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Life in Mexico City

Condesa & Roma: the trendy neighborhoods of Mexico City

Please check out my latest article up on the Mexico Today website– http://mexicotoday.org/article/condesa-roma-trendy-neighborhoods-mexico-city!  This month I’m recounting some of the highlights of our favorite colonias in DF– Condesa and Roma, located just east of Chapultepec Park.

Some of the hyperlinks to the businesses I mentioned didn’t come through on the Mexico Today page, so I’m including them here for your convenience. Take a look at the article for additional commentary on each!




More Mexico Today Updates!

In other news, here are some of the great articles my fellow MT folks wrote this past month for your leisure reading:

https://www.facebook.com/Gastrofonda https://www.facebook.com/Gastrofonda

Mexico Today- Keep track of all the news!

I am excited to have the opportunity to continue working with the Mexico Today program in 2012!  (You may recall my post on this from last year.)  We have even more great contributors involved this time around, and there are a whole host of ways for you to keep track of what’s new and exciting in Mexico these days.

In other news, my first post for Mexico Today this summer is up on the site here: http://mexicotoday.org/article/exploring-mexico-city-foodie-tour-coyoac%C3%A0n!  If you’ll be in Mexico City anytime in the future, I outlined a great self-led food tour in Coyoacan that we did with almost all visitors that we had in town.  You start at Tostadas Coyoacan with some amazing fresh seafood tostadas, get a dessert coffee (café de olla) at Cafe El Jarocho, dip a sugary churro in it, and then wash it all down with some mezcal! You’ll find all the details + directions in my post above. Even if your Spanish isn’t great, you should be fine as long as you’re able to translate the types of tostadas on the menu! (But even that is pretty easy, since you order with a sheet of paper, kind of like a sushi restaurant.)

Here are a few more of the great articles that my fellow contributors & the Mexico Today PR team have shared lately that may be of interest to y’all!

Thanks for staying with me & you’ll hear more updates soon!

Back to Mexico City!!

This past year has been a struggle for me & John to readjust from the “every other weekend = a 3-day+ vacation to a beach, jungle, colonial town or archaeological site” schedule that we got accustomed to living in Mexico City. :) (Yes, I can almost feel your waves of sympathy washing over me.)   So after a long, challenging, nearly-vacation-free 2011, we made last minute plans to zip down to Mexico City today (Friday Jan 6th).  We debated going somewhere new & unknown to us, but for this particular trip, the comfortable & familiar won out. Consider it a greatest hits tour….just 15 months after the original tour.

Planning has been pretty light thus far… all we’ve really accomplished is starting a list of places we need to eat…. So far we have:

Point being– we are super excited to eat & wander through all the fun neighborhoods, mercados, etc. & track down some friends while we’re there.  More photos to follow of anything else new we discover while there. My current fascination is this— Bamboocycle, a company that makes bicycles out of bamboo. Love it!

Is it wrong to just want to replicate this photo again in person? Love ya, tacos al pastor (& even the sullen taquero).

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in DF

We found celebrating the Año Nuevo in Mexico City to be a bit different than our prior U.S.-based New Year’s Eve festivities.  In the U.S., pressure always feels high among the 20/30-something crowd to have THE MOST AMAZING NIGHT OUT of your life.  This usually involves spending 2x what you would normally spend on dinner at a restaurant whose food will be 1/2 as good as normal, and then spending the subsequent hours trying to purchase drinks from a bar packed with dozens of sweaty, overdressed strangers. :)

Most of the folks we knew in DF took the opposite approach: they spent New Year’s Eve at home with their families, where food & drink are plentiful, cheap, and readily-accessible!  But this begs the question, if NYE is not the crazed event that it is in the US, what is there to do in Mexico City for the non-chilango crowd?  Here are a few options to consider…

  • You can still go out for an overly-expensive, fancy New Year’s Eve dinner!

Lucky for you, there are still plenty of folks who will be out celebrating. As per Ruth’s post, Jaso & Piazza Navona will both be open on Dec 31.  Open Table may also serve as a useful starting point to determine which restaurants are serving dinner, as does this article on Chilango.com highlighting places that are doing fancy fixed-price options.

  • Learn & take part in traditional Mexican New Year’s traditions!

Cristina has a great summary of some favorite traditions within Mexico.  I found the “eating of the 12 grapes at midnight” the easiest to emulate. Make a wish for each grape you pop into your mouth!

You too can be the recipient of tired grapes from a bar in Mexico City @ midnight!

