The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou’s Mexico City
by C.M. Mayo
The acclaimed essay from Creative Nonfiction magazine’s “Mexican Voices” issue read by the author.
Single track, time approximately 35 minutes.
C.M. Mayo unearths hidden side of a storied neighborhood as she personally reads her lively account of a stroll through Coyoacán with her pug. “The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou’s Mexico City” is a warm, witty and inviting traveling companion for an intimate journey through a vibrant, richly patterned historic neighborhood of that megalopolis, Mexico City. Innovative and informative, the audio version of Mayo’s award winning essay delights the imagination and inspires listeners to take a closer look at their own surroundings while offering a captivating peek into a world that revels in both the exotic and the everyday.
A portion of all proceeds from sales of this audio CD benefit the Mexican dog and cat rescue organization, Presencia Animal www.presenciaanimal.org
Winner, Lowell Thomas Award for Best Personal Comment
Winner, Washington Independent Writers, Best Essay
Praise for “The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou’s Mexico City”
“Even in the outstanding category of original and powerful entries, Mayo’s story stands out. The author interprets the beauty and pain of Mexico City while walking her dog. A technique that might seem too whimsical to sustain meaning (especially throughout such a long piece) is handled so subtly that it gradually envelops the reader in such a way that the city’s character becomes real”
Lowell Thomas Award Committee (members of the Missouri School of Journalism faculty)
“With artistry and perception, [Mayo provides] a vivid canine’s eye view of a neighborhood as well as a perspective on the history, sociology and probable future of a great metropolis”
Washington Independent Writers Award Committee
About C.M. Mayo
C.M. Mayo is the author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), a novel based on the true story, as well as Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions, 2007), a work the Los Angeles Times lauds as “luminous” and the Interamerican Studies Institute calls “perhaps the best new book about Mexico in many years.” Her essays about Mexico have appeared in numerous U.S. literary journals, among them, the North American Review, Southwest Review, Tin House, and in the special “Mexican Voices” issue of Creative Nonfiction. Mayo is also the author of Sky Over El Nido (Univ Georgia Press, 1995), which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. An avid translator of Mexican literature, C.M. Mayo is the editor of Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2006), a collection of contemporary Mexican fiction and literary prose. Her website is www.cmmayo.com
Who is Picadou?
Oftentimes, older people call her “Peekaboo” and younger people call her “Picachu” after the Pokemon character, but she is Picadou! Mais oui, named after the French cheese. Her nickname is “Minky Chica.”
An excerpt from
“The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou’s Mexico City”
by C.M. Mayo
From Creative Nonfiction (“Mexican Voices” issue) Copyright 2004
Walking, I am sure my little black pug Picadou would agree, is the essential part of our day. If Picadou could talk, I think she would say that grass is nice, but smells and particular individuals, both human and canine, their habits and whereabouts (or nowhereabouts) are the most interesting, and so when we go for our afternoon walk down the Avenida Francisco Sosa, which has tall trees whose branches hold hands across the street, we don’t mind the lack of grass.
But first we have to hurry down our own narrow street. Beneath the canopy of bougainvillea and lavender wisteria, birds chuckle; a gecko slithers up a wall into ivy. Between the cobblestones, weeds and tufts of grass poke up; Picadou picks her way eagerly but carefully as a cat.
In the length of a ball’s toss we’re in the alleyway of Montecristo, aiming straight at the Avenida Francisco Sosa. Most of Montecristo is spanned by the jail-high wall of the pumpkin colored house that was listed by Sotheby’s for several million dollars but took as many years to sell and I suspect at a much lower price than was asked because, after all, its front door is on an alleyway. Here the sidewalk is only two flagstones wide and traffic barrels past fast over the jumbled stones, car after car, the chassis’s creaking and tires bumping. Picadou does not like me to, but I pick her up and carry her. To avoid the lamp post, I have to step down into the street; then, after waiting for that VW van to rattle past, I step down again to go around a smashed beer bottle. There goes the Domino’s Pizza delivery scooter: put put put.
