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- Life in Latin America is a Game of Go Karts
Although most Latinas don’t expect you to have a car as a foreigner living in their country as plenty of people walk and it also their individual socioeconomic background and age will influence their expectations of you…
It can still be said that I’ve had at least two Latinas that I remember asking if I “ever plan” on getting a car someday.
Truth be told, I don’t in the foreseeable future.
Perhaps when I have kids?
Then the motivations might be different.
Until that day anyhow, there are certain issues that come with having a vehicle in Latin America specifically.
For one, as I wrote here, you got random homeless folks demanding you pay them money to park somewhere or else the possibility of your car getting slightly damaged is very real.
And you got plenty of corrupt cops or, in the case of Mexico, narco individuals looking to extort drivers for money like you can see in this videos here.
But one other thing I don’t like about the idea of driving in Latin America – coming from somewhere who has never driven down here to be fair – is the perception that I have that people down here don’t respect each other’s vehicles whatsoever.
That the driving skills is fucking crazy in this part of the world and that people will be damaging your vehicle soon enough.
Which isn’t surprising because, as I wrote here, the standards to get a drivers license in a country like Mexico are laughably low.
Mix that in with my observations over the years where I see, time and time again, folks fucking each other’s cars up and seemingly getting away with it!
Acting very nonchalant about it too like it’s no big deal.
“Oh, just hit someone’s vehicle today, who gives a fuck? Not my problem. Fuck them.”
“What’s a little bump and a little paint lost? It’s normal, it’s normal.”
As an outsider, it truly comes across like a lot of people (though not all) see it that way down here.
Do they really?
Truthfully, I don’t know what they think because I can’t read minds but it’s the best guess I have given how nonchalant people are about it all.
Here’s some examples.
Moving into Pedregal de Santo Domingo
About 4 days ago, I moved into an old neighborhood I’ve lived in before called Pedregal de Santo Domingo in Mexico City.
Truthfully, I got tired of the northern area of Mexico City.
Something about the area felt like it was “lacking soul” or however you’d put it.
Wasn’t a big fan of the vibe in the area.
Nothing bad about it really but it just seemed “kinda dead” to me.
While Santo Domingo isn’t the nicest area of Mexico City (and that’s putting it lightly), it still has a place in my heart.
Hard to explain why in simple terms so we’ll leave it at that.
Anyway, as I said, I moved in about 4 days ago.
Along the way to the new apartment, my Uber driver was waiting for the red light and some homeless guy was sitting on the trunk of the vehicle like it was his.
One of those dudes who offers to clean windshields with a bottle of soap water.
Guess he was tired, huh?
Sure – help yourself! My vehicle is the perfect place to rest during traffic.
Anyway, we eventually showed up to the new apartment.
Even though the landlord knew I was going to arrive at 9 PM, she still showed up late in typical Latin America fashion by about 30 minutes.
No luck for me, right?
So I paid my Uber driver about 100 pesos or 5 bucks to just reach out to the landlord for me given my phone didn’t have any data and to stick around until she got there as it would’ve been me alone at night with all my shit on the sidewalk.
He gladly did that as he appreciated the higher tip especially.
And we waited.
While we were waiting, I saw a vehicle in front of me trying to park in front of another vehicle.
It wasn’t trying to park between two vehicles so it shouldn’t have been too hard to just park in front of the one behind him.
Still, the dude (el GORDOOOO) managed to somehow hit the front of the car behind him as he was backing up.
It sounded like a good hit too.
Then the dude adjusted his car, got out, checked out the damage, shrugged his shoulders and carried on.
He went inside the house that he parked in front of and walked out back into his car holding a package like nothing happened.
No note to the driver.
Before the landlord got to me anyhow, the owner of the damaged car made his way back to his vehicle holding something also.
He walked from another street heading towards us and got into his vehicle without noticing or checking for any damage seemingly.
Funny enough, it’s not the first time I’ve seen vehicle fuckery in this area.
Waiting for the Salchipapa
About 3 hours ago as I write this, I left my apartment in Pedregal de Santo Domingo to go get some salchipapa.
It’s one minor detail I like about this neighborhood because I can actually fucking get salchipapa.
In the rest of Mexico City, I’ve found this type of Latin food to be a little bit elusive.
It’s basically French fries with ham and a bunch of sauce on it.
You can see a video of it here.
I first grew a liking for salchipapa when I lived in Colombia and, as I said, Santo Domingo is one of the few areas where I can find it easily in Mexico City.
Anyway, my arms have been feeling a little bit sore since I went to the gym last Friday and I figured I’d need some extra protein tonight.
Maybe salchipapa isn’t the healthiest choice but I like it and haven’t had it in a while.
And it does have some protein in it.
So I found my old favorite spot in the area that makes it and began waiting.
Given they were busy, I probably waited about 20 minutes for my food.
A little bit long for street food but worth the wait since I haven’t had salchipapa in like a year and a half.
While waiting, I basically stood there and watched the crowd around me.
Some group of drunk men standing some odd feet in front of me drinking away and listening to cumbia like you can see here.
A homeless dude down the road laying on his back playing dead.
Some street vendor selling socks and other clothing items to the side.
Among countless other folks.
Including some kids with a young boy riding a bike with a young girl chasing after him.
The kid ended up riding too fast and lost control.
Hit this red car that actually looked kinda nice and, though it was dark out, looked like he left a mark on it?
Not much of a mark to be fair.
And, if we’re being honest, the owner might not give a shit.
Granted, it does look like a nicer vehicle but the point being is that, from my impression, it just feels like people in Latin America are, if we were to generalize, a little more relaxed over small dents or scratches than folks back home.
