How many Americans have heard of Omaha, Sacramento, Charlotte, Indianapolis, or Louisville? Probably 99.874% or so. But how many could pinpoint their location on a United States map without state borders? And how many could, without research, state each city’s approximate population?
Now, let’s turn that exercise upside down and ask how many Mexicans have heard of Omaha, Sacramento, Charlotte, Indianapolis, or Louisville? They may have if they follow American sports, but I’d think most Mexicans have never heard of these large cities. And why should they? They aren’t major world centers like New York City, Paris, or Tokyo, nor do they have, I would assume, any special meaning to them. If Mexicans have “bucket lists,” I doubt visiting Omaha or Indianapolis is on them.
That’s how I felt I when I moved to Mexico. I was unaware of the numerous major cities Mexico has. I have discovered large cities that I had never heard of while in the US. As I study maps, research potential travel plans, and actually visit other cities, I am stunned to discover how many major Mexican metropolises there are that I’ve never heard of. And people who know me, know I am a trivia guy. When I went to Querétaro in early 2016, I had only heard of it because I flew in to its airport when I went to San Miguel de Allende a few years earlier to explore it as a retirement site. I had no idea, however, Querétaro was a metropolis of 850,000. I had heard of Mérida before, had seen it on the map of the Yucatan Peninsula, but was surprised that its metropolitan area had a population of more than one million. I just returned from Morelia, a city of more than 650,000 people. I am considering travelling to both Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosi later this year. Both cities have populations of about 725,000. How many Americans, even educated ones, know of these cities?
Most Americans know or would guess that Mexico’s largest city is its capital Mexico City, now abbreviated as CDMX. It is similar to Washington, D.C. in that it is a district unto itself and not part of a state. But what is Mexico’s second largest city? I had been told, believed, and repeated that it is Guadalajara, near where I live. But recent censuses show Mexico’s second largest city to be Ecatepec. How many of you have heard of it? Ecatepec is located in CDMX’s neighboring Estado de Mexico (State of Mexico) and it is not clearly separated from its capital. Previous censuses, apparently, included it as part of Mexico City’s population. But, because it is in another state, it is now considered a city of its own, a city of nearly 1,700,000 people.
A 2010 census shows Mexico City had a population of nearly 8,900,000. But I had been told or read several years ago that its population topped 25 million. Now, I realize that probably had been a metropolitan population that included Ecatepec as well as many other large cities abutting it.
There are several figures, too, for Guadalajara’s population. One list shows Guadalajara’s population at about 1,500,000, which places it third behind Ecatepec in size. But another claims 4,328,000, combining seven neighboring municipalities. That does make Guadalajara Mexico’s second largest city.
I bring all this up because it shows how little Americans learn or know about their neighbors and this lack of knowledge is not limited to city names. It includes culture, politics, history, and the arts. Canada is the US’s other neighbor and most Americans are quite ignorant about it, too. Living in a community brimming with US and Canadian expats and émigrés and having a close Canadian friend, I am constantly reminded how much Canadians know about our history and politics and how little we know about theirs. It is downright embarrassing. But then what isn’t today, if you are from the US?
Why, one might ask, are cities and their populations so important to me? The answer is quite simple really. A medium-size city, say 250,000, compared to a larger metropolis of 750,000, most likely won’t have as many Starbucks, Dairy Queens, 7-11s, Walmarts, Krispy Kremes, Ross Dress-for-Less stores, alternative newspapers with sex ads in the back, nude male yoga classes, Barbra Streisand Fan Club chapters, hot professional athletes, Speedo swim suit stores, male prostitutes, and other things very important to me. If I wanted to see pre-colonial Mexican cathedrals, colonial government buildings, historic houses, impressive statues, beautiful parks, and dancing fountains, I can look on the internet.
For the record, according to the 2014 census, Omaha has 446,000 people, Charlotte 810,000, Sacramento 485,000, Indianapolis 848,000, and Louisville 612,000. I think I’ll plan a visit to Indianapolis to check out the male hustlers. Maybe one will want to go to the Dairy Queen with me.