Mexico City Drivers Beware, Peatonito is Watching You

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: We have a different kind of story out of Mexico right now. Among the many threats to their safety that people in Mexico City have to contend with daily are the many drivers on the roads. Many drivers in the Mexican capital are not exactly respectful of pedestrians. So when a car enters your crosswalk, who's going to protect you? Peatonito, that's who. He's a self-appointed protector of pedestrians in Mexico City. You'll recognize him. He's the guy in a cape and Mexican wrestling mask. Nicholas Casey wrote about him for The Wall Street Journal. Nicholas, how'd you find out about Peatonito?

Nicholas Casey: Well, I was actually just looking around on Twitter, and I noticed that this fellow had a Twitter account, putting up pictures of himself pushing cars back, going out into the street, walking people across the street. And then I discovered actually that he was operating in my own neighborhood, La Condesa, in Mexico City. I usually cover the drug war, and it was great to actually see a good story that was taking place in my own back yard.

Werman: So, just who is Peatonito when he's out of costume? Is he a mild-mannered resident of Mexico City?

Casey: He's a twenty-six-year old guy named Jorge Canyez. He's studying for a political science degree in Mexico City and is also working at a consultancy, where he advises the government on urban planning policies.

Werman: And I guess the fact that he dresses like a professional wrestler, Lucha Libre style, says something about how Mexicans feel about wrestling.

Casey: If you think wrestling in the U.S. is odd, you should see what's done in Mexico where they wear masks and have an announcer that says kind of silly things while people throw popcorn and drink large Coronas with peppers and salt in them. Believe it or not, there's been a few other wrestler heroes in the past, starting out with this guy who is called El Santo, who started making a number of movies where he would beat up bad guys. There was another guy named Superbarrio Gomez, who came out after the 1985 earthquake to protect Mexican residents by actually going to city council meetings and trying to lobby for fair housing after a lot of people lost their homes.

Werman: In costume?

Casey: In costume, always in costume.

Werman: What about yourself? Have you ever had any trouble crossing the street in Mexico City?

Casey: Well yeah, I've had plenty of trouble crossing the street. I've lived in Mexico City for about four years. I think for the first couple of years I just kept my head down, and as I got to see the city as my home, I got a bit more aggressive with people. I mean, I remember once almost getting hit by a taxi cab making a right hand turn and kicking the cab as he went by. The guy actually got out and started yelling at me and wanted to pick a fight, started calling me every name in the book, and I just told him that he needed to slow down. It can be trouble, especially if you're not wearing a mask. People take this stuff very seriously.

Werman: Yeah, that's when you say,'Peatonito to the rescue.' 

Casey: That's right. I was looking out for him, but unfortunately he was nowhere to be found.

Werman: Nicholas Casey wrote about Peatonito, Mexico City's pedestrian protector for The Wall Street Journal. We have a link to the video and photos at Nicholas, thanks a lot.

Casey: Thanks.