140. The Volkswagens of Taxco

The Volkswagens Of Taxco: Mexico feels like it’s the natural habitat for the old-style VW Beetles, like they were never a German car to begin with. They’re made here, adored here, impeccably maintained here and it’s impossible to drive for more than a few minutes on most roads without passing one. The first two days we were in Mexico, our ten-month running international Punchbuggy match took a turn for the ugly.

Amy: Punchbuggy red!
Me: Goddamnit.
Amy: This is going to be eas-PUNCHBUGGY GREEN!
Me: Ow!
Amy: Got a little exci-PUNCHBUGGY WHITE!
Me: Stop punching my neck!
Amy: Punchbuggy red again!

I eventually called a country-wide time out for Mexico, though not before collecting two arms full of bruises. Amy was apparently raised in a competitive Punchbuggy family, so she has an assassin’s instinct for the game, the kind of hyper preparedness and killer robot auto response that comes from decades of constant, anxious readiness. She’s clearly ahead on the year´s score, although I gained some respectable ground in Manila even without invoking the Double-Punchbuggy rule for VW Buses (the validity of which she still refuses to acknowledge). I’m also in serious training for the cross-country road trip back to Portland. Keep hope alive.

For once then, without the constant threat of a startling arm punch looming over this relationship, it’s been a real joy to see these little cars on the road. For here they are engaged in every manner of automotive business and pleasure, no matter how improbable. That went double for the picturesque colonial hill town of Taxco, where every turn reveals an even steeper climb or descent and a parade of bulbous Volkswagens. These slick and narrow cobblestone streets were no match for the bumper car ballet of white Beetles and Buses, the vast majority of which are employed as taxis and mass transport shuttles. Never mind people watching; the steady flow of intuitive maneuvering by these drivers is spellbinding.

Of course Taxco is charming enough without the added atmosphere (and exhaust fumes) of a thousand little UFOs lumbering up and down its sloping lanes. The town was originally settled by silver hungry Spaniards and although the nearby mines have been largely exhausted, the crafting and export of silver jewelry, table ware and gaudy statues remains a significant economy. Silver shops abound and local cuisine flourishes here, both excellent reasons to get lost wandering the medieval maze of streets. Add in the temperate climate, a spooky and devout annual observance of Jueves Santo (inset), the unapologetically ornate baroque Cathedral in the main zocalo and a surprising lack of suburban development in the surrounding countryside – Taxco is old Mexico at its finest. Punchbuggy awesome.

More pictures of Taxco below, left to right, top to bottom: Central Taxco from above; more Beetles; father and son candy stand; man selling vegetables in the central market; typical street scene; waiting for the rain to stop; birds at our guesthouse; street vendor selling finger traps to a tourist and; funeral wreath and woman begging outside of the main cathedral.


  1. Stacy says:

    You will be happy to know the wikipedia entry on punch buggy does mention the 2 punch rule for the VW bus. (In Minnesota, we call it slug bug)

  2. Sloan says:

    In your face Hojnowski!

  3. Emelinda says:

    Did the all night karaoke bars keep you up at night in Taxco? I thought Manila was bad!

    By the way, Happy Birthday and I’m so excited that you get to be in a Catholic country on All Saints/All Souls day. We’ll have to exchange notes when you get back.

  4. Byron says:

    Happy birthday Sloan from your friends at PDC! (Well a couple of days late, but it’s the thought that counts.)