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Milpa Alta No Like Photos

Published December 29, 2022 in Mexico - 0 Comments

I was in the town of San Salvador Cuauhtenco of Milpa Alta taking pictures of the area.

It's a relatively small town for Milpa Alta and, to be fair, there isn't too much to see.

You'd see more interesting stuff in the countryside surrounding the town actually.

Anyway, I finish covering the main road that cuts through it known as Av. Morelos Pte.

Then I figured to go a little up hill in the same town.

In Milpa Alta, you'll notice that all of the towns are similar for various reasons but one common characteristic is that south equals up hill.

Sometimes it's better to take a taxi to take you to the top and then you can start taking photos from up there before descending down on foot.

Just easier anyhow as sometimes the walk up hill can be a bit much depending on the town.

Anyway, for San Salvador, it really isn't that big of a town anyhow and not that much walking is really needed to begin with.

During the small walk though, I soon noticed some couple seeming looking and following me.

Not obviously so but they did catch my attention.

But I kept on walking anyhow and taking more pictures.

I forgot which street I turned onto anyhow but it was one of those streets closer to the next town known as San Pablo Oztotepec.

Perhaps la Frontera or Vicente Suarez street.

Where, after walking maybe 10 seconds going south, you'll find a street going to the side that basically leads to a dead end with a wall at the end of it.

Not overly exciting but here's what it looks like.

I did notice though that Volkswagen Beetle and that did catch my attention as you see quite a few of those in Milpa Alta.

In the background of the photo, you can actually see the couple that was following me in the distance (or at least one of them anyhow). 

After finishing this street, I then turned towards their direction and it was clear they were going to say something to me.

With a knife in pocket though, part of me did wonder if they were going to try to rob me or something.

But nothing like that.

The man had his hands in his pockets but didn't make eye contact with me and kept looking at the ground.

While the chubby woman of the two casually asked me -- with some concern in her voice but not hostile -- why I was taking pictures.

I explain that I'm just a tourist new to the area and just taking pictures for my family back home.

Even though I don't like calling myself a tourist since I live here, it sounds more innocent and Mexicans in these areas are not as used to the idea of the "gringo immigrant" so to speak.

So I just roll with "tourist."

She nods along and I kindly offer her to look at my photos to clarify that I'm not taking pictures of people or anything bad that I shouldn't be.

She declines and we part ways.

But it wasn't the only time that the suspicious people found it odd that I was taking pictures of everything.

"You Ain't From Here, Are You Boy?"

Soon after, I found myself in the town of San Pedro Atocpan in Milpa Alta.

Honestly my favorite town of Milpa Alta and one of the nicest really.

I could really see myself living there for maybe even a year or longer.

Just as long as I was living in the town center and not up in the hills.

Anyway, I was doing the same thing with just walking around everywhere taking pictures of the usual subjects.

Homeless pets, Volkswagen Beetles, Mexican flags waving in the distance with all their glory, murals, agricultural stuff (nopals), and churches.

Usually just that.

Oh, and given this was San Pedro Atocpan, obviously any pictures of mole were needed.

Anything really that I felt defined the "look" of the town as to what you'd typically see if you were to take a stroll through the area like I did.

While doing so, I early on got some strange looks from one young man sitting on the sidewalk as he saw me taking a picture of this here by the edge of the town.

Nothing hostile but probably just one of confusion.

"What's so important about that?"

From there, I kept on walking and generally got less confusing looks the closer I got to the center of the town.

Obviously nobody bats an eye to you taking a picture of the main church in the center of the town.

But of random crops by the edge of town where no tourist goes? Yeah, that's weird to some.

While I kept on walking anyhow, I stumbled across this street here.

Heard someone yell "joven!" and I looked around but didn't see anyone.

Kept walking till the end of that street as you can see here.

Then, on the walk back where I intended to get to the town center, I took some pictures of some homeless pets here.

It was 10 seconds walking past that where some middle aged skinny white Mexican lady wearing sunglasses approached me.

Asking the same question of "what you taking pictures of?"

While the first couple in San Salvador were polite, this lady seemed a tiny bit hostile in her tone.

Very accusatory.

While she didn't say I was out doing shit, she told me that "a lot of people stroll here looking to steal, scope out the area, etc. What are you doing here?"

At first, she didn't believe I was just a tourist.

But then, similar to this incident here where I got accused of stealing tea, I told her "you think I came to Mexico from the US to steal from your house?"

