I moved to the town of Santa Ana in Milpa Alta just a week ago.
For information on my time finding my newest apartment, check out this article here.
I've been to Milpa Alta before on several other occasions so some of my initial impressions come from that.
So what could be said about the area?
While I'm sure it almost being December has something to do with it, I genuinely find Milpa Alta colder than the rest of the city.
I have to wear a jacket inside my apartment at all times.
And my hands always feel very cold too.
Granted, it's not the cold I remember in Iowa so it's not too bad.
And, to be honest, I prefer this than the blistering heat I remember in some of my apartments I've lived in Mexico City where just sitting in a chair would cause me to sweat my ass off.
More Countryside than Barrio
Before moving here, I spent a few months in Iztapalapa and some other rough looking barrios.
There is such a strong contrast moving from areas like that to a more rural area like Milpa Alta.
Though, having said that, there's no shortage of "barrio looking" or "third world" looking buildings in Milpa Alta either.
It is a relatively poor area.
On my first night here, I remember walking outside at around 9 PM and the street I am on -- with no street lights and third world looking buildings -- looking a bit rough to the eyes.
It looks better in the day, I promise.
But it still has its differences.
Not as populated like Iztapalapa.
More rural. More maize and nopal.
Fields of agriculture at the end of my street.
And, to be honest, I really like the rural view a lot.
Not only because of the contrast but I generally enjoy a nice ride through the countryside.
At just 5 to 7 bucks an hour, you can have a driver drive you around for 5 to 8 hours enjoying the countryside.
In the last week, I've done that several times.
And it's one of my favorite things to do in Mexico City.
Here's a few photos among the hundreds I've taken so far.
Let's move on.
Bewilderment of the Locals
It's usually in areas where the locals aren't accustomed to gringos moving in.
Here in Milpa Alta, they haven't been hostile or given me mean looks.
Instead, the looks seem to be of curiosity.
People seem friendly and very curious about me.
I've never been stared at as much until I moved here.
By the far the place in Mexico City with the most people with a staring problem.
Even my landlord seemed genuinely surprised that I, as a gringo, was moving in.
He had a look and attitude that screamed "you're the first gringo I've seen in 10 centuries."
Who Let the Dogs Out?
Similar to the staring, Santa Ana and broader Milpa Alta also wins on one other achievement: having the most street dogs I have ever seen.
Despite not being a very well populated area compared to other alcaldias of Mexico City, there's a shit ton of street dogs where I live.
Way more per capita than in other parts of the city that I've been to.
Personally, I don't mind it usually though it is sad to see dogs or any animal sleeping on the street.
Except what does get under my skin a little bit is when I see dogs on the rooftops like I wrote about here.
Los Perros de azotea.
People who leave their pets on the rooftop shouldn't be allowed to have them and deserve to get the shit kicked out of them.
But that's another topic.
Anyway, you'll see a shit ton of dogs outside like I said.
Nightlife & Food
Yeah, there isn't anyway obviously.
Maybe a bar or two but I don't think I've even seen a bar so far.
At least in Santa Ana and I took a walk through the whole area on every street a few days ago and don't remember seeing any.
Perhaps if you went to the main town -- Villa Milpa Alta -- you'll see a bar or two.
When it comes to food, it's both a positive and a negative.
A negative in that food options are not very abundant here in terms of restaurants and street food.
But, given it is a small town, your expectations have to be realistic similar to nightlife.
There's also no Uber Eats in my specific area.
Though Uber does exist but all of the Uber vehicles you see are in Villa Milpa Alta so they'd have to travel to get you to but the distance isn't far).
Having said that, I've had some of the best quesadillas in my life that you can see here.
That one is of picadillo with cheese.
Of course, given this is Mexico City, I have to emphasize that the quesadilla has queso, don't I?
More on that topic here.
And the few street food spots I have seen are pretty good anyhow with other things like gorditas, tacos, etc.
So the food itself that I have tried so far isn't bad at all and, in some cases, better than what I have tried in the rest of the city but the number of food options you have is limited for obvious reasons.
Murals & Zapata
You won't see as many murals here as you will in Iztapalapa.
