Barrios Bravos: Greater Tepito

It has been just over one week since my last blog post. That one, about my decision to leave Mexico City, was my most-read post since I’ve been doing this blog. Judging by the number of views, likes, and comments, it caught many of you by surprise. To borrow an old expression, I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest this past month, and these final days will offer no respite.

That said, I plan to continue this blog, more or less in its current form. I still have a thousand other stories to tell. With the “end” in sight, memories of my time here have come flooding into my mind, most of them good, not bad.

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Mexico City has its share of bad neighborhoods. It seems that every delegación (borough) has at least one. Cinder block houses, corrugated sheet metal roofs, stray dogs, reggaetón music blasting at all hours of the day or night….Often, these “barrios bravos” (“tough” or “brave” neighborhoods) are located along Periférico, the ring road that circles the city and is a proper high-speed highway for much of its length. Other times, they descend steeply down into canyons. Green city buses that ply the adjacent streets are subject to frequent robberies. Sometimes, police are afraid to enter. Many times, all that separates one of these barrios bravos from an upscale, gated community is a busy street.

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Mexican Markets

If you’ve done any city walking in Latin America you have no doubt come upon a teeming mass of humanity that is the local market. Not commonplace in the U.S., Latin American-style markets are often an all-out assault on the senses. They can be loud – with fish and produce vendors shouting out the day’s fresh catch to passersby. They can be smelly – I don’t think they’re necessarily unhygienic, but all those spices mixed with all that meat and fish creates quite an aroma. They can be crowded – in fact, you can count on it. Especially on Sundays.

The closest we get in the U.S. is, perhaps, Pike Place Market in Seattle, or maybe Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I have never experienced NYC’s Chinatown market, but I’m told that it’s a must-see for market lovers. Europe has more: Covent Garden in London for flowers and produce; any random flea market in Paris; I found a lovely covered market in Kiev and have seen several summer markets in Scandinavia.

But the ones in Latin America – particularly those in Mexico – deserve special mention. They deserve their own blog entry, in fact. Allow me to do the honors!

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