Mexico City Neighborhood Keeps Iconic Volkswagen Beetle Alive 

People walk past vintage Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as "vochos," ahead of a parade, a day after World Vocho Day, in Mexico City, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP)
People walk past vintage Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as "vochos," ahead of a parade, a day after World Vocho Day, in Mexico City, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP)
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Mexico City Neighborhood Keeps Iconic Volkswagen Beetle Alive 

People walk past vintage Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as "vochos," ahead of a parade, a day after World Vocho Day, in Mexico City, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP)
People walk past vintage Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as "vochos," ahead of a parade, a day after World Vocho Day, in Mexico City, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP)

Janette Navarro’s 1996 Volkswagen Beetle roars as it barrels up a steep hill overlooking concrete houses stacked like boxes on the outskirts of Mexico City.

She presses her foot on the pedal, passes a lime green Beetle like hers, then one marked with red and yellow, then another painted a bright sea blue.

“No other car gets up here,” she said. “Just the vocho.”

The Volkswagen Beetle, or “vocho” as it’s known in Mexico, may have been born in Germany, but in this hilly neighborhood on the fringes of Mexico City, there’s no doubt about it: The "Bug” is king.

The Beetle has a long history in the country’s sprawling capital. The old-school models like these — once driven as taxis — used to dot city blocks as the quirky look captured the fascination of many around the world. It was long known as “the people’s car.”

But after production of older models halted in Mexico in 2003, and the newer versions in 2019, the Bug population is dwindling in the metro area of 23 million people. But in the northern neighborhood of Cuautepec, classic Beetles still line the streets — so much so that the area has been nicknamed “Vocholandia.”

Taxi drivers like Navarro say they continue to use the vochos because the cars are inexpensive and the engine located in the back of the vehicle gives it more power to climb the neighborhood's steep hills.

Navarro began driving Beetles for work eight years ago as a way to feed her three children and put them through school.

“When they ask me what I do for work, I say proudly that I’m a vochera (a vocho driver),” Navarro said a day before the International Day of the VW Beetle on Saturday. “This work keeps me afloat ... It’s my adoration, my love.”

While some of the older cars wobble along, paint long faded after years of wear and tear, other drivers dress their cars up, keeping them in top shape.

One driver has named his bright blue car “Gualupita” after his wife, Guadalupe, and adorns the bottom with aluminum flames blasting out from a VW logo. Another painted their VW pink and white, sticking pink cat eyes on the front headlights.

Mechanics in the area, though, say driving vochos is a dying tradition. David Enojosa, a car mechanic, said his family’s small car shop in the city used to sell parts and do maintenance primarily on Beetles. But since Volkswagen halted production five years ago, parts have been harder to come by.

“With the current trend, it will disappear in two or three years,” Enojosa said, his hands blackened by car grease. “Before we had too many parts for vochos, now there aren’t enough ... So they have to look for parts in repair shops or junkyards.”

As he spoke, a customer walked up carrying a worn down bolt, looking for a replacement for his Volkswagen’s clutch.

The customer, Jesús Becerra, was in luck: Enojosa strolled out of his shop holding a shiny new bolt.

Less lucky drivers have to do laps around the neighborhood looking for certain parts. Even more cars fall into disrepair and don’t pass emissions inspections.

But Becerra is among those who believed that the vochos will endure in his neighborhood.

“You adapt them, you find a way to make it keep running,” he said. “You say, ‘We’re going to do this, fix it and let’s go.’”

Others like Joaquín Peréz say continuing to drive his 1991 white, Herbie-style Beetle is a way to carry on his family tradition. He grew up around Bugs, he explained as his car rumbled. His father was a taxi driver just like him and he learned how to drive in a VW.

Now, 18 years into working as a driver himself, his dashboard is lined with trinkets from his family. A plastic duck from his son, a frog stuffed animal from his daughter and a fabric rose from his wife.

“This area, always, always since I can remember has been a place of vochos,” he said. “This here is the car of the people.”



Man Kills Grizzly Bear in Montana after it Attacks

FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)
FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)
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Man Kills Grizzly Bear in Montana after it Attacks

FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)
FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)

A 72-year-old man picking huckleberries in Montana shot and killed a grizzly bear after it attacked in a surprise encounter and injured him badly enough that he had to be hospitalized, authorities said Friday.
The man was alone on national forest land when the adult female charged him Thursday. He suffered significant injuries before killing the bear with a handgun, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials said.
The bear was likely reacting defensively to protect cubs, agency spokesperson Dillon Tabish said.
Wildlife workers set out game cameras in the area to try to confirm the presence of any cubs. If cubs are found, it's uncertain if they would be captured because it is difficult to find facilities qualified to take them, The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
“Depending on the age, we might leave them in the wild because they have a better chance of survival, rather than have to euthanize them,” Tabish said.
The attack happened on the Flathead National Forest about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of Columbia Falls, a northwestern Montana city of about 5,500 people, according to the state wildlife agency.
The victim's name and further details on his condition were not released.
Meanwhile, Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff shot and killed an adult female grizzly Thursday after it had become accustomed to seeking out food from people and breaking into houses in and around Gardiner, a town of about 800 people just north of Yellowstone National Park.
Pet food, garbage and barbeque grills left outside and accessible to bears contributed to the problem, according to a department statement. No people were hurt by the bear before it was shot in the Yellowstone River.
Wildlife managers sometimes capture and move grizzly bears that are known to cause problems for people. But they will kill ones involved in predatory attacks on people or if they are deemed likely to keep causing problems regardless of being moved.