But I also quite enjoyed the lucky underwear– go to any Mexican mercado during the month of December, and you’ll find reams of red & yelow undies for sale.  Wearing red underwear increases your odds of finding the love of your life during the upcoming year, and yellow underwear is said to bring money.

We found this lucky-undie array at the mercado in Morelia, Michoacan shortly before New Year's Eve.

A quick non-NYE-related sidenote: I think when we saw our first red/yellow underwear display in Morelia back in 2008 (our first holiday season in Mexico), we didn’t understand the significance… But you know what we DID understand the significance of?  This hilarious display of other novelty underwear next-door to the NYE underwear:

These 20-peso novelty undies have provided an ROI of about 1000% in terms of amusement derived. We have given these as inappropriate gifts to more people (and laughed more at their expense) than we had ever hoped. Hindsight being 20/20, I would buy another 30 of these if I could.

  • Go to one of the trendy bars in Mexico City that you can’t get into on a normal weekend!

When we had trendy-club-goers visiting us from the US in Dec 2009, we were worried about telling them that “sitting at home together” was the preferred activity for NYE.  So, we decided to go out in Condesa to the strip of bars that is usually too much of a mob scene for us to bother going to on a normal Saturday night. :)

Pata Negra, here we come. (Address: Tamaulipas 30 at the corner of Juan Escutia)

We started out with a beverage at the King’s Pub, and then spent most of the evening at Pata Negra followed by Zydeco.  We were a little too early for much excitement @ King’s Pub, but I did score some sweet glasses there:

Yes! Feliz Año Nuevo indeed!

The best part about being at Pata Negra for the New Year’s Eve midnight countdown was: NYE is such a non-event that the 4 of us personally started the countdown in English based on the time shown on John’s watch. :)  But they did come through with glasses of grapes shown above! In general, the bars along Tamaulipas (normally quite busy) were pleasantly full but not heaving, which was perfect for us.

What are you folks doing for New Year’s Eve this year?? Will you be incorporating any Mexican traditions in your celebrations? :)

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

What’s happening this December in Mexico City?

December in Mexico City is jam-packed with opportunities for celebration, highlighted by the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on Dec 12, posadas, office parties, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, just to name a few.  I found during our time in DF that the Mexico City goverment (a.k.a. “GDF”– Gobierno del Distrito Federal) really gets into things around the holiday season. 2009 brought a new Guinness record for the World’s Largest Christmas Tree, followed quickly by the World’s Largest Rosca de Reyes.  What could possibly be on tap for December 2011, you may be wondering??

The record-breaking Christmas tree I saw in Mexico City in 2009 was definitely not a natural fir.

Well, the GDF just announced some of their plans for this year’s Christmas/New Year events.  I was curious how the general economic climate might affect things, but this hilarious sentence from the article in El Universal put my fears at ease: “Los festejos de Navidad y Año Nuevo en el último periodo de la administración de Marcelo Ebrard en la Ciudad de México serán más austeros y con menos atractivos espectaculares que las temporadas anteriores, excepto por el posible concierto de la estrella pop Britney Spears en el Ángel de la Independencia.”

Rough translation?  “The Christmas/New Year’s festivities in the last perod of the Ebrard administration in Mexico City will be more austere and have fewer spectacular attractions than previous seasons… except for the possible Britney Spears concert at the Angel of Independence.”  What??  While I’m not certain whether bringing in a washed-up-but-surely-still-high-dollar American pop star says to me “we are keeping a close eye on the budget,” I appreciate their enthusiasm nonetheless!  :)

You’ll obviously want to monitor for Britney confirmation (they are trying for concerts on Dec 1, 3 & 6, and we’ll know next week whether negotiations have been a success), but here’s what you should mark your calendars for in the interim.

