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Being Followed by Gang Members For Photo Taking in Iztapalapa

Published December 29, 2022 in Health & Safety , Mexico - 0 Comments

As I wrote here, sometimes you have to be careful when taking pictures in Latin America or probably most of the world in certain circumstances.

One of those circumstances happens to be when you go into real ghetto looking areas known for violence.

Suffice to say, said areas don't get too many tourists looking to take pictures.

And, as I wrote here, you might even confuse some local gang members that are thinking that you work for the police or some shit.

Among other issues we'll discuss soon.

Still, that doesn't stop me from taking pictures.

Nothing will!

Minus a bullet or two.

So, as I wrote in previous articles, I took one of my last trips through an area of Mexico City known as Iztapalapa.

I had bought some liquor at the Soriana near Metro UAM and then got into a taxi to be driven around the last few areas of Iztapalapa that I hadn't taken pictures of yet.

First, I found a taxi near that same Soriana and went straight into Los Angeles neighborhood that covers Constitucion de 1917 neighborhood.

Then we went south of that into San Juan neighborhood.

From there, my taxi driver was told over the phone right there that his wife wouldn't be able to pick up their kids from school and he'd have to do it.

So he dropped me off at San Juan Xalpa neighborhood.

Either on Estrella or Bellavista neighborhood but I think it was Bellavista.

When we got to San Juan Xalpa neighborhood, I actually quite liked it.

If I was to move back to Iztapalapa, San Juan Xalpa would be one possible place I'd move to.

Especially somewhere to Av. 11 or Av. Hidalgo as both spots seem to have a lot of foot traffic and activity.

It also wouldn't be a bad idea to live in Lomas Estrella neighborhood that is south of San Juan Xalpa and below Metro Lomas Estrella.

Anyway, I found another taxi driver easy enough.

One who was confused at seeing my gringo ass in the neighborhood and thought I was a Mexican dreamer that got deported from the US as I wrote here.

Dude was cool overall but just confused as he likely doesn't see too many gringos wanting to be driven around Iztapalapa for 6 to 8 hours taking pictures of murals.

We ended up finishing seeing all of San Juan Xalpa neighborhood though and went into Lomas Estrella area before going back up north.

Specifically, we went into Cerro de la Estrella neighborhood that is next to San Juan Xalpa and I had the dude just drive all the way down one street to the next.

Covering a lot of the small streets too.

It was in Cerro de la Estrella where we got into some minor trouble.

"What You Taking Pictures For?"

Somewhere in Cerro de la Estrella neighborhood, I noticed that a few dudes on a motorcycle began following us.

It was getting darker by this point and some of the streets we were going down were very empty seeming with nobody else really there.

The taxi driver didn't seem to notice them at first but something off about them caught my attention early on.

I was mostly watching out for any motorcycles throughout this whole trip so that no random dude rides up by the window and snatches my phone out of my hands as I'm taking a picture of something.

The motorcycle anyway sped up on some empty and dark street and was driving to the side of our taxi.

One guy driving and another in the back holding a gun.

Not pointing at us though or threatening us.

But the dude began spitting out a bunch of shit asking the driver and looking at me.

I didn't catch everything he said at first but, if I had to guess based on the context, he must've been pissed about my photo taking.

Though he didn't seem that mad.

The taxi stopped anyhow and they exchanged a few words.

To which it was easier to understand what the guy in the back on the motorcycle was asking.

He was actually asking about me and wondering why I'm taking pictures.

The taxi driver tells him I'm just a tourist, not from Mexico, etc.

Which, in my experience doing this, I kinda find that helps a bit when I say I'm just a tourist from the US or Russia taking pictures.

Some people might think "oh they hate gringos and would fuck you up" or "they hate white people" or "they see money when they see tourist" or whatever.

All of that could be true depending on the person.

But you see their guard go down a little bit when they realize it's a white tourist from a place like the US taking pictures.

For reasons we'll get to in a second.

