The mien of Pope Francis popped up overnight in Mexico City last week, and now embellishes every Telmex phone booth in the city’s Historic Center. Given the importance of his impending visit – on so many levels – the photos are a way for Mexicans to honor the pontiff, as well as recognize their country’s vital place in the Catholic world view.
They also attest to the prelate’s brief but important stopover in the city’s Center, where he will make a “courtesy visit” to President Enrique Peña Nieto on Saturday at the National Palace, followed by a meeting with Mexican Bishops in the Cathedral. (See agenda)
Metal stands have been erected in the rear part of the Zócalo for onlookers to watch, albeit at a safe distance, as the Pope leaves the giant Palace building (part of which was built with materials from Moctezuma’s once-mighty palace) for the grand Cathedral, just south of where the Aztec Great Temple once stood.
The fact that these images appear on Telmex booths reflects the admiration felt by many in the inner circles of big corporate Mexico. The pontiff’s austere lifestyle, his empathy with the poor, and willingness to openly address corruption, drug trafficking and immigration have sparked the goodwill of folks (including Carlos Slim) who were raised in the austere schemas of Opus Dei and Legion of Christ. These people comprise a vital part of the nation’s business elite.
For the pueblo – the pontiff’s deepest constituency – these images confirm the Holy See’s proximity to Mexico’s halls of power, its ability to influence (at least hypothetically) the Senators and local legislators who rule the nation and capital.
Yet despite the photo campaign, 24/7 video in subway stations and buses, daily spots on TV and radio, the bureaucrats who work nearby don’t seem very excited. Call it what you will – apathy, busy-ness, ambivalence – Pope Francis’ visit has not generated as much excitement as when Juan Pablo II came to town.
Mexico’s political class, it seems, is on edge.