Spending the night in a Mexican motel


motelaTijuana is full of motels like this one, but you might want to think twice about checking in.  

Motels south of the border serve a quite different purpose than motels in the U.S., which are still an option for budget-conscious families and travelers. Motels in Mexico – and throughout Latin America – are for people to hook up in. This explains why they are built with large walls, and sometimes have paying areas set up as booths with reflective glass. The upper-end ones offer garages and private entries while the lower-scale ones use curtains to cover up your car. Once you realize what they are, you start to see them all over the place. The more extravagant ones take on themes:  There’s one in the outskirts of the city inspired by the  Taj Majal.

How do I know this? As a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, I once had to go to a crime scene near one of these “love motels” and tried – unsuccessfully – to get some information from the voices behind a tinted glass booth. Another time, also while on assignment for the Union-Tribune, I stayed at a motel in Veracruz out of absolute desperation. A photographer and I had arrived there during some national holiday and the city’s hotels were filled to capacity. A hotel worker suggested a motel. My room was decorated in surreal shades of blue. A plastic black couch faced a television and mini-bar. Inside a glass nook, fake flowers and arranged stones created a kitschy fantasy ambiance. The pillows were flat, the bed was hard, and napkin dispensers clung to the walls.

The motels are used by prostitutes and their clients. They are sometimes used by married people who are having affairs. But they are also used  by people who just need a little space away from prying eyes. In Latin America, privacy can be sorely lacking when you are living with your parents, in-laws, kids, and other assorted family members. Some of these motels are designed to be quick – really quick – get-aways. That night in Veracruz, it became quite clear to me that this one wasn’t made for sleeping in as the sound of nearby garage doors opening and closing kept me up all night.

Here’s an interesting El Universal story (in Spanish) of how these love-nooks are offering free car washes or extra time due to tougher economic times.

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7 responses to “Spending the night in a Mexican motel

  1. Nothing like a No-Tell Motel.
    Fun posting! Keep ’em coming, Anna!
    Signed,
    A Big Fan

  2. Thanks! I actually have a goofy picture of myself inside that room of my unforgettable night there. That one’s staying off line, though…

  3. That is interesting, most of the motels over here in LA along PCH seem to be the same way 🙂 ..I stayed in a motel in T.J when we picked up my grandpa from the airport. Yuck ,imagine they must so dirty as well! There is so much prostitution in Mexico check out this blog post my friend did on this place near in D.F
    http://chimatli.org/blog/?p=176

  4. That’s a really sad but insightful documentary of elderly, semi-retired prostitutes in Mexico’s interior.

  5. Great post, if you don’t know your way around you may end up in some “sticky” motel rooms. Check out Hacienda Del Rio for a great value place to stay in TJ.

  6. I have had friends stay at the Hacienda del Rio, too. I found it to be a decent place and centrally located so that it’s a short cab ride to clubs.

  7. Jessica jimenez

    How much, is monthly rent?

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