By Karla Paniagua and Patricio Betteo
I was on my way to this UN meeting to travel back in time when walking down the street watching TikTok, I fell into an uncovered sewer in the street of Francisco Sosa and Pino, in the neighborhood of Coyoacán, Mexico City.
It was 2023 when I fell into that hole, and 70 years had passed when two garbage collectors pulled me out. They were an elderly man and young woman with the same eyes, hooked nose, and the same rough, nimble hands; she must have been his granddaughter.
Trumpets of angels, drying clothes, and water catchers in the night of Coyoacán, Mexico City, 2093. Illustration by Patricio Betteo (2023)
"They stole the iron manhole covers so often that they stopped replacing them years ago," the old man explained. "Wait, my mobile phone is in there with all my stuff!" I said. The young woman replied, "Unless your mobile phone is solar-powered, there's no point in looking for it. The electrical system collapsed years ago, and lithium batteries are rare now." I was already relieved to have been pulled out of that sewer, so I decided to pick my battles. I severely injured my legs in the fall, so these good people put me on a rubbish cart and took me to the nearest hospital. During the journey, I noticed that time had passed: the neighborhood seemed different. The houses in the area, built in the remote era of Spanish colonization, now seemed inhabited by many families. "In 2040, there was a new policy of degentrification of the area; the government expropriated these houses and turned them into social interest properties," the grandpa explained. “Wow, that explains the underwear hanging out of the windows in properties considered historical heritage," I laughed, pointing to a large pair of thongs hanging from a window in the former parish church of San Juan Bautista converted into a multifamily condominium. "What are those blue tanks sticking out of all the houses?" I asked. "They are water collectors,” the young woman said. “Man years ago, they bombarded the clouds to fight the drought, and it kept raining. All the houses have rainwater collectors so the city doesn't flood." "Oh my God, how's that?" I pointed out. "It has rained so much that vehicles inspired by the ancient chinampas a few years ago began to circulate. Today's chinampas are hybrids that run in dirty water and on the ground. People build them in their homes using parts from electric cars that fell into disuse when the electrical system collapsed,” said the young woman. "I am pleasantly surprised at how informed you are; I congratulate you," I told the garbage collectors. They stopped and looked at me carefully: "We know you have been through a traumatic experience; we will help you and won't be offended by your inappropriate comment. All persons who collect garbage in this country have gone to graduate school in waste collection and management. Mexico is an authority on the subject," they told me before continuing with me in tow. I blushed. "May I ask, mister, what are those billboards all over?” I pointed to some advertisements. "The use of gender-specific language is considered highly inappropriate these days; it is clear that you have spent a lot of time away from here. That's a campaign by the radical, anti-angel trumpet flower movement," the grandpa replied before handing me in front of the hospital and leaving without further explanation. The hospital didn't look like the public health clinics I remembered. It was a small place, more like a medical dispensary. I waited a while before someone realized I needed help. "Indifference to other people's pain hasn't changed much," I thought. No one came despite my screams, so I crawled inside the dispensary. It was a warm place, full of plants and flowers; other patients were waiting for their turn. "Is anyone here?" I yelled. Then came who I guessed was a doctor. I explained that I couldn't stand up because I had fallen into an uncovered drain. He handed me a piece of paper with a number (some things don't change over time), looked at my wounds, looked up my file on his solar-powered computer, and declared that "there was no record of me." "Well, that happened maybe because I was trapped in the drain for 70 years," I said. My explanation seemed reasonable; the doctor smiled and went away again. I waited my turn for hours. During that time, I chatted with the other patients. I learned that the Social Security and National Commission for Retirement Savings systems went bankrupt a few years before the Federal Electricity Company did. Private hospitals had taken over the network of public hospitals, and now only a few people who could afford it were treated with allopathic medicine.
This opened a golden opportunity to push the psychotropic medicine market, now the most common way of treating ailments for the general population. These remedies solve your conditions or at least bring you to a state of mind and soul where sickness no longer seems necessary. A patient enthusiastically showed me how his state-of-the-art, battery-less vaporizer worked while telling me that marijuana and the poppy flower were legalized in 2045. Still, the State had very restrictive policies for production that had failed to end the black market, boosting it instead. On the other hand, using micro-doses of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the virgin flower, and angel trumpet flowers to treat all kinds of ailments has become widespread, causing a furor for medical tourism focused on psychotropic experiences. "Angel's trumpet flower, the one that grew wild on the pavements?" I asked. "Yes, try some," he said, and I nodded, accepting the artifact he kindly offered me. It reminded me of the old black clay musical instruments whose whistling sound resembles the song of water flowing down the river. The patient's face broke down completely when I put the little artifact to my lips. "Oh my god, not with the mouth; you must place it in the vestibule of your ear." “So that's how people travel these days,” I told myself before I began to hear the harmonies of the trumpets… And that’s all I remember, dear UN officials.
Karla Paniagua was born in Mexico City. Visual Anthropologist, she has directed the postgraduate program Foresight at CENTRO since 2015. Teacher, speaker, researcher, and co-editor in chief of Economía Creativa journal. She is the author of three books, lecturer, columnist, and co-host of the radio show The Future Was Yesterday with Raúl Bravo. Is working on a new Dungeons & Dragons-style book in collaboration with Patricio Betteo & Margarita Arroyo.
Patricio Betteo was born in Mexico City and, since 2000, has illustrated for all kinds of magazines and children's books and has done backgrounds and concept art for animation. He has also published books of pure lyrics and lots of comics and has written poems. He plays guitar very severely and loves books. He lives in Querétaro with his wife Isabel and his daughter Dementia, a year-guzzling cat. He juggles and plays video games in his spare time... but never simultaneously.