Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mexico City Markets - Foodie Paradise

A friend had a story of hers published recently over at and I thought I'd share it here. The topic is one of my favorites - Mexico City markets, which range from once-a-week farmer's street markets, to permanent neighbourhood level traditional markets to the gigantic (600,000 sq feet!) Central de Abastos. Her story can be found here. Some exceprts...

As we always say, one of the best ways to explore a place is to mingle with the locals at the market, and that's especially true in a dynamic destination like Mexico City.

Locals Leigh Thelmadatter and Alejandro Linares Garcia share their insider market guide to Mexico City.

"I went from market to market for years, because Mexico is in its markets." - Pablo Neruda

The beauty of Mexico City's markets lies in the diversity. From antiques to livestock to authentic cuisine, there's something for everyone.

For the foodie ...

At the more food-centric markets, you will find small dishes called antojitos (cravings) which include tacos, quesadillas, filled tortillas, local specialties like barbacoa, huaraches, Mexican-style shrimp cocktails, fried bananas, fruit salads with tropical fruits and fresh squeezed juices, even beer and aged tequila.


This is the city’s high-end food market, offering the freshest produce and the widest variety of fine cheeses and meats. With imported and domestic products, there's everything even exotic meats and seafood like ostrich, alligator, manta ray, snails and more. Fine bottles of aged tequila can also be found and chefs roam the stalls daily.


One of the city’s of the oldest, and the largest of the traditional markets, is in the old La Merced monastery. From food to housewares, this market offers a variety of goods.

The market sits near what used to be the docks that received most of the foodstuffs from all over the Valley of Mexico, when it was still filled by five lakes and the city itself was an island.


Jamaica is pronounced ha-mai-ka, and named after the hibiscus flower. It is one of the largest vendors of produce but is best known as the city’s and country’s largest cut-flower and ornamental plant market.


This market specializes in live animals (including some illegal species), dishes and party supplies.

However, what makes this market notable are the aisles dedicated to herbal medicines and the occult, including paraphernalia related to Santeria and a skeletal figure known as Santa Muerte (Saint Death).

I've been to all of these, with La Merced being my favorite. I always find something new every time I go.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mexico City Transformed

Something I've been saying for quite a number of years living here in Mexico City...nice to see some recognition from abroad. Transformation doesn't come's been a long series of steps, some large some small.

The Toronto Star writes:

MEXICO CITY—Why can’t Toronto be more like Mexico?

Not the country. The city.

Just a few years ago, the question would have seemed absurd.

After all, Mexico City has long been written off as a hulking urban disaster zone — too big, too violent, too crowded, too dirty.

Don’t even mention the traffic.

The motorized madness can still be horrendous, and the Mexican capital faces many other stubborn problems. But under visionary Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, the most populous city in the Americas has been transforming itself in numerous and surprising ways, most of them jarringly at odds with the place’s recent and mostly dire reputation.

Poverty remains widespread, but the city that goes by the name of Mexico now boasts a host of improvements, including extensive dedicated bike lanes, a highly popular bike-sharing system, much winsome public art, handsome pedestrian malls, enhanced public transit, reduced crime levels, diminished corruption and even improved air quality.

“This is not to say we have turned into Vancouver,” concedes Jorge Fuentes, spokesman for the Mexico City Secretariat for the Environment. “But, each year, the indices get better.”

Meanwhile, the metropolis that began life seven centuries ago as the Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlan has become an oasis of liberalism in a largely conservative land.

“Mexico City has become more tolerant,” says Jorge Carrasco, a reporter for the weekly newsmagazine Proceso. “Everyone goes around as they wish. Everyone dresses as they wish.”

Toronto’s legions of bike-riding “pinkos” — to use Don Cherry’s felicitous epithet — can only look on in envy and, perhaps, despair.

During his five years in office, Ebrard has de-penalized abortion within the capital region — this, in profoundly Catholic Mexico — while also passing laws that legalize same-sex marriage, authorize adoption by gay couples, and permit euthanasia in some circumstances.

