BY 7 A.M. ON WEEKDAY MORNINGS, most of the 22 million residents in the vast and densely packed Mexico City metropolitan area are on the move, commuting to work on crowded buses, Metro trains and suburban rail lines. Every day about 10 million personal vehicles cram the highways and side streets and, if the sky is not too smoggy, wealthy executives fly to work in private helicopters, landing on the rooftop helipads of downtown skyscrapers.
Although known for its cultural institutions and more recently for its modern architecture — named World Design Capital 2018 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design — this sprawling metropolis remains a working-class city. An economic giant with a gross domestic product of more than $415 billion, it is one of the largest urban areas in the world based on economic output, accounting for about 22 percent of Mexico’s total national GDP. If Mexico City were a country, it would be the fifth-largest economy in Latin America, five times as large as Costa Rica’s and about the same size as Peru’s.
The oldest capital city in the Americas, built in 1325 by the Aztecs on an island in ancient Lake Texcoco and occupied by Spain in the 1500s, it continues to evolve, even changing its official name last year. Known for two centuries within Mexico as DF (Distri