Almost 2 months ago, I found myself walking the streets of San Miguel Teotongo of Mexico City.
I was apartment hunting in various points of the city but ultimately chose to live in Milpa Alta for a month.
Before making that decision, I arrived to San Miguel Teotongo while living at the time in Colonia El Manto of Iztapalapa.
I showed up to San Miguel Teotongo because I just happened to like the area and saw potential in the neighborhood as a place to live in for a month or two when I first arrived by cablebus to see all of the murals from the sky.
Since then, San Miguel Teotongo has been on my mind because it really seemed like a copy of another neighborhood I really liked called Pedregal de Santo Domingo of Coyoacan.
Could I have an equally cool experience in San Miguel Teotongo?
Let's find out!
Unfortunately though, I had very shitty luck trying to find an apartment or a room for rent online in Facebook groups for the area.
Even expanded my search to nearby areas like Lomas de Zaragoza, Santiago Acahualtepec, Miguel de la Madrid, Xalpa, etc.
But most of the rooms I was seeing for rent were not furnished and "move in ready."
In contrast to Pedregal de Santo Domingo, you can find no shortage of "move in ready" rooms because it's an area popular for UNAM students with no money.
Based on my experience apartment hunting in this part of Iztapalapa though, that was unfortunately not the case for this area.
So, when I find myself unable to find a room online, I sometimes then walk through the neighborhood to see if I can find any apartment postings in the streets.
I always have bad luck doing that no matter the neighborhood because usually the options are shit compared to what I can find online but I try anyhow.
I was determined.
And so I got on the cablebus from Constitucion 1917 and headed for San Miguel Teotongo close to night time.
I figured that, if I was to move there, I might as well give it "the night time walk."
Always a great way to figure out if an area feels safe enough for you to live in.
Do a night time walk at around 9 to 11 PM on preferably a Friday or Saturday to get a feel for the area.
If too scary, why move there? If it feels good, it's good.
So I began traveling to the area around that time later into the night.
Arrival to San Miguel Teotongo
As the cablebus takes you uphill closer to San Miguel Teotongo, the more excited you become.
I don't know why but I love vibrant shitholes.
Not shitholes where nothing is happening.
The "grey block zones" as I wrote about here.
But ACTIVE shitholes where shit is just vibrant outside.
Makes me feel alive.
I love it.
And I loved the idea of living "up in the hills" of Mexico City for, as I wrote here, generally neighborhoods "up in the hills" of so many Latin American cities tend to be shittier than the rest.
My cup of tea.
And now maybe we can have a chance of moving into one of them?
Even saw one top of a mountain that the cablebus went over where I saw some real shithole looking neighborhood and thought "hmmm, that'd be interesting to live in."
Once I got there though, I exited the San Miguel Teotongo cablebus station when it was close to getting dark.
And had a little notebook to write down the numbers of any apartment listings I hoped to see.
Right away, you'll see a street that goes straight ahead when leaving the cablebus.
I believe it's called Cda. Jacarandas.
It's a fairly active street with a ton of shops, mom and pop restaurants, etc.
The ideal street to live on if you could get a place in this neighborhood.
Anyway, I began walking down that same street and checking anything I could for an apartment.
Nothing so far.
Closer to the end of that street though before turning to the left, I saw some homeless dude bitching into the air.
Honestly not sure what he was screaming about.
The dude sounded unintelligible but I loved it.
So typical of the shitholes.
Some random homeless person just screaming into the air on some schizophrenic, crack induced episode.
I turned left anyhow and found myself on some street not as active with people.
Before then turning back south and more to the left hunting for any apartment rentals.
Turned onto some dark street with not a single soul walking down it and did find one possible advertisement for an apartment.
Soon found another.
In my observations of San Miguel Teotongo though while I was walking, it really did seem like a copy version of Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
Ugly looking buildings. "Hole in the wall" gyms with Tego Calderon reggaeton blasting out. Very obscure and dark streets going into seemingly nowhere except maybe some gangbangers paradise where bitches get kidnapped. Occasional homeless person doing drugs in the street or having an episode. Lots of street food.
I felt comfortable there. I liked it.
Felt very familiar.
Of course, there were some differences to Santo Domingo.
For one, while I can't confirm if this is true just based on that one visit, but it does seem like Santo Domingo has more active streets with lots of foot traffic than San Miguel Teotongo.
You'd want to be more selective about which street you staying on as it kinda seemed like they had less ideal streets to set up shop.
Second, San Miguel Teotongo also had a greater view of the city from its higher location than what Santo Domingo offers.
Especially as night and with the cablebus where all the lights in the rest of the city are on display.
Kinda like visiting Cuautepec north of Indios Verdes where you get the same experience of being able to see so much of the city from up there and where some of the neighborhoods of Cuautepec are also "up in the hills."