Rob Ford would be horrified, of course, but Rob Ford was not singled out this past December as the world’s best mayor by the City Mayors Foundation, an international organization that promotes sound local government.

Ebrard was.

Nor was Rob Ford’s city honoured last year by the Green Index for having a top environmental management plan.

Mexico City was.

Can we possibly be talking about the huge, fuming, cacophonous conglomeration that only a decade ago seemed to be hurtling pell-mell for urban Armageddon, where upwards of 20 million people were shoehorned into a toxic valley haunted by armed thugs, where 3.5 million cars daily befouled the thin highland air, and where almost everybody suffered from chronic bronchitis?

In a word, sí.

It’s the same place, all right — but the place has changed.

Rest of the story at the link above. I'd love to hear your comments if you're in Mexico City, have ever visited, or want to know more.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mexico City Cantinas

Here's a great story from the BBC looking at Mexico City's forgotten cantinas. I'm not a big cantina goer myself but I do enjoy visiting when out with new arrivals to the city. There are some low-down fun places in the centro historico, crumbling away.

BBC Travel has this one.

Clustered around the historic centre of Mexico City are hundreds of old and crumbling cantinas. Following years of neglect, the cantinas and city centre are now staging a comeback.

"The government has rescued the centre. The streets are cleaner, safer and customers are returning," said the Ricardo Mancera, the operator of the La Ópera cantina. Cantinas are a cornerstone of Mexican cultural heritage and the emergence of a young art and design scene in the centre is helping to keep the cantina tradition alive.

Cantinas were historically a private space for men to drink, talk and play dominoes. Now a refuge for men and women, cantinas are busiest between 2 pm and 5 pm, but stay open until midnight. Beer and tequila are the drinks of choice and many cantinas serve botanas (appetizers) after a few rounds of drinks. Music is part of cantina life and wandering guitarists and singers ply their trade for around 30 pesos a song.

The best cantinas in the centre are within blocks of each other and easily visited on foot.

See the story for a review on some of the best hidden gems in old Mexico City, including:

El Tío Pepe (Independencia 26, at Dolores)

La Ópera (5 de Mayo 10, at Gante)

El Río de la Plata (República de Cuba 39, at Allende)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chimp Gestures

My, my, turns out chimps will use up to 66 different gestures to communicate with each other. I've been able to get away with maybe three or four to cover all scenarios.

From the BBC

Wild chimpanzees use at least 66 distinct gestures to communicate with each other, according to scientists.

A team of researchers from the University of St Andrews in Scotland filmed a group of the animals in order to decipher this "gestural repertoire".

The team then studied 120 hours of footage of the chimps interacting, looking for signs that the animals were intentionally signalling to each other.

The findings are published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Previous studies on captive chimps have suggested the animals have about 30 different gestures.

"So this [result] shows quite a large repertoire," lead researcher Dr Catherine Hobaiter told BBC News.

"We think people previously were only seeing fractions of this, because when you study the animals in captivity you don't see all their behaviour.

"You wouldn't see them hunting for monkeys, taking females away on 'courtships', or encountering neighbouring groups of chimpanzees."

Dr Hobaiter spent 266 days observing and filming a group of chimpanzees in Budongo Conservation Field Station, Uganda.

more of the story at the link above

Impressive. Mexico City residents - also known as Chilangos - have a good repertoire of gestures at their disposal as well, most often seen while driving. Here are some of the more common ones.

Thank you.

Sometimes seen while driving though it is rare to thank someone for doing something nice. Usually you are being cut off or cursed for something you did to someone else.

Gimme a second.

This doesn't refer to a male member - oh I've seen some foreign guys put off when a Mexican woman did this to them on the dance floor. Need a second before responding to someone's request? Show them the little inch.

That's it, that's it, that's it!

Trying to remember something but can't then someone says it? That's it! Extend your index finger and wag it like scratching an itch.