Beetlemania, in Photos

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
Coming from Canada into Mexico, it always feels like we’ve stepped onto the set of an old-timey movie.It’s the crumble of the colonial buildings that first set that scene. And then the unhurried lifestyle that we have to believe was the case in our home country too, once upon a time. Although that would have been well before our time, before advancements demanded a hurried lifestyle in order to work harder and buy better. In Mexico, even though mañana technically means tomorrow, it really just means any day after today. That change in pace always takes a bit of time to adjust to.

But the commonplace appearance of the classic Volkswagen Beetles represents that wistful retro feeling for us most of all.

Although developed in Germany (first sketched by Hitler himself, no less; he called it the “car of the people”), the bug has become a true icon of Mexico. Nicknamed vochos, the Beetle was the first car to ever be produced here.

And they are still everywhere.

Nicknamed vochos, the Beetle was the first car to ever be produced in Mexico.

Red VW Beetle Mérida

Silver VW Beetle Oaxaca

In Mexico City, the Beetles were even used as taxis. In their originating city of Puebla, they were used as both taxis and police cars. The factory in Puebla opened in 1964 and continued until 2003, well beyond every other producing plant. The cars virtually disappeared from the US and Europe in the late 70s due to new safety and environmental regulations that they did not meet. In Mexico, this was less of an issue and demand remained high. Puebla continued to produce them until 2003 and was the last country on the planet to roll the classic model out their doors.

They were more than just a mode of transport, the Beetle became a huge symbol of pride. (Oh, and for a time, a symbol of danger too. Given the narrow access to the backseat, criminals discovered that they provided a perfect trap. Stuffing passengers in the back with no doors to escape from, robberies and kidnappings were carried out with ease. Mexico City has since decreed that taxis must possess four doors.)

White VW Beetle Mérida
Green VW Beetle Izamal
VW Nose Mexico

White VW Beetle Mérida

Red VW Beetle San Miguel de Allende

The car, complete with its sordid history, reminds us of our experience with the East German Trabant. Differences abound of course, especially given that the Beetle is in fact the most popular car in history with over 21.5 million built, and the Trabant was named one of the worst cars of all time. But no matter of the title earned, each invite a rush of nostalgia. Even a bit of longing to experience the time in which they thrived.

Most everything in retro-vision looks better than it actually was. But in Mexico, right now, among Beetles, brightly coloured buildings, and brilliant winter sun, we’ll choose to remain the sentimental idealists.

Green VW Beetle Oaxaca

Green VW Beetle Oaxaca
Pink Punch Buggy
Blue VW Beetle Oaxaca

Yellow VW Beetle San MIguel de Allende

White VW Beetle Nose Oaxaca

Blue Punch Buggy

Red VW Beetle Mérida

14 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • March 8 2016

    This is a beautiful series of images. Love them!
    Monte Stevens recently posted..Blue Skies and Water

  • March 8 2016

    Have you run into any Ocho’s? 🙂
    Jeff Cruz recently posted..2016 Exposure Photography Festival

  • Kara
    March 9 2016

    Beatles aren’t just in Mexico – I saw a ton in northern Peru, probably for similar reasons! Lovely photos, as always.

    • March 22 2016

      I don’t believe there were any manufactured in Peru, just in Brazil. So probably not quite the same reason, but yes, we’ve seen many in South America too!

  • March 11 2016

    This is a beautiful collection! Classic retro is after my heart.
    Arti recently posted..Of Contests, Creativity, and Fulfilling Dreams!

  • March 11 2016

    Love it Dalene – the images of all those Beetles are awesome. I had no idea Hitler envisioned the Beetle. Fascinating. And certainly something relaxing about seeing retro cars, taking you back to a simpler time. One of my childhood friends had a Beetle and I was always fascinated by the boot (I’m an Aussie, maybe it’s “trunk”) being in the front. Happy travels and enjoy all your mananas 🙂
    Tracy recently posted..10 Tips For Flying With Your Baby (And Keeping Your Sanity)

  • March 13 2016

    This post was so much fun. Thanks for sharing those amazing, colorful, little cars.

  • March 18 2016

    I love Beatles and they way it is photographed with picturesque streets of Mexico at background is beyond perfection !
    traveling lady recently posted..5 AMAZING MOSQUES TO VISIT IN ISTANBUL

  • March 28 2016

    Fantastic series of photos from these great vochos! They truly found their space in this beautiful country. As a german married to a mexican I can tell its a great match 😉
    Thanks for the great post.
    Julian recently posted..Ultimate 3 Weeks Itinerary Vietnam

  • April 9 2016

    Nicely done with the photos. Kind of a nostalgic look
    Natalie recently posted..14 Impressive Historical Places To Visit in Turkey

  • Brett
    October 12 2016

    Okay. Somebody say it already. Slug bug. Ouch. Slug bug. Ouch. Enough already. Slug bug.

  • jan
    November 5 2019

    I love Beetles. I didn’t realize they were manufactured anywhere outside of Germany. I’ve photographed one in Zagreb and my friend had one when I was a Teen. I love that they keep on keeping on but with 21.5 million produced it’s not surprising. 🙂
    jan recently posted..A day in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland – Road Trips from Brisbane

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