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First Stop in the New World Paperback – June 2, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Clear-eyed, agenda-free journalism, grounded in old-fashioned street reporting … As Joseph Mitchell captured life on the margins of midcentury New York, Orhan Pamuk the melancholia of 20th century Istanbul, and Martha Gellhorn civilian suffering in Civil War Spain, Lida masterfully details the plight of a struggling and repressed city.

... You’ll want to read "First Stop in the New World" for the unvarnished off- the-grid tour Lida provides; for the singers and hustlers and artists you'll meet; and for the insight you'll develop into an ancient, booming but seriously ailing metropolis.”
—Mary D’Ambrosio, San Francisco Chronicle

“Streetwise and up-to-date … a charmingly idiosyncratic, yet remarkably comprehensive portrait of one of the planet's most misinterpreted urban spaces.”
—Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times

“A bumper crop of travelogues and anthologies about Mexico have been appeared in the last few years. David Lida’s low-life tour of Mexico City, its sex clubs as well as its food stalls, not only belongs on this list, it shoots to the top.

… To test the quality of a travel book, it helps to ask: Would you like to share a meal or a drink with the writer? On the evidence of his book, which reveals him to be an expansive soul with big eyes and an even bigger heart, Mr. Lida should expect calls from a lot of newly arrived strangers, including me.”
—Richard B. Woodward, The New York Times

“A fast-paced account of daily life in a city that defies description… Lida finds far more to marvel over and enjoy than to fret about.”
—Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Wall Street Journal

“Mexico City is a sprawling, throbbing stew of 20 million people, but David Lida, in his new book, cuts through the chaos with an array of verbal snapshots that aim to paint the city's soul.”
Chicago Tribune

“A hip-smart tour through a baroque society … probing and witty.”
—Jason Berry, New Orleans Times Picayune

“A terrifically entertaining guide, displaying both intimate familiarity with the city and an outsider's eye for its quirks and weirdness.”
—Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

“A gritty, nostalgic ode to the city … a fundamentally human collection of stories and reflections, a reminder that any city is about its people, their constant clash and coexistence.”
—Theresa Bradley, Associated Press

“Lida offers a thought-provoking account of current-day Mexico City by letting its citizens, known as chilangos, tell their own stories of everyday struggles and triumphs.”
—Vincent Bosquez, San Antonio Express News

“A wonderful trip through Mexico City, from its last cabaret to puerco profundo tacos to Ooorale!, a magazine that makes Star look downright prudish.”
New York Magazine

“A unique and penetrating analysis of contemporary Mexico City … cleverly organized in enigmatically titled vignettes that delve headlong into Mexico City’s improbable mysteries … a book as audacious as the strategies for survival and advancement adopted by the everyday folk who live there.”
—Victor Lugo, Hispanic Magazine

“A series of deftly written vignettes about city life … Lida's affection for the much-maligned metropolis shines through in chapter after chapter … a welcome respite from the usual depictions of Mexico City as a menacing hellhole of corruption and violent crime. “

“…thought-provoking and educational but also a satisfying read.”
Library Journal

“David Lida shows us a Mexico City that’s not in the guidebooks, but, like a subversive code-breaker, he has pointed out the pathways to its delectably seamy soul. If Burroughs were alive and planning a return visit to Mexico today, he’d want to take this book with him.”
—Jon Lee Anderson author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and The Fall of Baghdad

“The city of Mexico, for any outsider, is fascinating, complex, exciting and strange. It is as though a loud and sexy party were going on in the room next door. This book offers an essential key to that room. From now on, anyone who goes to Mexico City without David Lida’s book is mad.”
—Colm Toíbín, author of The Master and Mothers and Sons

“Charmingly unaffected, forthright and widely knowledgeable walk through the highs and low of this teeming, complicated, immensely rewarding ‘hypermetropolis.’

