The towering facade of the Sofitel Mexico City Reforma clearly illustrates the contrast between the reverent preservation of the old and the anxious embrace of the new in Mexico’s capital. While the property’s base retains the structure of the 1930s home that once stood in its spot on the historic Paseo de la Reforma, today its interior is home to Freehouse, an intimate bar that stays open past midnight for guest nightcaps.
Hovering above the second-ﬂoor speakeasy are 40 stories of polished blue-green glass. One of the tallest buildings in the city, the Soﬁtel makes its presence known long before guests walk through its antique entrance. It is attention-grabbing, but on my way to the hotel, another nearby landmark catches my eye.
El Ángel, the prodigious Angel of Independence that towers above the world-famous Reforma thoroughfare, is the ﬁrst chill-inducing conﬁrmation that I’ve ﬁnally made it to one of the greatest cities in the world. At the front desk, I’m surprised to be greeted not as “señora” or “señorita,” but as “madame.” I remember this is the ﬁrst Mexico property for the French luxury Soﬁtel brand—an indication of Mexico City’s increasing appeal to outside companies, entrepreneurs and business travelers.
Freelance digital nomads and wealthy executives alike have descended upon the city since the onset of the pandemic (as evidenced by the handful of helipads visible from my suite). Business is booming, but the migration has not come without tension, as locals have increasingly protested that they are getting priced out of their own capital city.
These ongoing changes only highlight the importance of preserving Mexico’s contributions. As a Latina from a Cuban-Salvadoran household, I was exposed early to Mexico’s cultural exports. My dad constantly played black-and-white ﬁlms from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in our home—especially those starring his favorite artist, Mexican singer and actor Jorge Negrete. And to the Salvadoran side of my family—as for millions of fans around the world—ranchera singer Vicente Fernández is an icon.
I get my chance to connect with those roots during a hot-air balloon ride above the Teotihuacan pyramids, home to the Temple of Quetzalcóatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, vestiges of a Mesoamerican city that was the largest in the Americas some 2,000 years ago. The one-hour ride is arranged by the Soﬁtel’s concierge team, which can also arrange dozens of other immersive experiences for guests, including a culinary bicycle tour through the surrounding neighborhoods, a boat ride through the ﬂoating gardens of Xochimilco, and even a day trip to the vineyards and hot springs of San Miguel de Allende, some four hours northwest of CDMX. As we rise with the sun above the pyramids, our pilot plays music by some of the most beloved artists from Mexico and its diaspora, including Fernández and, my childhood favorite, Selena.
Back on terra ﬁrma, my whirlwind tour of Mexico City includes lunch at Polanco’s Carmela & Sal, where chef Gabriela Ruiz Lugo showcases ﬂavors from Mexico’s southeastern Tabasco region, where she grew up. Dessert is the highlight here: a chilled slice of mango topped with coconut pudding and vanilla-bourbon-infused tapioca pearls.
That night, I’m treated to another delight: a meal at Pujol, Mexico City’s most coveted dinner reservation. The menu, sealed with a wax stamp, tells me chef Enrique Olvera has aged the mole madre for nearly eight years—2,898 days, to be exact. I savor the chocolate ﬂavor and its spicy kick and save the menu as a keepsake.
On my last night in Mexico City, I take in bird’s-eye views of the landmark that ﬁrst welcomed me to this cultural mecca. From the Soﬁtel’s 38th-ﬂoor pool, I sip champagne and lose myself in the meditative glow of cars circling the lavender-lit Ángel.
After a glass (okay, two), I retreat to my spacious room, my bed offering ﬂoor-to-ceiling views of the city’s illuminated skyline. I push the button on my headboard to close the blackout curtains and blinds, and awake to jets darting outside my windows in the morning, a festive Independence Day display.
I can see the ﬂoats from the windows at the Soﬁtel’s check-in desk, but I head down into the street to experience the parade with locals. Before I leave, I take one last walk to El Ángel and hope she’ll welcome me back soon to this magniﬁcent city.