CC Global: The Cars And Facades Of Colonia Obrera, Mexico City


One day during my trip to Mexico, I was taking the Metro back to my friend’s apartment and had to transfer at Chabacano station. While walking through the partially aboveground complex, I looked outside the window and spotted something interesting. This culminated in a long walk through this charming if somewhat gritty neighborhood, where I took this series of photographs that help show the color of Mexico and the cars that exist within.

The first photo is of the Datsun Sédan, a Mexican-assembled version of the 710/Violet. It has seen better days, much like the colonia of Obrera. Mexico City (or Ciudad de México, as it is officially known) is split into 16 boroughs, each containing numerous colonias (neighborhoods). Colonia Obrera, once home to many garment factories, saw extensive damage from the shocking 8.0-magnitude earthquake of 1985. Many buildings collapsed and hundreds of poor seamstresses perished in the disaster. Today, Obrera is a little rough around the edges – perhaps more so than other neighborhoods in the borough of Cuauhtémoc – but is brimming with businesses.


Something is very wrong with this Mercury Cougar. Is it missing its engine, or is the suspension shot?


This LTD Crown Victoria and Maverick were parked next to an auto body shop, so hopefully they get fresh paint jobs. It was interesting to see a Crown Victoria on this street instead of the much more common (in Mexico) Grand Marquis.


There are lots of vibrant colors in this photo. The first (long) generation of Chevrolet Cavalier was always a rather handsome car.

In Mexico City and in much of the neighboring state of México, a program called “Hoy no Circula” (“No Driving/Circulating Today”) was implemented in 1989 to help curb severe air pollution. Cars are emissions tested every 6 months – although pre-1991 cars face weaker standards – and restrictions are placed on the driving of both diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles on weekdays. This is determined by the last digit on the vehicle’s license plate.

For many in Mexico City, this is not a huge imposition as the public transport system is quite comprehensive. Americans may bristle at this perceived infringement of freedom but look at it this way: many Americans live in neighborhoods with Homeowners Associations that impose often onerous rules and fines. The benefit to those residents is property values are presumably protected and the neighborhood is kept presentable. Well, Mexico City residents are prohibited from driving one day a week but the payoff is they can breathe better. That’s not a bad tradeoff, and even non-residents must follow the rule.


Here’s a dark emerald green Pontiac Trans Sport in front of an even more verdant building. Lots of textures in this photo. No Instagram filter needed.


There’s a distinctly third-world, drab, even old Eastern Bloc vibe to this photo. I generally stayed within the borough of Cuauhtémoc, home to Mexico City’s main business district and historic center. However, when I ventured out to more distant colonias, they were generally more colorful and pleasant than this picture appears. Shadows outnumber Beetles in Mexico City, appearing in neighborhoods like Obrera but also trendier, more upscale locales like the gorgeous, leafy Condesa and Hipódromo. If you had to commute in hellish Mexico City traffic, you’d probably prefer a Shadow, too.


One of the curious things I noticed about older, parked cars in Mexico City was how often they had completely flat or bald tires, even if they were otherwise fairly intact.

To Americans and Canadians this is a Dodge 400 but Mexicans knew this as the Dodge Magnum, making use of an appealing and evocative name. The Magnum nameplate survived much longer than its tiny two year run in North America, and was used on a series of coupes; the Mirada was not sold here.


Finally, we have a Volkswagen Sedán. The paint job is suggestive of a taxi, a role in which hundreds and thousands of these once served. Nowadays, the Nissan Tsuru and a series of modern subcompact sedans offer much more comfortable transportation. Judging by the tires on this old Vocho, no está circulando hoy (he is not circulating today).

All photos were taken within a four-block radius in Obrera. 

Related Reading:

CC Global: The Mexican Carscape In 2016 – Part I, The Newer Metal

CC Global: The Mexican Carscape In 2016 – Part II, The Older Metal

Curbside Classic: 1994 Pontiac Trans Sport SE – Can U Get A Witness?

Curbside Classic: 1974 Datsun 710 Wagon – Third Time’s The Charm; Or Not

Curbside Classic: Ford Maverick – The Simple(ton) Machine