The streets of Mexico City aren’t a friendly place for unsuspecting pedestrians. Traffic in Mexico City is intense—according to data from GPS manufacturer TomTom, it’s the worst in the world. Pedestrians risk their necks each time they enter the crosswalk—pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists account for more than a third of all fatalities.
Enter Peatónito—the little pedestrian! Donning a black-and-silver lucha libre mask and a cape with the stripes of a crosswalk, Jorge Cáñez, a political scientist, will sweep into a crowded crosswalk and push back the cars that dare to encroach on zebra stripes. “My name is Peatónito, and I fight for the rights of pedestrians,” he sometimes tells the drivers. Peatónito’s work— coupled with that of a number of other activists—has led to significant reforms. Since 2012, when Cáñez began his crusade on the streets, Mexico City has reduced speed limits on major thoroughfares and adopted a Vision Zero policy that explicitly prioritizes pedestrian needs. Several major streets in the Centro Historico have been closed to cars to allow for easier transit by foot and bicycle. Over the last several years, Peatónito has even made appearances in New York City crosswalks, taking his cause international.
Peatónito isn’t the first community activist to don a mask. In the 1980s, Superbarrio put on a red and yellow mask and entered the ring to fight for the poor—famously, he took down “El Sida,” a wrestler representing AIDS—and later even joked about running for president of the US.