Mexico City operates in a constant state of combustible reinvention, writes longtime resident Lida (Travel Advisory: Stories of Mexico, 2000). Half its population of 20 million lives in poverty. They grapple with severe traffic, as well as service, transportation and crime problems. The government is in “limbo” and resistant to urban planning. But the Distrito Federal has also become the dynamic, spontaneous, cultural capital of Latin America. With the peso stabilized during the last decade, its economy increasingly attracts a global population. As a result, the author argues persuasively, it will be a significant center of 21st-century life. Since transplanting himself from New York in 1990, Lida has gained an excellent sense of how Mexico City functions, or doesn’t. He profiles its various neighborhoods, from Santa Fe to Condesa, its street markets and food stalls, festive cantinas and desperate pulquerías. He examines the inhabitants’ mania for wrestling matches and saint worship, their distinctive vernacular and the culture’s deeply ingrained machismo. Lida observes and listens to the chilangos, an insulting term for city residents proudly appropriated by the younger generation. He captures the voices of the earnest drunks he met in cantinas; the mature fichera who shared stories of her work as a bar companion for men; the 22-year-old accounting student from Ocho Barrios chosen to play Jesus in the Holy Week Passion; a glue-sniffing homeless waif from the army of 3,000 street children; and radio host Anabel Ochoa as she dispensed sex advice to her spectacularly repressed listeners. “Imagine a scene painted by George Grosz, peopled by figures with brown skin,” the author writes in an affecting, generous depiction of the wide range of humanity that comprises the city.

Lida depicts his adopted hometown with warmth, humor, wisdom and fortitude.”

“David Lida's absorbing book shows us Mexico City in all its many guises—and there are guaranteed to be several dozen more of those than even well-informed readers are likely to know. Lida's eye for detail is impeccable, his writing is crisp and engaging, and he serves as the perfect informant, since he is somehow both an insider and an outsider.”
—Luc Sante, author of Low Life and Kill All Your Darlings

“I may love Mexico City more than I love David Lida's First Stop in the New World, but it's close. From the wealth of art in Phil Kelly, to the art of wealth in Carlos Slim, from the tianguis to Teotihuacan, Condesa to Tepito, here is the whole story—all kinds of stories big and small, high and low, told with brains and charm, insight and fact—of la capital as it is lived in today.”
—Dagoberto Gilb, author of Gritos and Flowers

“You might think that a megalopolis of 20 million people wouldn’t lend itself to an intimate portrait. But David Lida has given us one, a weaving of memoir and reportage that is at turns funny and haunting, a personal journey into the crazy geography and tortured psychology of a place called Mexico City. First Stop in the New World captures that most elusive part of Mexico City: its soul.”
—Héctor Tobar, author of Translation Nation and Mexico City Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times

“David Lida has written what will surely stand for years as the definitive Mexico City book. Keen, clear-eyed, street-smart and culture-savvy, filled with eye-popping detail and probing insights, First Stop in the New World manages to do the seemingly impossible: deliver one of the most vexing, stimulating, dynamic and misunderstood capitals on earth into the realm of the comprehensible. It is impossible to imagine a better book about the city, a better writer to deliver it.”
—Tony Cohan, author of On Mexican Time and Mexican Days

“Nobody knows and understands contemporary Mexico City better than David Lida does. Nobody writes about it with a more passionate devotion and insight, or portrays its myriad inhabitants with such sympathy and humor. One of the world's greatest and most misunderstood cities has found its great translator and chronicler.”
—Francisco Goldman, author of The Art of Political Murder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

David Lida has lived in Mexico City for more than fifteen years, works as a journalist in Spanish and English. In Mexico, he wrote and edited for D. F., Mexico City's equivalent of The New Yorker. In the U.S., his work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Culture & Travel, The Forward, Interview, Gourmet, and others. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594483787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483783
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a Mexican and -foremost- a chilango, I bought this book to be able to look at my hometown from the vantage point of a liberal, bohemian American journalist. As an outsider, Lida talks about my everyday reality without the natives' bias (determined by the prejudices, beliefs, taboos and political correctness often found in natives). He writes what he sees, but his role is not only descriptive -he also tries to understand how and why Mexico City became what it is -why is there so much inequality? Why are there thousands of children in the streets, if the city's income per head -at 25,000 USD- is on par with that of the developed world? Why are nearly all models in Mexico foreign, especially blue-eyed and blonde? How do Mexicans respond to globalization, what are their patterns of consumerism, and how is culture changing? These are some of the questions Lida tries -indirectly or directly- to tackle.

