The market, like nature, finds a way. Despite their ancient design, Volkswagen Beetles were famously still made in Mexico until 2003 and incredibly common as Mexico City taxi cabs until 2012. They’re illegal for cab use there now for being too unsafe, but the city’s Cuautepec area is plenty dangerous on its own.
It’s so dangerous that the licensed cabs often won’t go there. But the people who drive thousands of unlicensed, illegal Beetle taxis still will.
In this Jalopnik video, we explore the swarm of “vochos”, or Beetles, that take up taxi duty in Cuautepec. It’s enough that the area has been dubbed “Vocholandia,” or “Beetleland,” and is one of those weird places where these archaic but tough People’s Cars still thrive.
As the locals in this video explain, the drivers in the licensed Nissan Tsuru cabs often do not go to Cuautepec because of the high number of robberies, murders and other violent crimes there. But for the thousands of people in this densely populated area, the Vocho cabs are the cheapest and best way to get around—modern safety features be damned.
The Beetle has a long and storied history in Mexico. Imports began in earnest in the 1950s and local production began in Puebla in 1967. (That plant’s still there, by the way; today it’s the biggest VW factory in the world next to the one in Wolfsburg, and it currently makes the Golf, Jetta and current Beetle.) Over the decades that plant built a staggering 1.7 million examples of the Beetle, and kept it in production long after it had been phased out in most markets.
The fact that these are still in faithful service in Cuautepec is probably the 1.7 millionth reminder of what an amazing the car the original Beetle was. Even though it’s incredibly outdated compared to modern vehicles, its mechanical simplicity, toughness, ease of repair and sheer ubiquity in makes it hard for any car to replace.
“Vocholandia” certainly wouldn’t be the same without it.