Foodways
general

Street Scenes in Urban Mexico City

The informant is from Mexico City, currently rotating at UT Medical Center.

The interview occurred at a family barbeque on a Sunday.

 He and I discussed what he thinks about when he thinks of his home, which is originally Mexico City. He said that there is nothing quite like the sights and sounds of the urban squares of the densely populated capital.

“Those of us who are from Ciudad de Mexico, it’s represented as CMX, instead of as the old Mexico, Distrito Federal, is the official title. We are known as Chilangos. We love to eat street food, sold at mobile markets called Tianguis. They sell esquite, which are roasted corn kernels mixed with mayonnaise, chili powder and lime juice, fruit with chili powder, gorditas, which are fried tacos of all sorts and tamales, which are known as the Student’s Menu, and used to be ten pesos each. We also have lots of informal commerce, even on the Metro, which is always chaotic and crowded. Many of the products are chafa, which means imitation of famous labels; sold very cheaply, and that’s why we frequently say “Lo Barato Sale Caro”, or “what’s bought cheaply becomes expensive (since it never lasts).”

The informant describes an urban environ filled with constant access to food, trinkets, and other vendors. As a young medical fellow in the city, Jesús experienced busy city life first hand, and often ended up eating at these mobile merchants. Thus, the street food of Mexico and the small carts one buys tacos, tamales, and other foods from, have become a part of the memory Jesús has of Mexico City. Also interesting is the nickname of “Chilangos” given to city dwellers. This is a moniker widely used by Mexicans, who call Mexico City “Chilangolandia.” There are numerous theories as to why this nickname exists, yet no concrete answers have been found. Some believe the “Chil” portion refers to hot sauces, while the “Angos” portion refers to the Nahuatl toponym “Tenango.”

The market of knockoff goods exists in many Latin American countries and is a cultural economy that many depend upon. His reflections on Mexico City are an interesting case study in Mexican urban culture and its imagery. For a similar experience, I suggest visiting Santee Alley near downtown LA, which features many of the same authentic street foods and a similar market setting.

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