Back to Forum

Ethical living: Hope despite everything in an “underground city” of Mexico City

If we ask ourselves what characterizes ethics and Christian ethics in Latin America, we could determine several elements. Nonetheless, I think something to note in our context is that ethics is not primarily an academic discussion, but emanates or is projected through the way people live; thus, they practice their way of conceiving life, that is, they project through their attitudes, their ethos or character, the orientation of their existence.

In Mexico City, while we are facing very serious problems of unemployment, insecurity, economic crisis and public transport, among others, we can also say that our lives are marked by hope, optimism and resilience among the 8 million people who inhabit the city and the more than 12 million people who daily work, study and travel in its streets and avenues, from the so-called metropolitan area.

And in the urban macro world, we find throughout the day, in its neighborhoods and environments that occur there, “other cities” that project humanity, not unambiguously, as in the “underground city” of the Metro: with the sellers of lottery tickets who, despite their ability to work almost as automatons, try to find a more human way to engage another’s face; with the police at the turnstiles who attempt the impossible task of monitoring and caring for the millions of passengers and then become the rescue squads for those who are victims of a robbery, an accident or some health problem; with established retailers who struggle with the unfair disadvantage of vendors who circulate trains offering an incredible variety of products, in most cases, completely pirated, while trying not to annoy passengers, but also bearing the countless abuses of those who control them and defending the only work space the city has to offer. Or the passengers crowded on trains try to negotiate among themselves in the most gentle way, how to get off at the next station without shoving or being shoved; or mothers with their school children sleeping in their arms, taking advantage of the huge distances traveled every morning and evening, so as to begin or conclude the task of every day. Or finally, the growing number of elderly people or people with disabilities for whom the Metro and the city have not at all been designed because it has no elevators, but provides only miles and miles of uphill stairs.

Seeing the hope with which these millions of city dwellers move and work in this “underground city,” it does not seem an exaggeration to say that, despite the challenge of respecting others in their entirety and of being respected, this city is full of heroism.

Many other examples of ethical living, solidarity, tolerance and resistance are offered by Mexico City. You need to approach it with different eyes, we could say with “the eyes of theological faith” to feel its mysticism and to systematize a reflection so as to strengthen and invigorate our hope.

Miguel Ángel Sánchez Carlos ( is a Doctor in Theology from the Theological Faculty of Granada, Spain. Master of Theology from the Catholic University of Lyon, France. He teaches moral theology at the Department of Religious Studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. He is a member of the Espacio de Pastoral Urbana de México, where he works on a variety of publications and editor of the Revista Iberoamericana de Teología.