Christmas Events in Mexico City 2011

  • Ice Skating in the Zocalo!  December 4th will be the first day that the 2400 square meter ice rink will be open in the Centro Historico.  Check out the photos of its construction.  The ice rink should be open through January 7, 2012.
  • 50-meter-tall Christmas Tree!  Alas, they won’t be trying for a new world record this time, but there will still be a sizeable tree to view in the Zocalo. You’ll be able to see it from the pedestrianized street, Francisco I. Madero.
  • December 4th Parade!  At 6PM, lit-up floats carrying athletes that competed in the Panamerican Games will depart from the Diana statue on Reforma & head towards the Zocalo.
  • **UPDATE–December 4th! Britney Spears free concert is confirmed!! It will be at 7PM @ the Monument to the Revolution.
  • Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th!  Now this is not a GDF-sponsored event, but rather an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City made by tens of thousands of people.  To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going on the actual feast day due to the crazy crowds… but if you want to experience a massive cultural event that happens all over Mexico & see its source, this is the place to be. I posted some logistical instructions here for how to get to the Basilica– scroll down about halfway through that post.
  • More Glamorous December 18th Parade that includes a FAKE SNOWSTORM!  This parade will start at La Morena and go up Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas. I believe it will cut right and end at street 20 de Noviembre in the Zocalo, but the map is a little unclear… (see below)  But to reiterate: they are going to have machines launching fake snow into the air to fall on parade watchers. Love that.
  • Nativity Scenes Galore! Apparently Reforma will have 3 nativity scenes instead of the usual huts selling random gifts/food, but there will also be a LIFE SIZE nativity scene in the Estadio Azteca parking lot. It just makes sense, people!
  • More Stuff for Kids! The Zocalo will also be packed with various other activities/games/inflatable bounce houses/etc. to entertain your kiddos, so bring them on down.
  • Another Crazy-Big Rosca de Reyes!  While I am unclear if this is a world-record-breaking contender, there will nonetheless be another massive rosca de reyes (the king’s cake traditionally eaten on King’s Day) created on January 6th. Keep this in mind if you haven’t eaten enough during December.


Here’s a blurry map to give you a feel for the parade routes:

Parade maps courtesy Milenio online: http://www.milenio.com/cdb/doc/impreso/9068350

More info:

If you read Spanish (and/or can send website through a translator), monitor these two newspaper pages online that are tracking updates on holiday events in Mexico City: El Universal and Milenio.  Also Ciudadanosenred.com.mx may have additional details– thanks to them for their helpful article summarizing these events!

Finally, you can check out the current progress of the Mexico City ice rink & general Zocalo preparations in the video below, courtesy of El Universal:

Have a great holiday season & take advantage of all that Mexico City has to offer during this festive time!!
**Updated 11/30 to reflect the dramatic free concert news of everyone’s favorite pop star. 😉
Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

A race to the finish: our final days in Mexico City!

One year ago last weekend, John & I were on our way to the Mexico City airport for the flight that would end our 2+ year experience as chilangos. All our worldly possessions were packed, all our kitschy souvenirs had been purchased, all the tacos al pastor that one person should ingest in a one-month period had been ingested, and most of the tears had already been shed. (Luckily our flight was so early that our driver wasn’t able to see me crying in the dark during our pre-dawn trip to the airport.)

Having lived in several cities now, I’ve experienced a lot of these permanent departures which usually involve a period of “holy crap, we have to do all our favorite things one last time before we leave!!!” combined with “I can’t believe we haven’t been to place x; we have to go before leave!!!” I thought it might be amusing to reflect on what made the Final Hurrah list for us in Mexico City.

  1. Eating. At a lot of places. Repeatedly.

This should come as a surprise to no one, as obviously I wasn’t able to maintain my corn-fed, Midwestern figure by NOT gorging myself on the amazing food in Mexico City. But which were the top priorities??

Tacos Don Guero: corner of Rio Lerma & Rio Guadalquivir in Colonia Cuauhtemóc

John was such a regular here that it merited a photo on his last day of work. Great source of al pastor & bistec (beef), or ask for “a la gringa” to get it on a larger flour tortilla with tasty Oaxacan cheese.

John informed me that the "good" taquero is working in the background.... along with a whole lotta pastor!

Dulce Patria: Anatole France 100 in Polanco, in the Las Alcobas hotel

If we were still in DF, this place would have definitely become our go-to when visitors are in town for fancy, “modern” Mexican food. Much has already been written about Dulce Patria + Chef Martha Ortiz but let me second—the food is amazing, presentation is gorgeous, service is impeccable, and while prices are not cheap, I think they are very fair for the neighborhood + the quality of the food. Don’t skip the trendy drinks either.

I had a fantastic salmon dish...

...as well as a savory huazontle tart

P.S. -Learn more about huazontle from Lesley here!

Restaurante Lampuga: Ometusco 1 at the corner of Nuevo Leon in Condesa

Friends Scott & Aryani tipped us off to this great seafood spot . While many may argue for Contramar as the seafood go-to in Condesa (which I agree is amazing), Lampuga is open in the evening & has a nice bistro atmosphere with great food + reasonably priced wine. Great option for a seafood-centric dinner where you want to sample a variety of dishes among friends.

