It's not uncommon for some folks to conclude that cars in Latin America tend to look older than the ones you see commonly driven back home in the US.
Of course, that depends on what area in Latin America they are talking about and what area of the US.
Someone from a nice area of Miami going to a sketchy area of Barranquilla?
Yeah, they'll notice a difference for sure.
Even in nicer areas like Roma Norte of CDMX, some vehicles really do look old as fuck.
On the topic of general older vehicles here, it's one for another day.
I already wrote about all the abandoned vehicles you see down here in this article here.
But, beyond that, one thing specifically about the older vehicles you might find here is how many of them are Volkswagen Beetles.
Of course, when people think of more classic cars in Latin America, their first thought is Cuba.
But I'm not talking about Cuba right now.
I'm talking about Mexico City specifically.
In this city, it's not entirely uncommon to find a random Volkswagen Beetle running around or abandoned on the street.
But, in my years living here, the amount of Volkswagen Beetles you see depends on the neighborhood.
I've lived all over the city for over 5 years now.
Not a single area I have lived in even comes close to a specific neighborhood known as Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
An area I have lived in now for a total of a year.
During that time, I have seen numerous Volkswagen Beetles every single day and a day where they are on every street wouldn't be unusual either.
Just yesterday, I took a walk to my gym actually.
A simple 10 minute walk where I counted 11 different Volkswagen Beetles.
Like I said, some look ruined and abandoned.
Others look pretty old but still being used.
And you got some that look nice and shiny!
Now it's a question: Why is it you see so many Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico City?
But, more specifically, why are there SO MANY in specifically this one neighborhood known as Pedregal de Santo Domingo (and also some you see in nearby Ajusco)?
To be fair, I don't know the answer to that but I have some theories.
Before we get to those theories though, here's some pictures of the Volkswagen Beetles I have seen around the neighborhood.
So what are some explanations for this?
First, I remember my sister commenting to me how, in Southern California, supposedly there were some Latin gang members who used the Volkswagen Beetle a lot.
True? I have no idea.
But, given this is a rougher neighborhood with Mexican gang members, maybe there's something there.
Though I couldn't find any information online suggesting that this is the case for Mexico City so I'll leave it at that.
Second, as you can read here, clearly the Volkswagen Beetle has had some popularity in many other countries.
And that supposedly the "So-Cal" culture behind it found popularity in Mexico decades ago.
Here's some quotes from that bit.
"The Cal-Style was first called "Chicano Style", and then "Vintage Cal-Style". Around 1983–84 the term Cal-Style was universally accepted in the streets of Los Angeles. Japan was the first foreign country to embrace the Cal-Style VW in the mid 1980s.
Japan has always been drawn to California pop culture, especially lowrider car culture, and started exporting lowriders and Cal-Style VWs from Los Angeles during this time. Today the Los Angeles lowrider-influenced Cal-Style of vintage Volkswagens is very popular in Brazil, Belgium, Germany, England, Mexico, and Japan. Clubs today like The German Folks C.C., with chapters all over the world, and the Brazilian Folks, are dedicated to this style of building vintage Volkswagens."
Third, let's dig into some history using this source here on the history of the Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico.
To keep it short, basically the Volkswagen Beetle has always been popular in Mexico going back decade to the 1950s.
It's last manufacturing plant closed though in 2019 in Puebla.
Various models of it were made during that time and there was a big enough market for it.
However, demand for the model did go down during the 1990s and after due to, in part, competition from competitors like General Motors introducing the Chevrolet Pop.
But, interesting enough, the Volkswagen Beetle was a favorite for taxi drivers and it was common for taxi drivers in Mexico City especially to be driving in Volkswagen Beetles as you can see here.
However, in 2002, the then mayor of Mexico City, AMLO, issued the following decree (cited from the last source used):
"However, the Volkswagen Beetle kept being the Mexican taxi driver favorite, until, in 2002, a decree emerged under the mandate of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then Mexico City's governor. This decree prohibited the granting of permits for public transportation in the form of taxis in Mexico City to two-door cars, restricting even more the marketing of the Vocho in favor of the Nissan Tsuru (third generation Nissan Sentra), which now became the new favorite of taxi drivers in Mexico, causing sales of the Vocho to fall even further. These sales figures reached over 40,000 units sold annually in the mid-90s, dropping to just over 10,000 in its last year. Taxis were also not permitted to be any older than eight years, although the Vocho ended up being grandfathered in for an extra two years. This means that there will be no more Beetle taxis in Mexico City after the end of 2012. From 100,000 a few years earlier, only 3,500 VW Sedán taxis were left in early 2012."
Finally, in June 2003, the last version of the Volkswagen Beetle sold in Mexico, known as the Volkswagen Sedán Última Edición, was put out.
Here's a video below of what I think is a commercial for the the Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico.
"Es increíble que un auto tan pequeño deje un vacío tan grande. Adiós Sedán."
Fourth, having put together briefly a fraction of the history, what else is there to say?
Well, it perhaps makes sense why there would be so many Volkswagens in a place like Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
For one, I imagine these vehicles are much cheaper these days.
For an area poorer like Santo Domingo, obviously that'd be appealing to some folks.
Especially young kids in their 20s that I see driving them around.
You'd think it'd be older folks who'd have more nostologia for it and you do see some older folks driving these around to be fair.
But no shortage of young people.
Another thing though is to what degree are these vehicles just being kept around by former or current taxi drivers that want to keep them the old vehicles they used for work but instead now just for personal use.
Especially since taxi drivers don't always make the most money and I could see a few extra taxi drivers living in my neighborhood than say Roma Norte.
There are actually plenty of folks who also park more modern taxi cars outside of their homes that I see here than in other neighborhoods.
So those are all my thoughts anyhow.
Above all, I'm definitely not an expert on the history of the Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico.
The main thing really is to just highlight how many of them you see in Mexico but specifically this neighborhood known as Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
So many of them here!
It's definitely a characteristic of the neighborhood.
But that's all I got to say.
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Thanks for reading.