The ones that you do see though reflect the area quite well anyhow.
They tend to always have one of the following 3 themes:
Something agricultural in nature (like cactus)
A mural of Emiliano Zapata
A religious mural of some girl doing a prayer.
Here's some examples I took pictures of.
Which makes sense.
The area does give a stronger religious vibe than most.
You do see a shit ton of cactus and fields of agriculture everywhere.
And Emiliano Zapata does have a strong history in this area during the Mexican Revolution as you can see here.
It even has a important museum in the town of San Pablo dedicated to him.
WHICH IS NEVER OPEN!
The Pastor is Speaking
It seems common for there to be some random man in the distance speaking loudly into a microphone.
Based on what I understand, it's a bunch of religious stuff he's speaking.
Love Jesus. The Bible. Etc.
I'm guessing it's coming from their main church as you can see here.
I've heard the ramblings get louder as I walk closer to it.
So I'm guessing it comes from there.
And it's not just on Sundays but it's not everyday either.
A Ghost? Is That La Llorona?
On several occasions now, I have been woken up at around 2 AM to hear some screeching "AHHHHHHHHHHHHH."
It sounds almost like a woman and almost like an ambulance but not quite like an ambulance.
And, when I look outside my window, I see no ambulance.
In Mexican culture, they have some story called La Llorona.
I'm not an expert on the story but I did attend some event dedicated to it a month ago.
Basically, it's about some random ass chick who got White Bred by a Spaniard. She kills her children when the conquistador dumps her ass for a hotter chick. Then she kills her children and runs around crying "AYYYY MIS HIJOS!!!"
Or "my children!!!"
What a whore.
Could this be La Llorona?
Coming from the maize field at the end of my street every 2 AM?
Like Field of Dreams where ghosts come from the fields?
I have no idea!
But it does give a chilling effect.
And whoever is making the noise should shut up.
I don't think I've seen anyone ride a horse in the rest of Mexico City except just Milpa Alta.
Unless it was at a parade.
In Milpa Alta, it's a daily experience to see some random dude riding a horse somewhere.
Kinda gives it that "stereotypical Mexico image" that foreigners who haven't been to Mexico think about.
Everyone on horses but nobody in cars (even though obviously most people use cars here).
Speaking of cars, do you see lots of volkswagens?
You'll notice in Mexico City that poorer areas tend to have more volkswagen beetles than richer areas.
While they aren't rare here, I haven't seen as high of abundance of them as I have in more populated but also poorer areas like Cuautepec, Pedregal de Santo Domingo, etc.
As I've said elsewhere on my blog, Milpa Alta is a major pain in the ass to get to or leave if you aren't using taxi or Uber.
Even with taxi or Uber, it's a long ass way to get there or back.
When I last visited the area to attend the Feria de Mole as I wrote about here, I didn't have wifi on my phone and couldn't connect to any public wifi.
Had to take a bus.
From Milpa Alta to Metro Taxquena, it was about an hour and a half to 2 hours at night.
God fucking damn.
You would wonder "why don't they include a metro down here?"
But a metro would probably be impossible given the mountains and all the agricultural fields.
If you had to do a metro, I'm going to take a wild guess in saying that it'd have to be extended from Metro Tlahuac.
Maybe have it to go the town of Tecomitl. That'd be possible and Tecomitl is in Milpa Alta technically.
But to extend a metro line from Tecomitl to San Francisco and then Villa Milpa Alta?
I have my doubts.
While this area is in serious need of better public transportation to and from the area, I think the best solution would probably be a cablebus if I had to guess.
It desperately needs something to better connect it to the rest of the city.
Because who the fuck wants a 2 hour bus ride just to Taxquena? Jesus Christ.
Taxis & Uber
Speaking of transportation, taxis and Uber should be discussed briefly.
Like I said, Uber isn't very abundant here.
When I tried to leave neighborhing Mixquic in Tlahuac not too long ago after attending Day of the Dead there, I couldn't get an Uber to take me home.
There was one Uber available and the dude was too busy jerking off to Mia Khalifa porn or something.