If I was speaking to her in English, I'd have said "third world house" as her home didn't look that nice by American standards.

But the words "tercer mundo" didn't come to mind quickly enough.

Her eyebrows went up though and stood back with a second of silence when I said that anyhow.

"No, no, but it's dangerous here anyhow. Lots of thieves, child kidnappers, etc."

Which, while I'm not sure if she was somehow implying I am a child kidnapper, it actually is not extremely rare for more rural people (and Milpa Alta is more rural) of Latin America to think people come to their village or town to kidnap children.

You can read more about that here. It was more of an issue in Guatemala anyhow but sometimes rural folks anywhere -- Latin America included -- can be some real suspicious motherfuckers of outsiders.

Then she just told me flat out "stop taking photos, it's dangerous."

Perhaps by that point she stopped assuming I was a potential house invading, child kidnapper and just warned me out of a fear that other people might suspect me of shit and lynch my ass.

Which, for those who don't know, lynching do happen often enough in Latin America, including Mexico. Check out an article I wrote here on the subject.

I nodded away at her warning and then turned around within eyesight of her to take a picture of some more pets.

She began staring at me and I walked away to take more pictures.

If I did get the bad attention of the neighborhood watchdog group, I could probably outrun them anyhow given I'm not fat and the average Mexican is shorter than me and fat.

Though they do have vehicles. FUCK!

Anyway, it did cross my mind anyhow that maybe she is part of some neighborhood watchdog group.

These groups do exist where neighbors warn each other of any sightings of criminals and they have warnings in their neighborhoods saying that they'll catch you if you are caught stealing. 

And Milpa Alta, compared to other areas, does seem to have more of a collective effort to fuck up criminals when they see them.

Like you can see with these warnings here that I took pics of in the Milpa Alta towns of San Pablo and Santa Ana. 

It's also for that reason -- and perhaps others -- for why Milpa Alta is relatively less dangerous than other parts of Mexico City.

Final Thoughts

As I wrote here, sometimes taking pictures in Latin America (and other parts of the world to be fair) can be tricky.

Where your photo taking can cause real concern to some locals.

Like you being at a protest and some feminist protesters try stealing your photo because they're concerned about not being doxxed like what I saw in this article I wrote here.

To perhaps you taking pictures of drug dealers and drug dealers oddly enough don't like you taking their picture like I experienced here.

But, in the situations we have from Milpa Alta, it's none of that.

It's just rural community being rural community with nothing of obvious tourism value in some of these neighborhoods of small towns to attract people taking photos.

Therefore, to these local residents, it's just weird to see a person spending 1 to 3 hours walking through the whole town taking pictures of everything.

For the record, I often took on average 80 photos of each of the towns of Milpa Alta with some towns being so small that I only took maybe 20 photos and other towns where I took maybe 200 to 300.

And, as I mentioned in other articles cited here today, obviously you get by now that some concern exists among the locals regarding safety.

Locals wondering if I'm taking pictures of places to rob them later.

In some cases, maybe a local is concerned that I am planning to kidnap someone.

Perhaps I work for a drug organization.

Who knows!

But something not good obviously in their minds.

This isn't so much a Milpa Alta issue as you'll find this concern in other areas like Iztapalapa.

Though Iztapalapa is different because you'd actually have a chance of drawing attention from those involved in bad shit.

Milpa Alta, while it does have bad people, is more chill in that regard in my experience.

Mostly you'll just get locals concerned that YOU are not involved in bad shit.

Compared to the rest of Mexico City where I've taken a shit ton of photos, I will say too that the people of Milpa Alta -- while they are generally nice -- are just more cautious and concerned about any photo taking.

Another reason for why you'd have to be careful is that, from one taxi driver I talked with, some of the ejido (communal land) people might get concerned that you're taking pics of their land to plot some area to steal their land later.

Which is very much a Milpa alta thing as you got more ejidos here than seemingly most of Mexico City from my observations.

So just keep that in mind if you plan on coming to Milpa Alta to take pics of their nopal crops.

I've spent maybe 20 hours in the countryside taking pics of ejidos and nopal and maize and whatever else and never had issues outside of one minor incident but was warned about it by a taxi driver in the area.

Anyway, just be careful as always when visiting not so common areas for tourists and try to be as respectful as possible when taking pictures.

You know...try not to insult people accusing you of shit by saying they live in third world homes. 

And be understanding too of the concerns that you might encounter by engaging in this activity.

That's all I got to say anyhow.

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

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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