Langston Hughes' Mexico City..."I recall no period in my life when I've had more fun with less cash," wrote Langston Hughes of the time he spent living in Mexico City.
It was 1934 and he was 32 years old, sharing an apartment near Lagunilla Market ("across from the coffin makers") with not-yet-famous Henri Cartier-Bresson (who also fell in love with the capital and had his first big show there–at Palacio Bellas Artes, no less) and Mexican writer Andrés Henestrosa. The apartment was a dive; neighbors even taught Hughes and his roommates how to filch free electricity.
The story of Hughes' relationship with Mexico (and how he got there in the first place) is a fascinating one that starts with his father's decision to leave the racism of the U.S. and seek a better life for himself, first in Cuba and then in Mexico, where he lived for more than 30 years. Hughes first came to Mexico when he was five, but soon returned to the U.S. when his mother got scared during an earthquake. Hughes recalled his father carrying him across Parque Alameda in the midst of the quake, one of several places here he mentions in I Wonder as I Wander. When his father died, Hughes returned to Mexico to manage his estate and ended up staying for a time.
During his stay, he met Diego Rivera and other literary and artistic luminaries, and the country had a marked influence on him even after he returned to the States.