Milpa Alta has the same issue in that Uber isn't very abundant here.
Your best bet are taxis if leaving at night and you could get an Uber for sure perhaps in the day or afternoon.
With taxis, there definitely seems to be more "informal" taxis here that don't use the meter to run the price for the trip.
But those with the meter do exist. Just that, based on my experience here, I consistently get more and more without the meter.
But that's just my experience.
Let's move on.
Feria de Mole
This is one of the better events to attend in Milpa Alta.
I wrote about it here.
If you like mole, then go visit it.
Was worth a trip.
Here's a video too.
Is any part of Milpa Alta worth living in or is it all a shithole?
Recently, I got this comment here from a Mexican dude on Twitter that seemingly thinks Milpa Alta is not a place even worth being paid to visit.
When it comes to livability anyhow, there are parts of Milpa Alta that are real shitholes.
There are certain areas especially that I think are under the jurisdiction of neighboring towns but come across like their own rural area.
Like in this area here for example.
Areas like this are simply too poor, too rural and wouldn't be enjoyable for most people to live in.
Then you have the 12 towns themselves.
There are some towns -- like San Francisco or San Lorenzo -- that are boring to me but seem livable. They're just too boring for me to consider though.
Then you have some places that are tolerable enough like Santa Ana, Tecomitl, San Pablo, etc.
But the best areas of Milpa Alta in my opinion are Villa Milpa Alta and San Pedro Atocpan.
I tried to move to either one when I came to Milpa Alta but I simply couldn't find a suitable room that is furnished with utilities included for a one month stay.
I only plan on being here for just a month.
If I had to choose between those two, San Pedro Atocpan by far is where I'd go.
That's a great town.
Has its own little charm.
Really pleasant to be in.
Having said that, I understand why a lot of gringos wouldn't move there.
Especially if they are young types wanting a faster paced life with plenty of nightlife, great restaurants, hotter women, etc.
The broader Milpa Alta area and San Pedro Atocpan isn't any of that.
Unless your idea of nightlife is a small bar by the corner that sells adulterated alcohol and your idea of hot women are slightly overweight rural gals who give an OK handjob on the 7th date (but only a handjob because Jesus said no fucking till marriage).
Kidding -- I'm sure you could find some indigenous slut around these parts that is wet for the White Man and fucks and sucks cock on the first date.
Probably. Who knows. I'll let you know if I find such a gal.
At any rate, I'd say Milpa Alta's only true "hidden gem" is San Pedro Atocpan.
It's not the most "hidden" though as some foreigners do know about the Feria de Mole and obviously no shortage of Mexicans do.
Always weird to call something hidden when plenty of locals know about it but you know what I mean.
Regardless, San Pedro Atocpan, outside of those who want mole, doesn't get much foreigner attention.
And it really is a nice town that I like a lot and have visited a few times since moving here a week ago.
The streets smell of mole. The people are nice as are in the rest of Milpa Alta. Something charming about the town itself. I could see myself living there for maybe 3 months.
It's suitable, above all, for the man who doesn't need constant excitement and is OK sitting in a park by himself having some tea and some cute girlfriend next to him who doesn't talk much but can make a nice sandwich for the two of you in the park.
Any Gringos in Milpa Alta?
Like I said, you don't really see any gringos here.
Even when I went to the Feria de Mole, I didn't see any.
Gringos are so uncommon here that any hour walking outside includes at least 3 people staring at me.
Though, to be fair, I've spent time in many other areas with no gringos and didn't get stared at as much.
Something about the good people of Milpa Alta that involves staring at strangers.
Locals Nice? Do They Hate Gringos?
You have this talk on the internet about locals in Mexico City hating gringos.
I find it to be mostly bullshit even in areas where gringos are common like Roma Norte.
It just isn't my experience but you do have some locals who dislike us for sure but that's another topic for another day.
In my experience anyway, areas with few to no gringos do definitely have a more positive reception to gringos usually.
People are usually friendlier in my experience.
Not that areas without them have mostly rude people but they are used to us and their friendliness is usually less authentic on average.
In Milpa Alta, I've so far experienced the same thing.
