The streets of Mexico City


My passport to México DF.

Driving on the streets of México City requires excellent driving skills, a good memory to remember all the major street names, great intestinal fortitude, and at least a couple of loose screws in the brain housing group. Because, who, in their right mind, would want to drive someplace where the drivers view the rules of the road as mere suggestions to be ignored whenever possible? I mean, besides me. Red lights mean stop if you think you’ll get into accident. Otherwise, don’t stop too long or the drivers behind you will start beeping at you to make you drive through the red light. Amazingly, you don’t see very many traffic accidents in Mexico City considering the congestion.

I felt embarrassed that I needed a map to get around México City. Until I found out that anyone who drives all over the city also has a map, like the one above by Roji. It’s a geographically large city, so there are way too many streets to memorize all their names. In fact, many Mexicans know the routes to various places such as their workplace and the homes of family members. But ask them to give you directions to a place they travel to daily, and they’ll be hard pressed to be able to give you accurate directions. Mainly because the don’t know the street names of all the streets on which they drive. My cousin drove me from her house to our aunt’s house. As we were driving, I took out my little notebook with everyone’s address. I asked my cousin the name of the street on which she was driving. She didn’t know its name. Or the names of half the streets we took.

When I drove to the house of another cousin, I followed the directions I was given. They were easy enough to follow. When I arrived at my cousin’s house, I got there way too early and I didn’t feel like waiting around for a few hours for her to get back. So I looked at my Roji and tried to drive to my aunt’s house following a new route that I plotted out, against the advice of my cousin. How hard could it be? Besides, I have been lost in Mexico City many times before. I started to miss driving on my own and getting lost on my own and then trying to find my to my destination. The other thing about driving in Mexico City is that the street signs are so small and so difficult to locate that sometimes they are not very helpful. And sometimes when you do find them, they’re covered with graffiti and are therefore unreadable.

Anyway, I’m driving to my aunt’s house, but the main street that I wanted to take is a one-way street in the opposite direction of my destination. So I figure I’ll take a parallel side street. However, the streets do not follow a regular grid system because Mexico is such an old city. So all side streets radiate out from the main strip of any given colonia, or neighborhood. Well, if I wanted to drive in a more or less parallel course to the main street, I had to zigzag my way from a couple of blocks away. It was easy to lose my sense of direction because very few streets ran in straight lines. Luckily, I thought to use the GPS feature of my iPhone and I could tell I was more or less on course.

Well, this was quite an adventure! And even though I swear I’ll never drive the streets of México City again (mainly when I’m completely lost while driving), I now miss that roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from fear to sheer terror while driving. I can’t wait to drive back to México City!

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.