At the intersection of Avenida Chapultepec and Avenida de los Insurgentes is Glorieta de los Insurgentes, a paved spherical island set into three lanes of converging city traffic. Although motorists and large buses orbit with the centrifugal force of a tropical storm, the center feels abnormally peaceful.

Around the edges of this concrete island lie a hardware store, vinyl shop, and a Little Caesars (oddly popular here). It is a perfectly familiar urban North American scene… and could just as likely be Nashville or Denver or Baltimore… except that huge maguey and cactus landscape the edges of the pavement and nobody seems to be rushing.

Chilangos go casually about their days, many lounging along concrete benches or perusing vendors who sell herbal cigarettes, textiles, jewelry, and all manner of other goods in the center of the island. A young student next to me listens to Latin hip-hop on a speaker while napping under a parasol. I join for a while, enjoying the lassitude.

Eventually, I get up and paw around the vinyl shop, listening to a few beat-up Mexican classical records on a cheap broken-looking deck. Somebody has stolen headphones, so the owner has wired the listening station directly into the shop’s loudspeakers. Whenever I stop to swap my record, the music reverts to American glam rock.