The Coyoacán Trifecta: start at Tostadas Coyoacán in Mercado de Coyoacán on Ignacio Allende, between Malintzin and Xicoténcatl

It would be hard to count how many times we did this circuit with friends/family on a Saturday afternoon.  First, find the brightly-colored yellow Tostadas Coyoacán stand inside Mercado de Coyoacán. Order an assortment of AMAZING tostadas—be sure not to miss the jaiba (crab), camarón (shrimp), and ceviche, and don’t be shy about trying the salsas on the counter. Get an agua de sandia (watermelon), jamaica (hibiscus flower) or maracuyá (passion fruit) to drink.

I could eat the tostada de camarón all day, especially with a glass of agua de maracuya

Next, leave the mercado & get to the intersection of Ignacio Allende and Malintzin. Walk south down Allende (in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic) until you see Café el Jarocho, where you’ll order a café de olla—basically dessert coffee with cinnamon & piloncillo (brown sugar). Continue a few more steps & pop into the Churreria on the same side of the street. Order either a bag of churros or an individual churro filled with dulce de leche. Dip these in your café de olla.

Everyone loves a churro

Then, go sit on the edge of the coyote fountain & reflect on how much food you just ingested.

My dad Larry and I, preparing for a rest post-churro.

Astrid y Gaston: Alfredo Tennyson 117 @ Masaryk in Polanco

I don’t think I’d tried many Peruvian ceviches before living in DF, where there are several high-end Peruvian restaurants: Astrid y Gaston, La Mar, and Restaurante Mankora. FYI—they are amazing. I’d always lumped most Pervuian food in the “variations on a theme of meat and potatoes” (which you’d think coming from the Midwest, I would have been more excited about). But Astrid y Gaston does an amazing job sexing up the traditional dishes as well as whipping out several flavorful, spicy ceviches. The service can be annoyingly hit-or-miss, but the food was solid. Don’t forget the popular Peruvian cocktail—the pisco sour. Thanks to my many Peruvian MBA classmates for introducing me to this fan-favorite. Though note to self: they go down easy but cost probably ~$150 pesos each at this joint, so budget accordingly!

I liked the "sampler" appetizer that let you test out several traditional Peruvian dishes.... I believe this was the "piqueo limeño para dos."

2. Finally taking a photo of someone sleeping in their car

This is one of those things where once you notice it happening, you suddenly see it EVERYWHERE. It made sense, as what else were the many drivers in DF to do while waiting on their passengers to emerge from their appointments/lunches/etc.?  But the sheer number of car sleepers we saw made it oddly fascinating to me. Finally I got the nerve to snap a pic, albeit from a healthy distance.

De riguer for the streets of Mexico City

3.       Stock up on guayaberas & lucha libre items

Check out our guayabera source here, and a smattering of possible lucha libre souvenirs here. The week before we left, I purchased yet another lucha libre purse, as well the lucha heads that are now gracing our bathroom….

4.       A few carefully selected museums

While I am generally not a huge museum fan (see #1 for where I am probably spending my time instead), Mexico City does have some amazing options. I made a special effort to get to-

Museo Dolores Olmedo: Avenida México 5843, La Noria, Xochimilco– you can drive or take the Xochimilco light rail (el Tren Ligero) to the Estación La Noria, after first taking the blue metro line #2 to Tasqueña. The metro & the light rail each cost 3 pesos.

Not only does this museum have a great collection of pieces from Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and beyond, but the property/gardens are gorgeous. Check out these two amusingly-divergent obituaries of Dolores Olmedo herself, one from her museum website & one from the Times.

A view of the gardens + main building at the Museo Dolores Olmedo

Some may be drawn to the screeching peacocks that roam the grounds, but the highlight for me was the collection of xoloitzcuintlis (or “Xolos” among their friends). These hairless dogs are rather fascinating, and the best part is that they all hang out sunning themselves next to a statue of a xoloitzcuintli. This results in hours of entertainment while you try to distinguish actual hairless dogs from statues of hairless dogs.

Dog vs. dog statues: you be the judge.

Casa Luis Barragan: General Francisco Ramírez 12-14, Colonia Ampliación Daniel Garza. Easy taxi ride from Polanco/Condesa/downtown, or take the subway to the Constituyentes stop. Tours cost $150 pesos.

