Tepito, also known as barrio bravo, is one of the most notorious neighbourhoods of Mexico City and is one of the case studies of the “Inequality Tourism in the Americas” project. Tepito first featured in pioneer studies of urban poverty (Lewis 1966; Eckstein 1977) as one of Mexico City’s most crime-ridden neighbourhoods, known for its street vendors selling stolen goods (fayuca). While today its level of violence and poverty may not be the highest in the city Tepito has a worldly reputation of a “no-go” zone. Oscar Lewis’ influential book “The Children of Sánchez” (1961) popularised life in a slum tenement and represented Tepito to a wide audience, far beyond national borders. While Tepito’s reputation rests largely on high rates of poverty, criminality and informal markets, residents like to emphasize barrios’ cultural production and its resistance practices. It is in the context of these competing narratives that tours to Tepito started to emerge. A particular focus of the tours is on the neighbourhood’s market, its connections to the outside world and the shrine La Santa muerte. Today, the Centro de Estudios Tepiteños is a cultural centre that works on improving Tepito’s reputation (Hernández Hernández 2008; Cross and Hernández Hernández 2011). Recently, Tepito’ reputation has also been challenged through popular cultural production such as theatre play Safari Cultural and TV series Cronica de Castas.
The community-based Tepito tours can be read as a strategy of resistance: as the municipal government is incapable or unwilling to alter Tepito’s image, certain residents take action themselves, using tourism as a means to advance their goals. While local resistance to state-led gentrification has contributed to a strengthening Tepito community identity, the tours also increase frictions within the neighbourhood as not all residents approve of this tourist display.