I think Lida managed to capture most of the essence of life in Mexico City. The main themes of the city -Inequality, Consumerism, Social Status, Crime, Traffic, Sex, Politics and Corruption- are all represented. Yet there is one flaw: Lida gets too carried away with his discourse of chaos and fatality and ends up emphasizing too little why Mexico City is what it is, why it has attracted so many people for so long and keeps doing so. By reading the novel, you get the impression that in Mexico City either you are really really rich or poor (or outright marginal, lumpenproletariat). Not so. Lida forgets that nearly one-quarter of chilangos have a college degree or higher qualification, and that the National University (UNAM) is the best in Latin America [...] -and indeed the Spanish-speaking world- and that it is the city's main engine of social mobility.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever motivated by his affection for Mexico City, David Lida presents First Stop in the New World, about the people and places that have shaped his own conclusion on what it means to live in the labyrinth that is el Distrito Federal. First Stop is written in the style you would expect from someone with years of experience in journalism, with a witty and authentic voice that can inform us about Mexico City like any lifelong capitalino, and still remain refreshingly apolitical. He is not afraid of clarifying the truth behind the "Wal-mart next door to the Pyramids" rumor, or the exaggeration of the frequency of kidnappings. Want to know the truth behind these two sensational stories? Read this book to find out.

Lida's literary style comes through his investigative narrative, (and evokes his other career as a short story writer), filled with characters that are fodder for stories in their own right, as he admits. He recounts details as varied as Mexico City herself - how the the culture drives the sexuality of the inhabitants; how the city inspires ingenious ways for people to become entrepreneurs; and how the urban landscape even affects what people eat and how they eat. Lida is clearly in love with the city he calls home, and like a passionate lover, the City can sometimes hurt the one who loves her: readers will be jarred by Lida's composed, calm testimony about his ordeal as a victim of an "express kidnapping". It would have been easy for anyone to write about this with certain bitterness, but Lida did not let this experience keep him away from el D.F.
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Format: Hardcover
David Lida's vivid and fascinating word portraits provide a sense of intimate clarity for the myriad sights and scenes of La Capital. He has a real feel for the big picture of such an immense and tumultuous metropolis, as well as an adroitness for rendering closely observed D.F. moments and depicting the divers characters that inhabit its streets and colonias.

A hilarious yet poignant account of an afternoon spent in the company of a group of borrachos in a cantina is just one among several highlights, as is the chilling tale of his own kidnapping.

He presents a vision of Mexico City that is affectionate yet unsentimental. His love for the place is clear-eyed and his knowledge is hard-earned. He manages to cover it all: from Tepito to Polanco, from discussions of various art[s] scenes and popular culture to distinctive local religious practices and social/sexual mores, from Carlos Slim to faded night club singers. Lida is a true urban cicerone.

Chris Humphrey's "Moon Mexico City" and Jim Johnston's "Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide..." are both fine books and excellent aids for the English-speaking visitor trying to cope with Chilango-land. "First Stop in the New World..." is indispensable as a means of more deeply understanding it and will be a permanent addition to the city's literature.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hope David Lida's book is the beginning of a new genre of literature about Mexico and other Latin American countries. For too long, the perception of Mexico in the U.S. has been shaped by news reports of crime and corruption. While conceding that these and other problems exist, Lida argues that the U.S. media's depiction of the country is sometimes "exaggerated and poorly researched."

Lida's main message is that the rich cultural elements of Mexico City make it a rewarding place to live for those who are willing to brave its many complications. In making his case, Lida does not down play the city's problems. Rather, he brings them into sharp focus. In doing so, he effectively conveys why Mexico City would be an interesting place to live or visit.

More than a "travel book", First Stop in the New World offers insights into the very character of Mexico City residents.
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