Despite being Chilean by birth, Roberto Bolaño showed a great interest in Mexico City, using it as the setting for many of his texts (most famously The Savage Detectives), as well as living there for a considerable chunk of his entirely too short life. If you’re interested in Bolaño, you can wander past his former home in the Colonia Guadalupe Tepeyac, but please don’t try and enter as a new family now lives there!
However, if Bolaño’s house isn’t enough and you simply need to see more Mexico City spots that in some way inspired his writing career, then Café La Habana isn’t a bad shout. While he often based his fictional locations on real life places, it generally proves tricky to pin them down with certainty; however, despite changing the name of this café to ‘Café Quito’, it was so thinly veiled that the café to which he was paying an homage of sorts became quickly clear.
Leon Trotsky was famously exiled from his country by Stalin and sought sanctuary in Mexico City, where he was hosted for some time by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera before moving to a new location in Coyoacán. In the place in which he formerly lived, there is now the Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky – an essential literary landmark in the capital. Crammed with personal artefacts and photos with other significant cultural figures, it’s an underrated and excellent destination.
Let’s face it, Mexico City is no Europe when it comes to café culture and long, luxurious street-side lunches; however, this was very different in the mid-18th century. Predominantly centred on the historic centre, one such example of a popular literary café was Café del Cazador which sadly no longer exists. Even so, a plaque marks the spot where it once stood and you should definitely drop by to take a look. Perhaps even drop in to one of the nearby cafés instead, and get to work on your own novel!
Mexico City, with its relatively lax laws and fascinating cultural heritage, was somewhat of a draw for writers of the Beat generation, in particular William S. Burroughs. The famed author of Junky and Naked Lunch once called the city home, and as a result you can drop by many of his past haunts; the now demolished and rebuilt edifice at Orizaba 210 was where Kerouac allegedly wrote Mexico City Blues and Tristessa, while Monterrey 122 is where Burroughs accidentally shot dead his wife Joan Vollmer.
One of Mexico City’s oldest and most well-known cantinas may not seem the obvious place for any literary pilgrimage through Mexico City, but it should be. Many of Latin America’s top writers, including Colombian García Marquez, Mexican Juan Rulfo and Argentinian Julio Cortazar, allegedly composed some of their tales here. It still has somewhat of a reputation for attracting writers to its bar stools to this day. Another notable point of interest at Bar La Ópera is the bullet hole in the ceiling, supposedly left by Pancho Villa.