Tolerating informal commerce in Mexico City… – Part 1

Informal commerce. People standing in the streets making music – or in some cases loudly confronting you with the fact that they indeed own a musical instrument – for you, selling books, or walking around with carts selling bread, “tamales oaxaqueños, tamales bién ricos” (Oaxacan tamales, very tasty tamales)… selling tacos at their gas tank grill, or often with old fashioned coals.

Furthermore, people getting into metro wagons, loudly yelling and selling their wares – ranging from flashlights to basic math books, chewing gum to cell phone pouches, and the cherry on top (as if things were not annoying enough yet): BOOM. BOX. BACKPACKERS.

I used to be 100% happy with how lively the city is. That is, until I found a highly demanding job, leaving before the sun is up, to return just 11 hours later. Nowadays, I am mostly happy – about 65% – being around it still as it goes with the noise of the city – barring some exceptions – you will understand.

People blasting music in the metro's is not uncommon. Sadly.
People blasting music in the metro’s is not uncommon. Sadly.

Right. Speaker-carrying-CD-salesmen. Mix-CD vending annoy-the-hell-out-of-yous. Shitshitshitshitgetintotheotherwagon incentivizers. Why-are-you-trying-to-shout-over-your-own-music-blasting-madness types.

The first time I saw a group of speaker-backpack carrying guys, I thought that maybe that was just the cool thing to do around here. Like we had Flippo’s (Dutch Tazos), Yo-Yos, and I guess Radio Raheem style, a group would put speakers in their backpacks, and blast music through it. Little did I know that they would spread out over the metro wagons a minute later, transforming each different wagon into a boom box in their own right.

BOOM. BOX. BACKPACKERS

 

Kiss, Metallica, The Doors, The Beatles, but mostly Mexican popular music blasting throughout the cars, making conversations impossible if not because of that, then due to the antagonist yelling what was on the CD for whatever the price. DIEZ HIIIIGHHHH PESOS WAAAYYYTO LE HELL VALE, DIEZ IIIII’MMM ON PESOS THE HIIIGHH LE CUESTA WAYYY TO HELL. How amazing, interesting, bizarre, petrifying, wicked, strange, obscure, off-setting, disconcerting, obnoxious, annoying, flat-out-get-the-fuck-out-of-here headache inducing material.

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Imagine a metro full of sweating people, going to or returning from work, tired, agitated and blank-mindedly waiting till arrival at destination, and a person blasting music into your bones. From 20 centemeters away. Here’s no escaping the fact that that alone, should be a big big disincentive to buy anything. Every single time someone buys a CD, I am astounded. I really do feel like next time that happens, I have to walk up to him or her and kindly ask the motivation for purchase.

Imagine a metro full of sweating people… and a person blasting music into your bones 20 centimeters away from you.

‘Sadly’, the chances of that happening have kind of decreased. A couple of months ago, these vendedores have been banned from the metro. Apparently, someone with power thought them, or the noise, to be annoying enough to set up a restriction and campaign to get rid of them. Adverts with texts such as “don’t buy from them and they will disappear” started popping up in every metro, with signs at the entrances stating the restricted entry for CD salesmen and women.

Vendors in general seem to be in trouble when caught in the metro, so more than once I have seen vendors pretending to be with someone they were selling something to, mainly when the transaction was not fulfilled while in the dark safety of the tube. Musicians taking out their guitar and panpipe for one short song while in transit, only to put them away quickly when slowing down for arrival.

I have seen vendors pretending to be with someone they were selling something to, mainly when the transaction was not fulfilled while in the dark safety of the tube.

While I cheer at this change and am perfectly happy that I am here to witness it, the general reaction in situ to the continuing presence of vendors seems to be as stoic as before the ban. A lot more emotions seem to be spilled with the increase of the fare prices, but more about that next time. Meanwhile on the non-governmental pecero busses, as opposed to the governmental Rapid Bus Transit ones, musicians and salesmen still trap you aggressively in their spell.

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And aggressive they are. But the concussion story will have to wait till next time.

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