Meeting Mexico started with meeting Mexican cars – our friend couldn´t pick us up at the airport in Mexico City and sent us an uber instead. During our trip trough Mexico, it was the cars that made a lasting impression on us. Bright red, yellow, ultramarine blue – they matched up perfectly with the street colours. Diverse, lively and vintage, they embodied the spirit of Mexico. Strolling through the streets of Mexico City, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas or Morelia, we often stumbled upon the sight of a beautiful old car, parked next to a house painted in a contrasting colour. We could not but pull out a camera and start taking pictures. These pictures turned into a story, a story about wonderful Mexican cars and their owners.
We discovered this VW beetle in the district Coyoacan in Mexico City, close to the Blue House of Frida Kahlo – probably the best-known home of the famous Mexican artist – you may have seen this house in the film “Frida”. It was as though the museum didn´t confine itself to its physical borders but had opened its exhibition to the streets.
The VW beetles are often to be seen in Mexico. They were manufactured here long after their production ceased elsewhere. The last of 21,529,464 Volkswagen Beetles rolled off the production line at Volkswagen’s plant in Puebla, Mexico in 2003.
An old Dodge we spotted in the district of Xochimilco. In Berlin where we are based, you are unlikely to observe an oldtimer like this – the cars are sure to be rather new, as they have to meet the EURO 4 exhaust regulations. Even outside of big cities the chances of finding a cool looking oldtimer are pretty low – maybe also due to the costs of maintaining such a car. Mexican mechanics are apparently some of the best in the world – at least this is what we were told and oldtimers on the road prove this assumption to be true.
Back in Germany, the colour palette of cars is rather muted, with over 50% of the cars being black or grey. Maybe discreet colours go better with a cold climate. In southern Europe, white and silver cars are in abundance, helping to make the summer heat more bearable. That makes the phenomenon of the bright cars in sunny Mexico even more interesting! So why not have your car painted here? 😉
Some of them are really big. Mostly US American, they offer extra space. We´ve also seen monstrous large trucks with double hind-carriages transporting petrol in the city streets. We´ve witnessed a little girl aged 12 driving a truck on a bumpy unpaved road in a village in Michoacan: Where the men left for the US, children take their fathers places early on.
While the Mexican cars continued to be a source of wonder and excitement for us during our whole trip, they are but an everyday occurrence for the locals. While I was taking a picture of this old Ford on the streets of San Cristobal in Chiapas, three men came out of a nearby shop and were amused by my interest in the car. “Look, Jose, she is making a picture of your old wreck!” One of them exclaimed and then everybody laughed out loud. But I guess its owner was a bit flattered even if slightly confused. “So you came all the way from Germany to take pictures of my old car, didn´t you?” He kept repeating.
Generally, vintage cars go extraordinarily well with the old streets of San Cristobal. They simply belong together.
Strangely, we found this car with an iconostasis on top – as well as a dozen similar cars – in the small mountain town of San Juan Chamula famous for their loyalty to the original beliefs and religious traditions of the Maya dating back to pre-Conquista times. In 1969, they demanded that the Catholic priest abandons the towns’ big white-and-blue cathedral and no catholic mess was held there afterwards. The religious ceremonies of the Tzotzil community of Chamula are a fusion of pre-Conquistador beliefs and elements of Catholicism. However, the neighbouring communities are said to be devoted Catholics.
Mexican cars make it easy to find beauty in your surroundings. We certainly wish to see more colour in the world.