Year of the Mexicans

A guest post from Terbo Ted, the first DJ at Burning Man (1992) and first Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.

Burning Man 2016: Year of the Mexicans


“Make America Mexico Again” – overheard in Black Rock City

Whether they were contributing by financing, creating, designing, building, staffing or populating Black Rock City, 2016 was a year noteworthy for outstanding input from Mexican nationals.


Mayan Warrior’s historic link up with Robot Heart in the Deep Playa, photo from Alexandra Höglund | Instagram

Mexico City’s Mayan Warrior art car  returned to the playa with millions of dollars worth of mind blowing improvements.  Their blend of music, form, sound and light was unprecedented and sets a global standard for art cars.  Whenever it would slowly enter the playa playing solemn processional music, dozens of bicycles would dutifully follow along in anticipation of the festivities to come.  The night Mayan Warrior linked systems with playa veterans Robot Heart set an unbelievable benchmark for sound in the desert and attracted an enormous crowd of thousands that danced well past sunrise.  Equally impressive was watching the Mayan Warrior return to their large, well organized camp to go through the vehicle’s round the clock daily servicing; it was like watching a pit crew at the 24 hours of Le Mans automobile endurance event.

2016-mayan2photo from Burning Man Festival at

Burning Man has become an international jet set destination and along with some very impressive camps from Mexico lining Billionaire’s Alley- such as Humano The Tribe-, there were other high end luxury Spanish language camps in that area as well, including Ibiza camp from Spain.  All day long at the end of Lorenzo one could witness beautiful young people talking in Spanish strolling or riding by while modeling designer swimwear, tall boots and disco ball bedazzled military officer caps, which were very much in fashion this year.  I’m glad I speak Spanish; I found myself having several conversations a day en Español on the playa.

Many of the Mexicans had elaborate feather costumes or wardrobe items, which was quite interesting in the wake of all of the strong social media dialog before the event regarding respect for Native American and First Nation traditions, especially the donning of Plains Indian style war bonnet headdresses.  Mexicans, of course, may be descended from- or not- a range of indigenous civilizations that have long made use of feathers in ceremonial costumes and headgear, which might be influenced by Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Toltec or other American cultures.  To directly address the war bonnet controversy, while I never saw an authentic, actual Plains Indian Eagle Feather Headdress on the playa this year, I certainly did see one wasted, sunburned and pale beer-bellied white bro with his shirt off, wearing unfortunate Spring Break styled swim trunks and a low-cost child-sized neon green faux feather war bonnet headdress that looked like it came from the Spirit Halloween store.  This poor fella looked like the only guy on the playa who couldn’t actually get laid, and I don’t think we should take his costume choices too seriously, he obviously doesn’t.

Black Rock City has all of the cultural sensitivity of an owl vomiting up a frog carcass it has recently devoured.  Countless booths and kiosks line the city offering ‘Bad Advice.’  Ironically, these are usually unstaffed.  While traveling around BRC, it is inevitable that some drunken clown, prankster or provocateur will yell at you through a bullhorn or distorted microphone with a message as succinct as ‘Fuck You!’ or ‘Fuck Your Burn!’  Which is usually followed with a sturdy hug and an offering of a drink. This is how a society built on ritualized destruction of a male effigy conducts itself on a normal day to day basis.  If you are new to BRC, the culture is very likely to rudely invade your personal comfort zone and via ‘transformation’ help you redefine your own boundaries.

It seems that well over half of the population of Black Rock City are virgins now.  What is remarkable is how all of the shared cultural history, knowledge and information has been of great use in preparing these people for their first visit.  Sometimes virgins might even be over indoctrinated before they arrive these days. We should be reminded that in the early years of Burning Man on the playa, people were NOT good at it.  Over 20 years ago people would routinely show up in the desert with no goggles, no mask, no sunscreen, no hat, no shade, no water.  Back in those days, you’d find someone passed out on the ground, intoxicated, with a blistering sunburn and desperately in need of help.  Now virgins show up in designer outfits tailored to the desert lifestyle.  In conversation with virgins this year, I’d inevitably ask them how does being at BRC differ from all of the impressions they had beforehand, from all of the wealth of pictures, videos and stories they had experienced prior the event.  Most people answer that they are surprised at how friendly everyone is in Black Rock City, and by how indescribable the desert environment is, including scale and conditions.  You have to be there on the playa to truly understand.