Anyway, the incident lasted all but maybe a minute at most and the guy in the back on the motorcycle warned us "to be careful, be careful" while speeding off to what likely was Avenida 11 street.

"Be Careful on Taking Pictures"

While that might seem like a scary experience to some, we kept on taking pictures anyhow.

But not for too much longer as actually it was around this point where I had covered anyhow most of the remaining areas of Iztapalapa that I was looking to take pictures of.

Along the way through the last few streets of Cerro de la Estrella, the taxi driver began giving me some warnings.

"You know, some people here -- normal people, not those guys -- would get spooked if they see you taking pictures of them. They might think you are looking to kidnap them or, if they're bad people, they might think you are with the police or something or maybe another gang."

I'm paraphrasing anyway what he said in English as it's been months since the incident but that was basically what he said.

That some people would be worried that I'm looking to kidnap them if they happen to be in the background of my picture and some gang members might have their own concerns for obvious reasons.

Another taxi driver actually on a different occasion actually told me the same thing about some people being concerned that you are looking to kidnap them by taking their picture first.

I can't verify how many Mexicans would actually be worried about that and I obviously wasn't taking pictures of anyone specifically. Just murals where maybe a random person is occasionally in the background somewhere.

But apparently it can be a concern.

After that moment, the taxi driver didn't protest taking more pictures but he did tell me not to take the camera out if we cross any specific parts of Iztapalapa known for drugs or whatever.

That he'll let me know when to put the phone down.

Though I must admit that I did try to sneak a photo of some of these oh so scary drug dealers at one point when he told me to put the phone down.

Specifically here.

Apparently this is some area with buildings for poor people and a basketball court in front of it where drugs are sold.

While the taxi driver didn't seem to notice me taking a picture here and nobody outside the taxi followed us for that one, it unfortunately turned out to be a bit blurry as you can see.

My attempt at taking pictures of Mexican drug lords selling cocaine to your children: failed.

Anyway, from there, we ended up riding around certain neighborhoods known as Bellavista, Casa Blanca and San Juan Estrella.

After that, we had covered all the areas to the south of the mountain Cerro de la Estrella that I wanted to cover that night and it was probably around 8 to 9 PM by this point.

So we ditched back to my place where I had the driver wait outside some restaurant called Taqueria Flamita on Av. San Lorenzo to bring some tacos back home.

Ended up buying the taxi driver 2 small tacos al pastor for his dedication to potentially getting his head blown off for my effort to take pictures of Iztapalapa.

And then he dropped me off back home.

Which, while I don't remember right now, the total price tag for his taxi ride was probably something like 20 to 30 bucks at most?

Very cheap.

Here's some photos anyhow of a few murals we took that day.

Final Thoughts

As far as I can recall, this is the second time now where I have gotten the attraction of gang members for taking pictures of everything.

The first time you can read here in another neighborhood called Pedregal de Santo Domingo of Coyoacan.

Fortunately, I was not robbed in either moment.

While I don't mind living in these areas, it was that incident that made me think "hmmm, if I'm going to take pictures of the ghetto, I should at least have a taxi driver that can speed away if we get attention instead of my ass walking it."

Probably that logic has helped me out a bit in ways I haven't realized (unless said gang members have a motorcycle).

And it also helps me cover a lot more area faster and, like I said, it's pretty fucking cheap to do so.

About 30 to 40 bucks for 6 to 8 hours of a taxi ride.

Above all though, it really just goes to show the obvious about the risks of taking pictures.

Obvious risks anyhow.

Just in case anyone needed to be told this, apparently it's a risk to take pictures of drug dealers.

They no like that. How come nobody ever told me?!

Anyway, it was the only time actually in my 3 to 4 months of being in Iztapalapa where I seemingly almost got into trouble and it was only because I was drawing attention to myself taking over a thousand pictures over 6 to 8 hours.

For those curious, every day in Iztapalapa was pretty normal and I never felt at danger or was in much risk.

It is actually livable there.

Just be careful with taking pictures of drug dealers.

If you got anything to add though, drop a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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