Really has a certain look to it that I love.
Almost feels like you're no longer in Mexico City anymore with that type of view.
Hard to explain anyhow. You'd have to see it.
Third, another difference is that you see way more police in certain areas of Santo Domingo because Sheinbaum identified the area as a problem area and sent more police there.
I don't know if she ever did that for San Miguel Teotongo but I didn't see as many police there despite the reputation it also has for being dangerous.
Anyway, I ended up finding maybe 3 or more numbers while walking through the area for a few hours at night.
Just couldn't find too much to work with.
I guess that serves as another contrast to Santo Domingo because you'll more easily find rental options advertised in the streets over there.
Not so easily in Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
"You Like San Miguel Teotongo?!?!"
Near the end of the trip, I walked into a little barber shop.
Passing by some homeless dude that looked like he was smoking something, I got onto a street close to Cda. Jacarandas where I found some building advertising itself as a barber shop.
It had nothing inside.
No tools. No chairs. Nothing.
But it claimed to be a barber shop.
Some young dude standing by the front noticed me looking and invited me in.
He got his mom to come out of the other room.
They placed some wooden chair in the front of this room that had literally nothing else but a little mini sofa to the side.
And she went to get her tools.
The haircut would turn out to only be 20 pesos or 1 USD.
She also kinda fucked up my hair a little in hindsight and it's only just now starting to look a little normal.
Guess I should've splurged on a fancier, 40 peso barber shop.
Anyway, she was a very nice woman.
The other man -- who happened to be her son -- came back into the main room with a baby in his hands and some other young woman next to him.
And she asked me her line of questions.
In these areas, you always get more curiosity for being the only gringo in town.
And they want to know why you are there, what brought you there, etc.
Though I forgot about it until now, she even asked me the usual ol' "you married?" question.
Something I wrote about here where sometimes Latin Americans will jump to the conclusion that it was love -- with a girlfriend or wife -- that brought you to their gringo empty neighborhood.
Though I do not have a wife or girlfriend at the moment.
A look of her confusion swept her face after stating that.
And I told her "I'm looking for an apartment here!"
The confusion got more intense.
"Why?" she asked out of curiosity.
"I like it here." I claim.
And she took a step back and looked at me through the mirror and reiterated "you like it here?"
She then let out a chuckle and said "you're the first gringo to like San Miguel Teotongo."
"You don't get many of them here?" I asked.
She shook her head and said "no, never happens. I'm not from here but from Guerrero. Lived here for 7 years but never seen another extranjero like you in these parts."
Then she asked me out of curiosity "why do you like it here?"
And, truth be told, I don't think my reasoning would've made sense to her.
I don't think it makes sense to anyone.
Not even me.
But, in all honesty, I just like vibrant shitholes.
Well, to be fair, it doesn't HAVE to be a shithole.
But I generally like areas that have lots of foot traffic, are very congested and condense in population, etc.
And certain shitholes of Mexico City have that better than the nicer areas of the city for obvious reasons.
They feel alive. They feel active. Always a new story to tell everyday. The locals are not pretentious and I vibe with them better. And I feel comfortable. I like it.
But what do I say to her?
To be honest, it's been months since this moment and I forgot what I did tell her.
Probably something like "the people seem nice."
But I did mention to her that I live in another part of Iztapalapa and so am just curious about other neighborhoods of the borough.
She nodded away but still seemingly quite confused at why I, as a gringo, would like the area enough to try moving here.
She was nice anyhow and even gave me tips without me asking on what specific streets and areas of the neighborhood that I should avoid.
Where you got more drug dealers and violence.
Though I do like pushing the limits, I took her advice and didn't venture up to those parts at those hours.
Maybe for another day. Preferably after drinking enough vodka.
And that was that.
The haircut was finished.
I paid and tipped.
And we parted ways.
In the end, I never did find a place in San Miguel Teotongo on that visit.
Even looked online again for a place in that general area when I left Milpa Alta a week ago and didn't find anything there that was "move in ready" either.
Maybe someday I will.
I ultimately got onto the cablebus and went back to Constitucion 1917 so I could arrive to Colonia El Manto of Iztapalapa where I was living at the time.
Above all, there's really only one main lesson from this story.
Perhaps others but one main one that come to mind.
As you'd expect, the "Latino bewilderment" as I wrote here is more intense in such areas.
Such areas don't even have to be violent shitholes but just areas where no gringos show up and that'll be enough for the local Latin American to be bewildered (although always in a friendly way) at your arrival and interest in the area.
At any rate, if the chance ever arrives, I'll take my shot at this area for a brief time.
Until then, I'll stay focused on other areas of Mexico City.
Be it other shitholes "up in the hills" and more normal areas.
If you got anything to add though, drop a comment below.
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Thanks for reading.