Roach Coach | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Roach Coach

We who have worked in Silicon Valley have all heard the sound of impertinent truck horns playing "La Cucuracha"—an invitation to go out in the parking lot and enjoy a greasy taco, a mystery meat hamburger, some Hostess pastries or a styrofoam cup of truly vile coffee.

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They're complete restaurants on wheels. You want pancakes? Eggs over easy? A BLT? A chocolate shake? You got it.

They're efficient and effecive. Quilted stainless steel surfaces are easy to keep clean. Packaged foods are displayed on shelves positioned for self-service. Prices are low. What's not to like?

Somewhere along the line, lunch trucks acquired the sobriquet "Roach Coach." Food vendors went along with the joke; hence, the song played by their horns. Much of their business is in servicing construction sites and industrial parks, where restaurants are scarce.

A similar market demand exists in San Miguel; one which is satisfied in the same way—with food served from motor vehicles. Somewhat more modest motor vehicles.

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In their most common form, San Miguel's roach coaches are '70s-vintage beater automobiles carrying a trunk full of various hot and cold foods. So your capital investment is more like $700, not $70,000. Good thing too, considering the kind of sales volume a Mexican food vendor can expect.

The basic offering is some kind of meat mixed with vegetables in a spicy sauce, rice and beans. Maybe some nopalitos (cactus leaves). Chopped onions and cilantro for garnish. You get lots of corn tortillas in the bargain. And jalapeños and salsa. A plastic cooler contains refrescos—soft drinks.

My friend Bob once referred to the food served to his construction workers as "chicken neck tacos." A shameful thing to say. They eat better than that. It was chicken wing tacos.

The roach coach pictured is a cut above the usual rust-eaten heap. Well-preserved, I'd say. Even though the front and rear sections appear to be of two different vintages.

But—what's that cone-shaped thing on the roof?

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Ah. A public address speaker. You might think it is used to announce the arrival of the roach coach in your neighborhood. Probably not.

Actually, this vehicle supports not one, but two businesses: it's a rolling restaurant and a mobile advertising service.

I remember as a child watching black and white movies set in Latin America where a '49 Chevy with public address horns on top rolls slowly through the pueblo, haranguing the voters. Well, we still got 'em.

Circus in town? Some guy with a four-testicle voice booms out of an over-amped mobile PA system. Election time? The town is full of blaring trucks. Dueling speakers.

It's intrusive and annoying. It's part of life in Mexico. I love it.
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