Image: Alazne Bilbao | Instagram

Bicycles are an integral part of Black Rock City, but that has not always been the case.  In the early 90s, BRC was small enough to easily traverse on foot, and you could drive your car in any direction you chose at any speed.  Times have changed.  A great deal of difficulties face bicyclists on the playa.  LOCK YOUR BICYCLE or it will be ‘gifted’ from you and become a ‘playa bike.’  While literal bike theft seems to be down in BRC- in previous years people would actually throw bikes en masse into trucks to steal them- ‘borrowing’ or ‘appropriating’ of bikes is rampant in BRC.  This is especially common around turn key camps that provide a fleet of bicycles to their guests.  A turn key guest probably doesn’t have much attachment to their provided playa bike, and it is understandable that they would not lock it up, but once their allocated bike disappears, the consternation of this situation is generally inspiring enough to motivate their borrowing of someone else’s bike, which has an impressive cascading effect.  LOCK YOUR BIKE OR YOU WILL LOSE IT.  The amount of discarded bicycles strewn about after the city begins to fade away is heart breaking.  If you do not want to take your bike home, please take it off the playa and donate it to any one of the local groups along Highway 447 who specialize in restoring and renting playa bikes to future guests.


Image: Polinanikova | Instagram

Further bicycle notes: If you spend any time at all in the busy bike repair shops around the city, you will notice that one of the most common repairs is eliminating a derailleur and shortening the chain to transform it into a one speed bike.  The playa is completely flat and the roads are rutted.  Derailleurs fail regularly from all of the bouncing, dust and falls a bike encounters.  If you are putting together or purchasing a new playa bike, one speed beach cruisers work fine.  Consider avoiding multi-speed bikes to eliminate yourself some hassle.  Also, while people are great at illuminating their bikes to avoid ‘darking’ at night, it seems more people could use bells or horns to notify other pedestrians, vehicles and bikes.  It is remarkable how many people ride their bikes while not looking where they are going, there are many distractions in Black Rock City.
“Communities are not produced by sentiment.  They grow out of a shared struggle.” – Larry Harvey


It was great to see ecstatic good vibes from the old timers in attendance this year.  The recent purchase of Fly Ranch leading up to the burn warmed many hearts.  But the path to this year’s joy has not been an easy one.  Burning Man has faced much adversity over the decades.  The festival almost collapsed after the deadly HellCo chaos of 1996.  For every single one of the early years in the desert the festival only lost money, which seemed like a lot in that era, even insurmountable at times.  Their have been countless lawsuits over the years against various government agencies.  Early stalwarts such as John Law (who designed the man’s neon) quit long ago and vowed never to return.  Others have passed away, such as Pepe Ozan, who helped pioneer large-scale ritualized spectacle in the earlier years.  But every single time this year I ran across folks such as Larry Harvey, Crimson Rose, Will Roger, Maid Marian, Steven Raspa and more, they seemed to be in the greatest of spirits.  Que vaya bien.
¡Hasta luego!


About the storyteller:
Terbo Ted Terbolizard first visited the Black Rock Desert in 1992 when there was no gate, no perimeter, no road, no trash fence and you could drive your car as fast as you wanted in any direction.  Terbo was the first DJ to play in Black Rock City, with no one there to hear his set on a dusty Friday afternoon.  Later, in the early years he was the only one ever to be called “Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.”  His playa self and default world self can be remarkably similar these days.

Header image photo by Craig Ellenwood

#burningman #playa #artcar #mayanwarrior #robotheart

22 comments on “Year of the Mexicans

  1. Indeed the Latino pretense increases at BRC. The Earth Guardians one again engaged Indigenous ceremonial Aztec dancers in their Camp……. they held a couple ceremonies, one at the Temple before it actually opened up. Their ceremonial feather headdress were beautifully authentic. The author, Terbo Ted Terbolizard, would do well to research that all Mexicans are tribal descendants and can thus wear our feathers proudly.

