Mexico City’s Metro is a Moving Store, Everything’s For Sale

Vendor in the Mexico City metro.
Vendor in the Mexico City metro. The stream of sellers never ever ends.

Today I had a whole day in front of me and I wanted to see more of Mexico City. So I ventured down into the vast metro system here and took a ride out to the end of linea numero 3 toward Tlatelolco. This system is vast, and it’s North America’s second largest subway after NYC. But one thing this metro has are vendors. Boy do people like to sell things on this subway!

After buying my ticket (they charge a variety of prices depending on where you want to go, unlike in NY) I figured I’d just take a ride and so I jumped on the train heading for Tlatelolco. It was crowded, and there wasn’t any graffiti, but the steel seats were small and many people were standing.

I heard loud music and I realized it was a vendor with a speaker hawking CDs of miriachi music. Each vendor has their own product but all do the same thing. They walk to the middle of the car and begin to shout about their products and hold up their wares. The variety was dazzling: portable beard trimmers, instruction books on math for kids, Clorets, bags of nuts, lit up LED lights for your fingertips, and one guy who passed out papers with needle and thread, which he later came back to collect when no one wanted to buy them.

The Chilangos (the term for residents of MC) are not fazed and don’t pay much attention to the pitches. One guy did have a hot product that two riders actually bought–a map of the metro. But for the most part pitch after pitch fell on bored, uninterested ears. A sad scene was a mother with a 3-year old boy who walked in front of her as she tried to sell booklets about reading. They must spend all of their days trudging in and around the passengers looking for someone to buy. It seems too that many vendors have agreed that 20 pesos is their price. It’s about $1.50.

I thought about what it must be like to have to ride this metro every day with this never ending parade of vendors. I guess it would be worse if they were begging, but these are just businesspeople just trying to make a living in a tough city. It wasn’t until I emerged at the Zocalo again did I get accosted by someone looking for a hand-out.