The locals seem friendlier on average.
More humble too.
My landlord is almost uncomfortably humble.
To the point it feels more like low self esteem.
Anyway, let's move on.
The Obligatory Buenos Dias
I've never been in an area of Mexico City or anywhere in Latin America where I'm constantly told "buenos dias" or "good day" by complete strangers.
You can't go a full day in Milpa Alta without being told "buenos dias" or "buenas tardes" at least 5 days a day.
If not 10.
I'm convinced each local living here is under some contractual obligation to tell at least 30 different people a day "buenos dias" or "buenas tardes."
If not, the cartels will come knocking.
How good is the wifi?
In my apartment, the wifi is tolerable.
Not the worst I've had in Mexico City but not good enough to get much work done online.
I can go a month like that but nothing more.
Can't say though if the wifi in my place is typical or not though of broader Milpa Alta.
If I had to guess, probably you can find better wifi at some other apartment here in Milpa Alta.
Just might've been bad luck for me on that end.
Because we are in Mexico City still and not some rural village in Chiapas.
It feels safe overall.
Granted, I guess I shouldn't say that given this here made the news recently about Milpa Alta.
When it comes to safety anyhow, I do notice that -- as is typical -- locals bitch about it being not so safe.
I've noticed particularly that some of them seem to blame the deteriorating safety situation on people from Iztapalapa.
Kinda reminds me how back home in small town Iowa you got folks who blame the same issue on "folks from Chicago."
Some outside group to blame the problems on.
Who knows how true it is that "folks from Iztapalapa" are really fucking things up here.
Maybe most don't feel that way and it's just a few I've noticed.
But that's one thing I have noticed anyhow.
Another thing too -- to be fair -- is that, after enough time in areas like Pedregal de Santo Domingo or Iztapalapa, my idea of what is "safe enough" might differ from someone else.
It truly doesn't feel that unsafe at all.
A taxi driver of mine though just a few days ago said "well, at night it's pretty unsafe. That's when all the rateros (thieves) come out."
Which is true probably in most parts of the world.
We all know things can be sketchier at 2 AM when seemingly La Llorona is screaming her guts out versus 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon in the park.
I've been more harassed by dogs anyway than by homeless people also.
There's only one case so far where a random homeless dude made a comment my way but it was some drunk type who seemingly had trouble getting on his feet in a random ally that I stumbled upon in Santa Ana.
Though, speaking of homeless people as it relates to safety, I think I've only seen 2 so far.
That one drunk dude and one random looking skinny guy in his 20s sniffing that thing you see homeless people sniff when they cover their nose in Mexico City.
Compared to the rest of Mexico City, the amount of homeless people you see is way lower. It almost doesn't feel like Mexico City as it relates to that.
Anyway, what I will say is this:
Parts of Milpa Alta look "third world" but are rural and don't feel unsafe at all. Just underdeveloped but you don't get that extra tension in the air as you would in rougher hoods of Mexico City, Barranquilla or elsewhere I've been.
But, like with anything, use basic safety precautions. Don't walk outside too late at night. The usual.
How Young is the Crowd?
I don't know what the specific statistics are regarding the age of the average person in Milpa Alta.
What I can say is that -- from my observations in general -- the crowd here seems slightly older than what I'm used to in "barrio" looking areas like Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
More old grandmas walking to church.
More people in their mid 30s to 40s working as taxi drivers, cooking food, etc.
I guess this would relate also to the dating scene for those curious.
Though they're not uncommon, you don't see as many young women here.
But the age of the average person in general just seems a little bit higher.
That's based on just my observations though being outside.
So I'll leave it at that.
Do the locals know English?
Good enough for the non-Spanish speaking gringo?
I have no idea.
I don't go around speaking English to people to know how good their English is.
But, if I had to guess, it's probably not the best given there's no real tourism to the area for the most part and, from what I heard, education levels aren't as high here.
Though, just today, I was sitting around waiting for my gorditas to be made and I saw some sign advertising a school in San Pedro Atocpan where they claim to teach your children English (among other subjects obviously like math, science, etc).
So who knows.
