Tepito: On a Mission to Kill You

Tepito is a dangerous neighborhood in Mexico City. If you tell people you want to check it out (and you look anything like me), they’ll usually respond: DON’T DO THAT YOU CRAZY GRINGA.

Sometimes, they’re more polite. I’ve even received suggestions about how to fit in (“paint your eyebrows”).

I’ve been obsessed with Tepito (see photos here) since I heard about it. I’d like to go—accompanied by at least one Mexican friend who has been there before. I bought a whole outfit to wear to Tepito that makes me look like a tortillera. I almost visited once but I’d already been plodding around Mexico City for six hours (in that tortillera outfit) and I decided to save it for another day.

Tepito is known for being a big bustling black market. Some of its products have landed in the news recently. On April 19th, El Universal reported that Tepito vendors were selling huge databases of personal information about millions of Mexicans.

“…The buyer received the voter registration of the entire country, a registration of vehicles and driver licenses, among other products,” according to the story. Price: $12,000.

Then, on May 4, another Tepito-related story popped up, claiming that “packages” of guns, grenades and motorcycles were available for rent inside the neighborhood, with the primary clients being members of various Mexican cartels.

Commenters dismissed the story for various reasons. For one, the story didn’t include a byline (for obvious reasons). Others denounced El Universal for simply lacking credibility. And then, inevitably, the USA came up: “You seriously believe that the narcos buy their guns in Tepito. The narcos’ guns are from the gringo army, bought in the USA and brought into the country just like Nikes.” (Or something to that effect…)

Today, La Reforma (another popular daily here in Mexico City) decided to get in on the Tepito action with a story about “videos snuff,” a popular youth trend, not of the skinny jeans or skateboarding variety.  The “videos snuff” show scenes of torture, executions and/or autopsies. Teenagers buy them. They’re imbued with violence. And then maybe, say the experts, they’ll become violent too.

So yeah: That’s a little bit of Tepito for you. Inside Tepito, they also sell shoes and clothing (albeit stolen clothing from Los Angeles), I hear.  A friend of mine in D.C. just told me that he’s been to Tepito and it’s “just a lot of bootleg dvds…” This same pal also mentioned that he wants to start a taco truck named after the neighborhood and that he is “actively seeking a vehicle.”

So perhaps this will be my first Tepito experience?


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