MEXICO CITY —Most travel guides would steer you to the historic center of this metropolitan capital, with its grand colonial plaza and Aztec temples, stunning Diego Rivera murals and oh-so-many museums, a visual feast of Mexican heritage.
Yet a few blocks north lies another cultural stronghold, albeit not the kind you’ll find on a tourist map. Even for many city residents, the neighborhood of Tepito is a no-go zone, 72 blocks of Latin America’s biggest black market, a labyrinth of stalls that serve as refuge and home for outcasts: drug dealers, pickpockets, transvestites, thieves and sellers of contraband.
If outsiders venture in to buy marijuana or pirated DVDs, they know they risk a mugging — or worse. No wonder it’s the so-called “barrio bravo,” or fierce neighborhood.
Alfonso Hernandez wants to change that.
Photo: Alicia Vera for Al Jazeera America