One of the silver linings of being labeled the crime capital of the world is that, 20 years on, the reputation lingers just enough to dissuade wary travelers. What’s left are visitors looking for adventure, novelty, and authenticity: the Mexico City expat crowd in a nutshell.

Before the turn of the 21st century, Mexico’s capital was known for being dirty, dangerous, and violent, for tourists as well as locals. Pollution levels were among the world’s highest. In 1997, the shooting of two German visitors at the restaurant they were dining in made international headlines. That same year, an American journalist was shot in the spine during a kidnapping gone wrong. In 1998, the U.S. State Department warned that crime in Mexico City “had reached critical levels.”