¡Bienvenidos a México!

Flying into México’s capital is nothing short of breathtaking. Rocky mountains abruptly turn into brown valleys where the skeletons of ancient rivers carve the terrain. Then, small towns multiply until the valley floor is flooded with buildings and shacks that thin out only as they climb up the sides of the mountains.

Mexico City is beyond huge – so huge, in fact, that it is classified as a megalopolis. A city develops into a megalopolis by absorbing adjacent towns and smaller cities. Mexico City is growing like an amoeba and has been engulfing nearby populations at a steady rate since the second half of the 20th century. It grew from 3.1 million people in 1950 to 14 million by 1980, and today it has more than a whopping 19 million people. It makes my hometown of New York City look like a suburb.

While I’m not fluent in Spanish, I do dabble in basic phrases and words. Spanish is the 4th most used language in the world, after English, Mandarin, and French. Many words in Spanish and English have similar roots and sounds, making them easier to translate. Examples of these words are familia/family or turista/tourist. I trust I’ll have a relatively easy time communicating with people.

Native Mexicans first heard the Spanish language in 1519, the day conquistadors landed on the shores of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the Spanish arrived, there were hundreds of native dialects being spoken throughout the region, including Nahuatl spoken by the Aztec, and Maya, spoken by the Maya. Through hundreds of years of cultural suppression and strict Spanish teachings by missionaries, the Spanish language infiltrated México and eventually reigned supreme in this land. Today, México has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world – almost three times as many Spanish speakers than in its mother country of Spain.