Culture & History, Mexico City, Transportation

Rush Hour Variety

Traffic in Mexico City

For variety, there’s little that can beat the entertainers and purveyors of unwanted services who work the traffic lights of Mexico City. Apart from a veritable army of windshield cleaners and vendors of newspapers, loose cigarettes, phone cards, confectionery, toys, maps, balloons, and so on, also competing for space at the capital’s junctions are jugglers, spinning top whizzes, fire-eaters, acrobats, and clowns.

Many drivers have little time for windshield cleaners, and frantically wave them away as they approach the car armed with a plastic bottle filled with soapy water, a small cloth, and a rubber scraper. Some quickly wind-up the windows and turn on the car’s windshield wipers, and become particularly irate if the cleaner has disguised his intentions and hit the windshield with a jet of water from the bottle while appearing to look in the other direction, shrugging as if to say, ‘well I’ve started now so I may as well finish’.

Contributions to the cause are voluntary, and as people easily become bored, and necessity is the mother of invention, a fair deal of ingenuity is required for success in some of these thankless occupations.

A fine example came the other day on Reforma avenue: a mime with painted face, flower-pot hat, and white gloves, went through the motions of cleaning a windshield. First the invisible jet of water, then the circular motion of scrubbing the glass clean, then the scraping off the water, first vertically then horizontally. The gimmick seemed to work, as the driver handed over a coin, so did the driver behind who watched it. After all, what better if people don’t want their windshields cleaned than not to clean them.

See Also: Transport in Mexico

Mexico in your inbox

Our free newsletter about Mexico brings you a monthly round-up of recently published stories and opportunities, as well as gems from our archives.