But, if I had to guess, your non-Spanish speaking gringo would probably have a rougher time here than in Condesa or Roma Norte.
All Small Towns the Same?
I got this comment here on Twitter as it relates to Milpa Alta and the photos I've been sharing.
Thought it was kinda funny.
There's some truth to it.
The town I am in could pass for any other stereotypical small town you see in other parts of Central America and Mexico specifically.
This town actually reminds me of my days in Guatemala.
Final Breakdown of Milpa Alta
I've been driving around Milpa Alta for hours in the last week.
Have spent about 12 hours in a taxi just being driven around to different spots in the rural countryside.
And I've spent enough time walking in a lot of the small towns.
From what I can gather, Milpa Alta can basically be broken down as follows:
First, you got about 12 different "original towns" to the area.
"En la demarcación se asientan doce pueblos: Villa Milpa Alta, la cabecera delegacional, San Antonio Tecómitl, San Francisco Tecoxpa, San Jerónimo Miaca- tlán, San Agustín Ohtenco, San Pedro Atocpan, San Pablo Oztotepec, San Bar- tolomé Xicomulco, San Salvador Cuauh- tenco, San Lorenzo Tlacoyucan, Santa Ana Tlacotenco y San Juan Tepenahuac ...."
Villa Milpa Alta is the basically the center of Milpa Alta.
Then you have a volcano called Teutli that has plenty of religious importance from what I have been told that is north of Villa Milpa Alta.
In the south of those towns, you have really just the following:
A shit ton of ejido land that produces a shit ton of nopal but also some maize. Outside of nopal and maize, you'll see some plants for pulque, some medicinal plants and some other plants here and there for other vegetables.
But almost entirely nopal.
Then you have some hiking trails that'll lead you to different volcanoes scattered about in the far southern parts closer to the border with Morelos or Estado de Mexico depending on where you are exactly.
And you got some forested area in select areas of Milpa Alta also where, if you go inside them, you might see some nopal fields here and there also.
That's basically it.
If you want tips on some of the better spots to travel to for seeing the countryside, go to any of the volcanoes.
If you don't want to hike the volcanoes though, go to these specific spots in the screenshots here.
In the first image, you'll find it difficult to know how to get to the spot I'm recommending.
It's a grassy spot that your driver will have to drive onto before soon finding a dirt road going north where, once you begin walking (and it's only about a 15 minute walk uphill), you'll find some nopal fields.
And also you'll get one of the better views of Milpa Alta.
Here's a picture of what that grassy spot looks like that you should turn onto for that spot.
In the third image, know that you'll need a driver who is a little more adventurous for the first circle. Just go down the white line on that image and you'll soon find yourself in a forested area where my taxi driver almost got his vehicle stuck.
It doesn't really have much of a road to go down but it offers some really nice views of nopal agriculture also and was one of my favorite spots to go down.
Probably a taxi driver who doesn't use the meter and has a vehicle that is already a bit beat up (and who ideally has kids to feed so he'll take any job) would be the best for going down that road.
Who Should Live in Milpa Alta?
As I said before, if you're the type of gringo who can get by just chilling in a park and don't need an overly exciting life, then Milpa Alta could work for you.
Especially if you want to be away from some of the more noisy aspects of other busy and more populated parts of the city.
I could see myself living here for at most 3 months but that'd be pushing it.
And, while I like Santa Ana, it'd have to be in San Pedro Atocpan.
But 3 months and I'd have to leave.
Would be too bored.
But, if I had a family, I could see myself living here.
Has some charming areas -- like San Pedro Atocpan -- that could work well for that.
So, if you happen to have a family, Milpa Alta could perhaps work for you also.
Otherwise, if you aren't in either group (and you'd need to know Spanish obviously as most locals probably don't know English), then I'd recommend you just visit the area, see some of the highlights and move on after a week.
Anything to Add?
Anyway, that's all I got to say.
If you got anything to add about Milpa Alta, drop a comment below.
These are just some of my initial impressions of Milpa Alta anyway based on my previous visits and my current time living here briefly.
Thanks for reading anyhow.
And follow my Twitter here.