Alejandro needed to get a copy of his father’s birth certificate, but because his dad was not born in Mexico City, he could not get the copy here. His father was born in a rural area of the State of Mexico. (It’s confusing, but within the country of Mexico there is a state which is also called Mexico. The State of Mexico surrounds Mexico City on three sides.) In order to get a copy of the birth certificate, Alejandro needed to go to Nezahualcóyotl (commonly referred to as “Neza”), just on the other side of the Mexico City limits. So, on Monday I accompanied Alejandro on his drive to “Neza”.
“Neza” is named after Nezahualcóyotl, the pre-Hispanic king, poet and philosopher who ruled the nearby city of Texcoco in the 15th century.
A statue of Nezahualcóyotl in front of the “Neza” city hall
“Neza” is a city with a population of over one million people within the Mexico City metropolitan area. It is, quite frankly, rather ugly, certainly not a place that a tourist is likely to visit. The city is built on the former lakebed of Lake Texcoco, and it was not until the early 20th century when that portion of the lake was drained that the area was populated. I can remember traveling along the highway which forms the border between Mexico City and “Neza” back in the 1970s. There was nothing there… just dusty, empty lakebed. Now, that entire area is densely built up.
In the last decades of the 20th century the population of “Neza” skyrocketed as people from poor rural areas migrated to the metropolitan area. Much of the city was comprised of shantytowns without electricity or water. Alejandro can remember when the streets of the city were unpaved. Today, the infrastructure is much improved, but a large portion of the population still lives in poverty, and there is a high level of crime.
We made the forty-minute drive to “Neza” and went to one of the city’s civil registry offices. There Alejandro was told to go to the city hall next door where there was a machine that printed off official documents in five minutes while you wait.
“Neza’s” city hall
The woman working at the machine, put in the information, but said that the birth certificate could not be printed there because the document had never been digitalized. She sent Alejandro to another government office about two miles away to have the birth certificate digitalized. There he was told that he had to go to another civil registry office down the street. This was the correct office, but they only take care of such requests at certain hours, and it was too late in the afternoon.
So, yesterday we returned to beautiful, downtown “Neza” and went directly to the second civil registry office. They took care of the digitalization fairly quickly. Then we drove back to the city hall where they were able to have the birth certificate printed off. I’m not sure if I have all of this straight as Alejandro explained to me as we went from office to office, but one thing is clear… Mexican bureaucracy is a pain in the behind.