2014 1 1 Jul 29, 2013 02:36AM  
  • El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City
  • First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century
  • A Visit to Don Otavio
  • El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin
  • God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
  • Government
  • Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones
  • Asylum Denied: A Refugee's Struggle for Safety in America
  • Original Letters from India
  • The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction
  • Made in America: Immigrant Students in Our Public Schools
  • Rape New York
  • The Good Conscience
  • México Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization
  • Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back
  • History of My Life, Volumes III & IV
  • The Good Society: The Humane Agenda
  • The Aztecs
“[Dona Queta] says that her motherly advice is always the same: 'Only whores, thieves, and cops go out at night. Which one are you, asshole?' p. 157” 1 likes
“One night, walking on the street in the Colonia Portales, I become startled by my own train of thought. I am desperately poor right now, surviving on coffee, orange juice, and beer ('grain juice'), and tacos. Gigs for writers don't come easy. I am angry and depressed and feverish. I had moved to Mexico City on a whim and I knew it would be hard. What I fail to expect is that the delinquency mind-set would take over my brain. Who would stop me, I think, who would catch me, if I hop into that cab coming my way and start barking directions? Who would know or care if I held a knife to the driver's throat, demanded all his money, and threatened to kill him if he made any further moves? How would I feel when I got home at night, finally able to eat properly? p 123-4” 1 likes
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