Volkswagen Beetle Still Popular in a Mexico City Neighborhood

05 July 2024

German automaker Volkswagen (VW) ended production of its Beetle model in 2019. But some communities around the world are still demonstrating a lasting love for this famous vehicle.

One such area is Cuautepec, a neighborhood outside of Mexico City. There are so many VW Beetles in the area that some local people even nicknamed the neighborhood "Vocholandia." In Mexico, the VW Beetle has long been known as the "vocho." So, the term Vocholandia means "Beetle land."

The vehicle has a long history in the Mexican capital. At one time, VW Beetles were commonly used as taxis throughout the city. But today, the northern neighborhood of Cuautepec is the place to go to see the most Beetles, which are also called "Bugs" in English.

Janette Navarro drives her 1996 Volkswagen Beetle up a steep hill in the Cuautepec neighborhood of Mexico City, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Aurea Del Rosario)
Janette Navarro drives her 1996 Volkswagen Beetle up a steep hill in the Cuautepec neighborhood of Mexico City, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Aurea Del Rosario)

Janette Navarro is the owner of a 1996 Beetle. Navarro lives in the neighborhood. She told the Associated Press (AP) one reason the cars are so popular is because the community is hilly, and the Beetle's back-positioned engine provides added power.

"No other car gets up here," Navarro said. "Just the vocho." She drives her VW as a taxi. Navarro added that she started the job eight years ago to support her three children. The job helped her put them through school.

"When they ask me what I do for work, I say proudly that I'm a vochera (a vocho driver)," Navarro said. "This work keeps me afloat...It's my adoration, my love."

The first Beetle was introduced in Germany in 1938 when the Nazi party controlled the country. The first vehicle was developed by Austrian-born automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche. The Beetle grew to become very popular in the United States and in other countries. It was long known as "the people's car."

Beetles were manufactured in Mexico, but production on older models ended in 2003. A newer model was produced after that, but VW stopped all manufacturing of the vehicles in 2019.

While some older cars in the community show their age, others still appear to be in good shape.

One driver named his bright blue Beetle "Gualupita" after his wife, Guadalupe, and added personal designs. Another Beetle seen rolling down the street was painted pink and white, with the front headlights made to look like cat eyes.

People who repair the vehicles told the AP it seems like the number of vochos is dropping off in Mexico City. Repairman David Enojosa said his family's shop used to specialize mainly in Beetle parts. But since VW halted production five years ago, they are no longer as easy to get.

Enojosa predicted that if shortages continue, the area's Beetles could "disappear in two or three years." He added, "Before we had too many parts for vochos, now there aren't enough."

One of Enojosa's customers told the AP he plans to keep looking for parts to keep his Beetle running as long as possible. The customer, Jesús Becerra, says he would love to keep seeing many cars in the neighborhood for many years.

"You adapt them, you find a way to make it keep running," he told the AP.

Joaquín Peréz is the 18-year-old owner of a white, 1991 VW Beetle. He said he is carrying on a family tradition by continuing to drive the car as a taxi. His father was a taxi driver who also drove a Beetle.

Peréz noted that his father taught him everything he knows about the job and the vehicles. "This area, always, always since I can remember has been a place of vochos," Peréz said. He added, "This here is the car of the people."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

nickname v. to give another name to a person or thing that is used by only a few people

taxi –n. a car for hire in which you pay the driver to take you where you want to go

proud – adj. very pleased about something you have done

adore – v. to like something very much

customer – n. a person who buys goods or services from a business

adapt – v. to change something so that it is suitable for a different use or situation