At first, the subway was not what it is and it didn’t even move. It was a new term that was defined in 1793 as the ten-millionth part of the distance from the Equator to the North Pole, drawn along a great circle: the circumference of the Earth.
In 1799, the meter was again redefined in terms of a prototype bar and in 1960, when the prototype was changed, it was again explained by a certain number of wavelengths from a certain emission line. It was not until the year 2002 when the calculations were redone and everyone agreed that the data was adequate and they understood it perfectly, but at that time nobody was thinking about public transport, as you, dear reader, already guessed, but about a unit of measurement.
It was in the middle of the 19th century, in 1843, when the English engineer Charles Pearson proposed, as part of an improvement plan for the city of London, to open tunnels with railways to transport the population from one place to another. After ten years of debate, the English Parliament authorized the proposal and in 1860, construction began. It was not until January 10, 1863 when the first urban railway line was inaugurated, with a length of six kilometers and ten steam locomotives, and the first Metro in the world was born. Its name, short for “metropolitan railway”, became popular and made everyone forget about the units of the metric system, to call Metro the best and most modern means of mass transport in the world.
The next city to have a Tube was New York, whose oldest line came into operation the same year as the London Underground. In 1896, the one in Budapest was inaugurated, then the one in Glasgow, followed by other cities in Europe -such as Berlin and Paris- and several more in the United States, where a large number of systems were built. It was not until the 20th century that the expansion of the Metro throughout Latin America, Oceania, Africa and Asia began, however, the first subway train in the Spanish-speaking world, where the speech and even the signs were written in Spanish, was the one in Buenos Aires. (El Subte), inaugurated in 1913, long before even the Madrid Metro.
In Mexico, as Alfonso Reyes said that always happened to us, we arrived late at the concert of History and our first trip on the Metro took place on September 4, 1969, during the presidency of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. That inauguration was considered, of course, so historic that commemorative coins were even made prior to the inauguration. And it is that, also as always, the construction and start-up of the Metro took time.
It was the engineer Bernardo Quintana who presented the project to build the Mexico City Metro to the authorities of the Federal District in 1958, and it was rejected due to its high cost. When the project was presented again – and they say that thanks to the intervention of Alex Berger – President Díaz Ordaz and his French counterpart, Charles de Gaulle, reached an agreement, a loan was processed and the work began to be built. It had a total cost of 2,530 million pesos, of which 1,630 million came from the French government and 900 million from the Department of the Federal District. This is how the Pink line, that is to say Line 1, began to run to the east and west. From Zaragoza to Chapultepec, boasting its 16 stations and running at full speed along its 12.6 kilometers.
Thus would begin, a new era for Mexico City that, from that moment on, and until now, would be full of real and magnificent stories, but also scary tales, curiosities, and mysterious anecdotes. In addition to being a technological marvel, the Metro became many things; from the scene of real and passionate love, to the house of unreal ghosts and vampire guests. But also in the final resting place of the Man from the Balderas Metro –which had little to do with Rockdrigo’s song and was a perfectly preserved skeleton of a man who had lived 10,000 years ago–; of the Giant Rat of Line 3, which after terrorizing millions of users ended up as an opossum and was transferred to Cuemanco for its protection, but also in the place of the most recent apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which in 1994 manifested itself in a damp stain on the wall of the Hidalgo station.
Apart from accidents –and very far from incidents– today, when once again the CDMX Metro is at the center of attention of locals and strangers, there are new appearances –such as elements of the National Guard in each of its stations – and we are waiting for another demonstration. Some that assures us calm and tranquility. Either by an expert report or by divine intervention.