  2. Did anyone else see the 2 fighter jets fly over the city, I think it was on Thursday? Anyone get a photo? They had afterburners on. I looked in Reno Gazette and elsewhere, no mention of these. Thanks, and Burn On!

  3. Until this year I only ever encountered preppy boyz from Mexico’s elite, but this year I kept meeting independent dream chasers who truly embrace the Burner culture…… to the point that I walked away with a handful of names and contacts: is it time to have a Mexico Burning Man regional?! The Org actually hosted a Latino gathering at the Everywhere Pavilion, to honor Argentina’s 1st Regional this year. Stay tuned!!!

        • When I went to Burning Man, everyone who wanted to be there was there. Now, you only are exposed to those explicitly invited by the Borg or their designated agents. These are very different groups of people – free choice by the person vs. selective choice by the Borg.

          Imagine if those who comment on this blog were only those invited by Burnersxxx. It the experience here would be much different.

  4. The interesting thing here isn’t Mexico or Mexicans specifically, it’s how Burning Man has become a prestige destination for the global instagram elite – the wealthy, privileged youth of Mexico City in this case, who have far more in common with their counterparts in Singapore or Seoul or Dubai or Moscow than they do with the vast majority of their own country, to say nothing of their relatively underprivileged countrymen who migrate north and forge a life for themselves in the States.

    Personally, I’d like to see the low income ticket program expanded by a factor of 10 next year. A billionaire who’d otherwise be funding a generic, soulless EDM sound camp but claims to really genuinely care about the spirit of Burning Man can be leaned on make up the difference.

    • I am sure the Borg will like an expanded low-income tkt program. For 2016, they collected far more, by a factor of about 3, in higher-priced tickets “to support the low-income tickets,” than the cost difference between the normal $400 and $200 low-income tickets, in fact more than if they sold the low-income tickets for $1. Turns out to be a real overhead-and-profit center for them – and I suppose they rationalize it as robbing the rich to give to the poor …keeping about 70% of the take for their trouble.

  5. Burning Man is great but one should research it in depth and learn what to bring and what to leave behind before going. Buy your tickets for 2017 now. Get that done. Buy a lot of them; tickets can be sold to friends later. You are going to need a reliable car at least, one that has a lot of room for gallon jugs of drinking water and food items for approx ten days. You’ll need a tent that provides some visual privacy. A really good tent that can take high wind force. North Face tent or you could invest in a standup tent with canvas that ties down to a sturdy steel frame. A small futon for sleep and for a sex cushion is a good idea. Women don’t relish abrasions on their ass cheeks from missionary position sex. So, be a gentleman and roll up the latex, bang them right, make sure they can walk away without a rash. Next: bring 5gallons of water per person per day for as long as you are on the Playa. If you are a real stud with a pickup truck you can bring water in a tank. Farming distribution centers usually sell huge plastic tanks that will sit in a standard 48″ x96″ truck bed. You can fill them in Reno Nevada and save yourself a ton of headaches.

    • “… research it in depth and learn what to bring and what to leave behind before going. Buy your tickets for 2017 now. Get that done. Buy a lot of them;”

      Let us know how that works out. BTW, Jack, how did you get your ticket this year?

      Or perhaps you have never actually been to the NV burn? Maybe your “advice” is dreamy speculation based on stories told by Burnign Man veterans from a time gone by. All good advice for 10 years ago, but I doubt most readers have access to a working time machine.

    • Jack, I noticed that you posted this advice you gave in another random thread:

      “Plan on buying your drugs in Reno or elsewhere and condomizing them, store it in your rectum. Going into the Diamond Lake zone is dangerous, go slower than posted speed limits, keep all drugs stowed away, drug sniffing dogs are in use by the DEA up there. Only take enough for yourself. Don’t plan on selling any. Unless you like Nevada Corrections. MDMA, nutmeg infusions, poison ivy, nux vomica, fly agaric, poison hemlock, these are all great drugs to consume freely at Burning Man.”

      Still makes me wonder if you have ever been to the NV burn, or are just trying to create yourself as some ersatz expert to some target audience. Maybe you are trying to sell yourself or your services to Joe’s Mexican elite, or maybe some cartel interests?

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