The Underground Literary Scene in México, D.F.

Near the zócalo, the center of México, D.F., there’s a long underground passageway full of… bookstores.  To find the passage, which continues for seven blocks, it is necessary to enter through one of the two metro stations that it connects, Pino Suarez and Zócalo, or to find one of the very few street-level entrances along Calle José María Pino Suarez (map).  In fact, it seems reasonable to believe that the passageway, or el pasillo de librerías, is a secret, as the signs to the passageway are often hidden or non-existent.

...seven blocks of underground bookstores...

...seven blocks of underground bookstores...

The passage, itself, is a 70’s-style, concrete and linoleum, and mildly claustrophobic tunnel lined on alternating sides by booksellers.  Unlike many of the informal markets in Mexico City, where (often illegally-printed) books wrapped in plastic are laid out on a blanket on the ground, these librerías are constructed — rooms with doors, fluorescent lighting, and glass walls — and they often specialize in a particular type of book.  There’s a store that focuses on books to learn english, another on health, and even one that specializes in comics.  

On rare occasions, often by accident, I have found myself down in the passage, pondering the vast collection of literature for sale.  Given the noise and chaos of the street, it feels as if the pasillo could just as easily be on Mars as downtown Mexico City.

 

Berkeley, CA

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