Of course, not everyone is!
During that same night waiting for my salchipapa, I saw another incident funny enough.
Some guy trying to turn onto the road I was on but honking at some taxi to move his vehicle a little bit farther north so that the dude could make the turn safely.
The taxi driver wasn’t in his vehicle but was standing outside with some buddies eating whatever was in his hands.
The guy honks again.
Perhaps slightly drunk?
Because the taxi driver hits the dude’s vehicle a few times on the front and yells out something I couldn’t distinguish.
Given the taxi driver looked skinny, I can’t imagine he did too much damage hopefully with those few taps.
Seemingly not concerned of the driver getting out to confront him.
Ultimately, the driver found his way to make the turn and life carried on with a few more insults thrown between them.
But enough of Mexico!
What about other Latin countries?
No Love for Vehicles in Guatemala
When I lived in Guatemala, it was one of my first trips outside of the US.
One thing I noticed was how old all of the vehicles looked.
But also how beat up they all looked.
Your average vehicle I saw in Guatemala had seen better days without question.
One particular incident that might explain the rougher appearance was when I was in a combi.
Long story short, I didn’t know how combis worked and thought I could just take anyone and tell the driver to take me to where I want to go after he drops everyone off.
I eventually found myself in some rural area outside of the city of Xela but, as I wrote elsewhere, managed to get back home despite not being very good at speaking Spanish nor knowing where the hell I was.
Leading up to that though, I remember taking the combi during the later afternoon when there was still some light out.
As I sat down, I basically just people watched from the window to appreciate the scenery of the town and anything I saw.
Though I don’t have much of a story here given it’s been a few odd years, I just remember a moment in which the combi was parked waiting for the light to turn green and there being an incident outside the window.
Similar to the incident where I moved into Santo Domingo recently, one car was driving along and caused some minor damage trying to park.
It didn’t stay in the area though and moved on.
Maybe parked in another spot nearby?
I don’t know as the combi soon went on when the light was green.
The only funny thing memorable about that incident was that there was a cop vehicle in eyesight of the incident with a cop in the passenger seat.
You would think said cop would get out and investigate this incident of a vehicle being damaged and the driver going away?
Next, let’s get to another country.
Crazy Driving in Colombia
The countries that I have noticed that have the roughest drivers are the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
Honestly, when trying to pick another country to discuss, it was tough to pick which one.
Given that I’ve lived in Colombia more, I went with this instead.
At any rate, it’s a quick story since it’s been years since it happened and not much did happen.
So, in a city called Barranquilla, I remember taking a taxi from a university called Universidad del Norte back to my apartment during the afternoon.
Now the taxi itself was pretty beat up.
It had a broken window where the driver put some cardboard shit covering it up.
And the vehicle itself with all its scratches and dents made it seem like it had seen better days.
Along the way to my apartment, the car stopped.
Wasn’t working anymore seemingly.
We were literally parked in the middle of some street where we would’ve been blocking traffic if anyone came behind it.
Not that a line of vehicles did though.
Anyway, the taxi driver opens the vehicle to get out but failed to look behind him for any vehicles coming by.
Unfortunately for him, some motorcycle happened to be speeding down the road.
Though I don’t remember perfectly, I think it might’ve caused some minor damage to the vehicle but I don’t think much to be honest if it did.
The taxi driver opened the vehicle again and yelled out in rough Quilla accent something like “HUEPUTA!!!”
And a bunch of other shit after calling him a son of a bitch.
Anyway, he got the vehicle working again and we carried on.
Not sure how he fixed it or what the problem was but life went on.
Obviously, in his case anyhow, he did care a little bit about the extra damage or risk of it anyway.
Let’s wrap this up with some final thoughts to consider.
First, you have auto fuckery in the US and other countries also.
People doing hit and runs and all the rest of it.
Folks with badly damaged vehicles.
So on and so on.
No country is immune to this shit.
Having said that, it’s always been my impression that, generally speaking, you see a lot more damage to your typical vehicle down here in Latin America than in the US.
And, from an outsider’s perception, it almost feels like less people give a shit about vehicle damage if it’s not too major?
If you don’t know what I mean, just check out all of the taxis down here.
Plenty of missing windows with something covering up the broken window or noticeable damages in other areas.
It genuinely does feel like people have a wider tolerance for vehicle damage down here.
Second, I think it’s also important to mention that, if I had to guess, maybe people are more tolerable because, on average, they have less money to repair damages?
So people just learn to roll with it, do the essential repairs when needed and ride on (pun intended).
Third, it obviously depends on the neighborhood or country you live in also in my opinion.
Obviously, I’ve seen people around here with REALLY nice cars that don’t have any damage to them.
You see more of that in touristy areas for example.
If you spend more time in lesser wealthy areas (poor ones or even normal ones), obviously you’ll see more of what I’m talking about.
And, between Latin countries, I think one could see how a place like Chile or Uruguay might have more vehicles that have less obvious damages than a place like Guatemala or the Dominican Republic.
When talking about my first two examples in Mexico City, keep in mind I was talking about Pedregal de Santo Domingo and NOT Polanco.
Granted, most Latin Americans don’t live in a place as nice as Polanco so it’s not really fair either to paint your typical car you’ll see down here as being one that is parked at a nice address like that.
Either way, if I have the time, maybe I’ll take some pictures of vehicles I see around town to show you the extra damages people are more cool with down here.
Might have to be sneaky about it though – who wants someone taking photos of their car?
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
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Thanks for reading.