There is quite a bit of bad press about Mexico. Most of it can be characterized as fear mongering. On YoListo there have been recent posts inquiring about the dangers. All of this has gotten me thinking. Am I afraid? Yes, I am. The traffic makes a nervous wreak.
Several of my girlfriends have announced that they will help me get my driver’s license. It isn’t as if I don’t know how to drive. For several years I made my living as a professional driver. Combining that with the normal chauffeuring that a mom with three kids does, I spent an outrageous amount of time behind the wheel of some vehicle or another.
The idea of getting behind the wheel in Mexico makes me want to vomit. Narrow streets, vague signage, unskilled drivers and topes combine to create a challenging environment.
As a pedestrian, I am fearless, dark allies don’t intimidate me. Walking home late at night, I encounter a group of people gathered on the street. My only concern is that I might accidentally greet them with a cheery buenos dias rather than buenas noches or be drawn into a conversation. It’s a group of neighbors sitting outside on the sidewalk taking in the evening air not a gang of thugs menacing passersby.
Walking by the bus depot is an experience, I check out the attire of the person leaning casually by the doorway of a cheap hotel. Something seems odd, I can’t decide if they are a transvestite or just a particularly androgynous prostitute. They in turn check me out and quickly lose interest. I’d rather walk down Calle 60 where the working girls sit on stools chatting or stand outside sheltering from the sun under huge umbrellas than try to navigate a glorietta between a banged up looking bus and a driver who is paying more attention to their cell phone than the two year old who is hanging out of the back window.
Near the Mercado Galvez, little Maya ladies crowd the narrow sidewalks, playing chicken with other pedestrians, yielding at the last moment. The same attitude is displayed when the sons and daughters of these ladies ride their motos through traffic.
Am I afraid? yes, I am, but not of being assaulted, beheaded or robbed. I am afraid that I will never drive a car again, that I will be scorned or worse yet, pitied. A lesser being, condemned to riding shanks mare or taking taxis until the end of time.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Luciano,I think that taxis are a better option than renting a car. When I go someplace new by myself, I will take a taxi there and a bus home. It isn”t hard to find a bus marked Centro. You can buy a bus map at the one of the magazine kiosks near the Plaza de la Independencia (el zocalo) it will have all the routes on it, but not necessarily the times. There are no bus transfers. You can catch a lot of different buses around Calle 59 x 58 y 56 and Calle 67 x 62 y 64 also the Parque de San Juan. If you take a taxi make sure it’s either metered or arrange the fare ahead of time. Some metered taxis are cheaper than others, but generally they all are cheaper than non-metered.
    When I first came here I would ride random buses just to see the routes, good way to see the city and maybe find a place to rent.

  2. Any advice on how to move around the city in bus? My yucatecan friend told me “forget it, it’s too complicated, you better rent a car”. But renting a car for 1 months is too expensive. I couldn’t find any info about the bus routes online 🙁 So.. for now, I’m just walking under the fierce yucatecan sun 😀

  3. Good golly! I am so behind on my responses! Sorry.

    Steve, if I never drive again, I will be perfectly happy. I guess that is totally un-American. I wouldn’t mind taking the bus all over Mexico though.

    Luciano, there is enough offensive driving happening around here as it is.

    Joanna, I love it when the scariest looking guys are tenderly kissing their abuelitas to greet them,and hauling their groceries for them. Or you spot a big guy with a Dora the Explorer backpack that he is carrying for his little daughter.

    Anonymous, it’s hard to respond when you don’t know who you are responding to, but I agree that talking about the drivers is a great way to put that fear question in perspective.

    mcm, you’re right about the license. Like many things the more I put it off the more daunting it becomes.

    Madame Pliers, When we used to live on a narrow country road, we called those types of drivers “immortals”. They drive like they don’t believe in their own mortality, zooming around other cars on blind turns and speeding in the fog. Somethings transcend nationality.

    2ericc, As a matter of fact my bicycle is gathering dust in the bodega. Driving on the wrong side of the street would totally fry my brain. I should count my blessings, at least Mexicans normally drive on the same side of the road as us!


  4. I’ve driven in many scary cities: Boston, Madrid, NYC, Merida, and of course, my hometown of Buffalo (but nobody lives here anymore, so it’s not bad). But the scariest place I’ve ever driven was on the island of Dominica. Why? Because they drive on the other side of the road, which bends my brain. Repeatedly, I would try to activate turn signals only to watch the wipers swish back and forth. Out of habit, I would look the wrong way when pulling onto a highway. Driving there was harder than trying to cut my own hair with shears, in a mirror — without removing an ear in the process.

    I will admit that driving into Merida on Itzaes at night was terrifying, but after that everything else seemed tame. Put your helmet on and gave it a try, Theresa. It’s like riding a bicycle, only faster.


  5. I can sympathize. You will most likely never hear that I have braved the rond-points of Paris. I’m doing OK out here in the sticks but I pull over to let maniacally tailgating French drivers have the road to themselves with great regularity. They have a country full of two-lane rural roads upon which they are allowed to travel at 90kph and they have no compunction about exceeding that limit any chance they think they can get away with…

    Delightfully funny post!

  6. I completely agree — “Mom” in her SUV with the cell phone pressed to her ear as she navigates the El Pocito glorieta at top speed is truly scary!
    That said, seriously, I’d go ahead and get your license — that way, you’ll be able to drive (legally) in an emergency…doesn’t mean you have to change your habits.

  7. Oh My…I read you all the time,and my husband and I visit the area several times a year. We share driving,giving each others nerves a rest! Then after we park…we drink!I will remember this next time a friend says,”is it safe down there?”

  8. LOVE IT! So true Theresa… the drivers are the biggest threat lurking on our streets. As for the people… the other day I saw a really scary looking guy with tatoos, piercings and one of those awful sideways caps. Where did I see spot this danger? In the Comercial Mexicana… helping his grandmother do her shopping!
    Look forward to seeing you soon and hey, I’ll take for a few swings around the block… driving isn’t that bad… Joanna

  9. You probably need some offensive driving lessons 😀

  10. Funny. I was thinking along the same lines on my walk to work this morning. I left my truck behind in Mexico during my six-month trip north. Other than a few days of driving in southern California, I have not been behind the wheel of a car for almost a half year. It will be good to start driving again in Mexico — after the conference.

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