Getting Around in the Huasteca Potosí | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Getting Around in the Huasteca Potosí

East of the Sierra Gorda many hundreds of tiny settlements are spread out over a huge area. They are served by a sprinkling of larger towns with populations on the order of 20,000 and most importantly, commercial centers. People in the settlements need to get to town to buy shoes or seeds.

Rich folks own cars. The next lower economic tier takes the bus.


You can go all over Mexico on the bus. They have one of the best systems in the world: way better than the British one.

But buses ply the main highways. If your town isn't on an arterial, you have to get off at an intersection where taxis wait to take you into el centro.


The bus stop and taxis pictured above are at the Mex 85 intersection with the road to Tancanhuitz de Santos. It's typical.

By U. S. standards, buses are cheap, and the taxis cost only a buck or two. But for many here, that's still too expensive. Moreover, many live well off the beaten track, in places where no buses go and taxi fares would be too high, maybe even for gringos.

The ubiquitous Mexican form of really cheap passenger transport is the pickup truck. Here, a group of Guadalajara soccer fans accept a lift from a friend.


(Check that bottomed-out rear suspension.)

Illegal in the U. S. for safety reasons, I occasionally saw passengers in truck beds there anyway. Once I watched as a pickup truck with two illegal passengers had a low-speed rear-end collision with another vehicle. Neither car suffered any damage, but the impact bounced the rear of the pickup into the air, catapulting the two passengers over both vehicles. They landed on the road in front of the car that had been struck, which fortunately had been stopped.

Mexico appears to have no restrictions on passengers in truck beds. Any such regulation would be unenforceable, given that riding back there is an integral part of the culture.

Inhabitants of the Huastecan Potosí have formalized the use of pickups as public transportation.


Three-quarter or one ton pickup trucks are fitted with tall frames in their beds that allow passengers to hang on while standing. That way, twenty or more can fit into the back. Each pays the driver a few pesos fare.

You see them everywhere in the region, prowling the back roads and carrying people into the towns. They're often overfilled.


(They look like commuters on the IRT, don't they.)

Most don't look safe. They're often 25 years or more years old, and I imagine maintenance is a little thin.

Most frightening is encountering one on the open road. I snapped this image in the country north of Asquemón.


The driver was going at least 50 MPH. Those are schoolchildren up there. (Shudder.)