Adios Green Bug

When I came here in 2003 the streets were teeming with the green and white VW Beetles, built in Mexico since production ceased in Germany. By 2005, there were considerably fewer. Today, most taxis are Chevy’s or Nissan Tsurus. There are still plenty of Bugs about though, and I dare say a fair number will still be around for a while.

Taxi journeys have always been a bit of an adventure into the unknown. When you step inside, you have no idea if the driver has a license, has even a vague idea of how to get where you want to go, or what he has been smoking/drinking today. There’s also the matter of the vehicle itself. Suspension sometimes seems to have been a cost option that the owner decided against. Decor can also sometimes be rather elaborate, with a variety of flags, ornaments and religious paraphenalia displayed on the dashboard. On a recent journey I noticed the guy had a crystal ball attached to his windscreen with a suction cup. I can only imagine that that is how he navigated himself through so many red lights at such high speed.

Then there’s the music. Folk tunes from various regions, Daddy Yankee, mariachi, jazz….who knows what you’ll get. There does seem to be some correlation between the speed of your journey and the type of music being played. If you are greeted by the heartfelt tones of Hermoso Cariño, then prepare yourself for a relaxed crawl to your next stop. Dame Mas Gasolina is the tune you want to hear if you’re running late.

There is one thing that all taxis do have in common though, in theory at least, which is the point of this post.  The iconic green and white Beetle has graced the city’s streets for so long, but a year or two ago a new colour design was introduced. A red and gold colour scheme. It’s not to everyone’s taste. But it’s a big job, replacing an icon. Who knows where Willis Tower is, for example, unless you’ve been following the news.

I quite like the new design. It’s pleasant enough. And somehow they look safer, although I can’t put my finger on why exactly. As of July 1st, all taxis were required by law to have been painted the new colours. Or so I believe. The vast majority have complied. Those that haven’t, like the fellow below, are usually seen sat at the side of a road, tires flat, awaiting a car coffin.

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7 Comments

  • I drive a VW Bug every day. Sad to hear that their last refuge, Mexico D.F., has been almost completely encroached upon. Like endangered animals, its almost as if they no longer exist in the wild. 🙁

    • It's not quite their last refuge. Other parts of the country are still swarming with them. I've just been through Acapulco and can testify that their blue and white Bugs are still going strong!

  • Ah taxis in Mexico City! Taking one is sort of like Russian roulette, except that you have to wait considerably longer to figure out whether you survive or not. And I'd imagine that Russian roulette doesn't have quite so many breathless moments. Once you pull the trigger, it's pretty binary.

    One of my pet peeves about Mexico City taxis is that the newer ones all have seatbelts in the back, but the buckle part is usually irretrievable, leading to many a journey where I spend half of it rooting around trying to get the second part out from under the seat. Interestingly, the drivers never wear their seatbelts, despite their obvious functionality.

    Rather than mandating color schemes, the city ought to require that all taxis have functioning seat belts. It'd be at least a start to doing something about all the vehicular mayhem.

    And I already miss the green and white color scheme. Somehow gold and maroon, though nice, don't seem all that iconic.

    Hope you survive all your taxi rides.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where taxi rides are usually pretty uneventful…unless you get the rare "mad max."

    • At least in the newer cars you have a seat in front of you (assuming you, like me prefer to ride in the rear) to take some of the impact in the event of a crash. In the old Beetles, I couldn't fit behind the drivers seat, so would brace myself with my feet firmly pressed into the seat mount thing where the passenger seat used to be. Not just for crashes, but for speed bumps, sharp braking etc. If any of this is making sense….it's late tonight.

      The one thing I didn't mention in my post was the rep taxi drivers have for robberies and kidnappings. Not least because I've never met anyone who has suffered that experience in the last 7 or 8 years. The taxis are more likely to get robbed themselves. I did ride in a Nissan with a DIY NYC style cage fitted to protect the driver.

      I have had a few taxi drivers make the mistake of believing my pale English skin to mean I am a tourist passing through, and ripe for a little overcharging. Unfortunately for them, I'm not. I do notice if they drive in a big circle and will make them reset the meter.

      For those whose meters don't work (or claim their meters don't work, I just step straight out and let them know that a non functioning meter equals a non paying passenger.

      I did have one recently try and 'quote' me 50 pesos for a 20 peso ride. I pointed out his quote was excessive; he told me it wasn't, and he should know. Yeah, right. I take that journey half a dozen times a week….he lost that fare.

      • My Mexican friend, F, insists my fears about taking taxis libres is unfounded, or at least if I am with him (who is obviously Mexican), there's no way we'll get kidnapped. I'm a little skeptical about that last bit, but occasionally humor him.

        David Lida of "First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century" fame has been taxi-kidnapped, and I think it's definitely a possibility, though probably not all that likely.

        Personally, I'd rather pay up for a sitio, but we've been known to flag down libres during the day.

        And I'm with you about over-charging. I avoid taxis without functioning meters.

        Saludos,

        Kim G
        Boston, MA

        • I rarely, if ever, take a sitio. Although I do tend to withdraw my hand and let the more dodgy, battered looking libre taxis pass by. When we send a lone female home at night from a party or whatever, then we do go to a sitio stall.

          I do read David's blog, but must have missed the kidnap experience. Or was it before my time?

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