Once on the Avenida Francisco Sosa, we do not turn right and visit Ingrid, who is blonde and from Sweden and has a lipstick red chair at her desk in her L’Arlequín shop, because she has that Akita. He lies there among the pottery lamps and pewter trays quiet as a rolled-up rug, but his ears are always pricked. Once, Ingrid told me, years ago when she had her other Akita, a man slipped in and held a knife to her throat and the Akita attacked him. If we were to turn right and trot past Ingrid’s shop (very quickly), in another block we would come to the house of the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. Lately this house is the headquarters of the Octavio Paz Foundation, but Picadou is not allowed into the bookshop nor into the garden with its burbling fountain and sweet-smelling orange trees, and so (Picadou has decided) we bear left.
Picadou, who is in her pink halter, pulls hard. She may be tiny enough to snooze on my lap while I work, but she is a solidly muscled sixteen pounds of willful pug. Multo in parvum, a lot of dog in a small package, is the motto of the breed. Before Picadou, I had two brother pugs, Foo and Ti, who, bless their souls, lived long enough to go lame and blind and deaf, but when they were young, Ti, in a flying rage at the sound of the doorbell, busted the hall door off its hinges. In short, behind my pug, I trot along, and briskly.
Already, here where we come onto it from Montecristo, we are nearly a third of the way down the nearly mile long Avenida Francisco Sosa. It begins a few blocks beyond Ingrid and her Akita at the baroque gem of a chapel called Panzacola and it ends (a straight shot east) where we will arrive in about fifteen minutes: the bustling main plaza of El Jardín del Centenario. A broad, one-way street paved with oyster-gray cement bricks, Francisco Sosa is the main artery of historic Coyoacán, which nestles within the borough of the same name. Coyoacán, in Nahuátl, “The Place of Those Who Keep Coyotes,” is in the south of Mexico City. With its twenty-plus million inhabitants, this megalopolis we live in may well be the largest in the world, the “Super-Calcutta,” as Carlos Monsiváis lampoons it, “the post-apocalyptic city” and “the laboratory of the extinction of the species.” Not that Picadou would care a snuffle about any of that. Here, on Francisco Sosa, its feels refreshingly green and scaled down to a walkable coziness. Most of its buildings date from the eighteenth century, and as is the style in Spanish Granada and Córdova, their high walls edge right up to the street, the roofs flat and windows resolutely barred, though with touches of New World color: papaya, pink, ocean-blue, and all spangled with the graytinged light that falls through the trees. Gardens and patios are hidden from street view, though yellow and purple bougainvillea spill over an adobe wall, and here and there peeks the wiggy head of a palm tree. Where the walls make corners into doors with their high mounted video cameras, there are urgently fascinating smells that Picadou must stop to sniff.
When the conquistadors arrived in 1519, Coyoacán was a village on the southern shore of the lake that surrounded the Aztecs’ island capital of Tenochtitlán. To the west stretched fields of corn and agave; to the south, a six by two and a half mile bed of soot black lava from the eruption of Xitle, one of the many volcanos that ring this high-altitude basin. Over the centuries, Coyoacán has been engulfed by Mexico City, the lake filled in, and, like the fields and the lava bed, ribboned with expressways and blanketed over with houses and apartment buildings, universities and schools, banks, supermarkets and a Sears, a Price Club and sushi bars galore. Not to mention all those Domino’s Pizzas...
Praise for the work of C.M. Mayo
For Sky Over El Nido (Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction)
“Sky Over El Nido is a breath-taking first collection... The stories are vibrant, strange, loaded with off-beat humor, exquisite detail, and delivered with near-perfect pitch. Sky Over El Nido shimmers with life”
Virginia Quarterly Review
For Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico
“With elegant prose and an artist’s eye for detail, Mayo may just have written one of the best books ever about Baja California. Highly recommended.”