Mexico: the first ‘world city’
Several cities today, notably London, New York and Hong Kong, have claims to being a ‘world city’, a place where people, goods and ideas meet, with money an essential accelerant; many others aspire to the status.
But the first world city was none of these: it was Mexico City. Indeed, for two centuries, Mexico was arguably the centre of the world, the place where Asia, Europe and the Americas all met, and where people intermingled and exchanged everything from genes to textiles. ‘In you,’ wrote a poet of the day, ‘Spain joins with China, Italy with Japan, and finally the whole world in commerce and order…’
It was the wealth in the Americas, rather than just the markets back in Europe, that provided the economic impetus for the galleon trade and kept it going for two and a half centuries. But Mexico also sported a chinatown, immigrant professionals, entrepreneurs and merchants, universities, book publishing, intellectual study and cultural and diplomatic interchange.