Mexico City's metro map

Mexico City: making a living in the metro

Mexico City is part city, part market. Anywhere you go, there will always be someone selling something! This is particularly noticeable in the metro.

One of the great things about the metro in Mexico’s capital is the symbols system they use to mark each station. Apart from naming each station, like any city in the world would do, Mexico City’s metro map sports symbols that make it easy to identify each station. This is a fantastic system not only if you are sitting far from the map and can’t read in the distance, but also if you can’t read at all or yet, in the case of kids. This way, any kid could say “Grandma lives by little ducky!“. Symbols ranging from famous personalities, nature related items, monuments and historical icons make it easier to navigate around the system.

The other remarkable thing about the metro is that every time you stop at a new station you can marvel at the sellers on the move who will entertain you, not only with the kind of products they sell but also with their marketing techniques.

Record shop on the go!

Record shop on the go!


What do you think one might need all of a sudden while riding the metro? Chewing gum, cough drops, cough balm, batteries, peanuts, city maps, CDs, DVDs, manuals that teach you how to assembly electrical systems (!) are some examples of stuff that, you never know, might come in handy!

People selling small items like chewing gum have clearly lost their voice. Lines like “2 packets of chewing gum for 10 pesos! New flavor! Mint to freshen up your mouth and soothe your throat! It’s 10 pesos, it only costs 10 pesos” are repeated in a singing tone until exhaustion during the long hours of the day and night.

On the other hand, those selling CDs are the Walmart of the metro! They carry a backpack with speakers that blast the songs they are selling, louder than most department stores would. For 10 pesos you can buy a CD with sometimes up to 500 mp3s! Tell me this isn’t great value for money?!



Riding the metro in Mexico City is the cheapest living theatre you can probably ever watch.


For only 3 pesos (equivalent to 0.25 USD) you are sure to be amazed at how people try to make a living, leaving all shyness outside in the platform of the station, before they enter their very own store on rails.


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  • Marcos Barraza Says

    Mexico City must be the most street-vendor-friendly city in the world. It’s basically this citie’s leftist government answer to unemployment. That’s why you see whole downtown areas invaded by street vendors. Try the Tepito area where you’ll find imported merchandise from all over the world (Ok, ok, I meant all over China…). It’s all a bit controversial but it does make for a very interesting city for the visitor.

    • Ashray Says

      The good thing about Mexicans is that they don’t seem scared of just going out and trying to make a living and they actually get creative doing so! Much better than sitting around and complain about lack of stable employment options, etc.

      Thanks for the comment, Marcos! :)

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  • Cheryl Says

    Don’t mean to burst your bubble, but what you see in this city (I live here) isn’t what really is. Those “vendors” on the metro don’t work individually – they all know each other and are part of an illegal network connected to the Mafia. The top dogs pay corruption money to the police to leave the vendors alone. (Every so often, at places like Chabacano metro station, the police will go after the vendors and take them “away”, but they’re always back in a day or two.) They’re “marketing” skills are ALL the same. The speech is the same from all of them – apparently there’s minimal imagination or marketing know-how at the top. Next time you’re in town, stop by the Deportiva Oceana metro stop in the morning. You’ll see a large group of them gathered recieving instructions and other stuff for the day.

    The symbols used on the metro system (which was built only for the ’68 Olympics) were put in place specifically because back then, the illiteracy rate was high.

  • Zara Says

    Hey Cheryl

    Your comment has left me quite intrigued! What exactly do you mean by “part of an illegal network connected to the Mafia”?! Does this mean that the selling of chewing gum, CDs and that kind of stuff is just a cover for other kind of business or what is it? I didn’t fully understand.


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