This architect’s home is totally off the radar for most DF visitors, but I highly recommend a visit, particularly if you’re an engineer-y/architect-y type. There’s a little more prep involved, as you have to call (+52) 55.5515.4908 or email casaluisbarragan@gmail.com to make an appointment for a tour (available in both English & Spanish). When friend Brandi & I went, we had a great tour guide who offered lots of color commentary—but I may have been biased because he was so excited to have me on the tour. Apparently I am the same height that Luis Barragan was (6’2), so the guide regularly paused for my input of what various perspectives were like since I would be experiencing it the way Barragan did. :)

So why is this place cool?  Barragan won the Pritzker prize in 1980 (which is *the* award to win for architects, so he must be good, and he also designed the Torri Satélite that you may have seen driving north out of DF). There are several tall-guy tricks, like floating walls that were high enough for only him to peer over to spy on people & furniture designed to accommodate his tall frame.. There’s a staircase consisting of wooden planks sticking out from the wall, and fascinating mixtures of paint/shadows that offer really different perspectives depending on where you’re standing. The bedroom where his female guests slept was the only room in the house to have no religious iconography in it, which I found amusing. This description is obviously not doing it justice, but just trust me that it’s worth a trip. :)

Unfortunately I was not able to take any interior photos, as I was told there exists some tricky arrangement where his heirs sold the rights to a foundation in Europe & they own all images of his work… However, I did find a couple blogs with a few pics. All I can share with you is the rather uninspiring street view to assure you that this nearly-unmarked door is indeed the entrance to Casa Luis Barragan.

If you're looking for the Luis Barragan house, you've come to the right barely-marked place. :)

Basilica de Guadalupe: Plaza de las América #1, Colonia Villa de Guadalupe. Take either metro line #3 up to Deportivo 18 de Marzo (if you’re going from the Centro Historico) or line #7 up to El Rosario (if you’re going from Polanco), and transfer to line #6 in the direction of Martín Carrera.  Get off at the La Villa Basilica station, and walk north 2 blocks.

While this is more than a museum, I’m bucketing it here due to its historical value. This is a must-do for anyone intrigued by the history of the Catholic faith in Mexico. You can visit both the old & new churches, see the cloak that Juan Diego brought back after the Virgen appeared to him (while you’re on a moving sidewalk), light a candle, be sprinkled with holy water, get your photo taken while riding a fake horse, etc. etc.  This merits a full blog post to really describe the experience, but I’ll whet your appetite with a few highlights.

Moving sidewalks to control the crowds viewing Juan Diego's cloak w/the image of la Virgen

The unique roofline of the new basilica (since the old one on the left is sinking, like many other historic buildings in DF)

Doesn't this just scream "Christmas card photo"??

5.       One more visit to Mercado Jamaica

My “top market in Mexico City” rating for Mercado Jamaica was recently seconded by an unbiased third party. :)  Besides flowers, they always have a great assortment of accoutrements for whatever holiday is coming up on the horizon; I made one last trip to pick up some papel picados around Mexican Independence Day for my future decorating needs.  And don’t forget to visit for all your flower animal purchases!

This flower frog is not only precious, but he also had a button you could press to make him ribbit. Hilarious, people!

6.       See the Ballet Folklorico: performing at the Palacio de Bellas Artes; tickets can be purchased on Ticketmaster

I had unwisely assumed the word “ballet” in the title equated to “boring,” but after enough friends tried to convince me otherwise, I finally brought my dad to this when he visited a couple months before we left. It was awesome. Great music, amazing dancing, a guy dancing like a deer while wearing a deer head, what’s not to love? Put the Ballet Folklorico on your list, people!

7.       Get your picture taken with the Ángel: intersection of Reforma + Eje 2 (a.k.a. Rio Tiber or Florencia)

When a city has one icon widely associated with it, I feel moving away without a photo of you + that thing is ill-advised. In Mexico City, this icon is the Ángel de la Independencia, located on the main east-west drag through town. I recommend doing this on Sundays when Reforma is blocked off to vehicle traffic. This will significantly reduce your odds of getting run over while posing with the Ángel.

This is about as iconic as we're going to get folks, outside of me draped over a green VW bug.

8.       Attend a bullfight: Plaza México in Ciudad de los Deportes, tickets available on Ticketmaster once the season kicks off in November 2011. Take metro line #7 to San Antonio station, or take the Metrobús to the Ciudad de los Deportes station.

Attending a bullfight wasn’t on my “favorite things to repeat” list, but I did feel like I had to experience it + Plaza México once before leaving Mexico. The spectacle is fascinating, albeit a bit depressing. The phrase “not very sporting” kept running through my mind as we watched the bull be weakened by successive rounds of picadors + banderilleros before the matador even came onto the scene…  But it was interesting, many tasty snacks were served, and I’m glad I went. FYI for the sensitive among us if you decide to brave it—there are 5 or 6 rounds (each with its own bull), so go towards the end to ensure you’re watching the good matadors who make the process as quick & painless as possible.

Early on in one of the bull fights at Plaza México

Now I know this isn’t a comprehensive Mexico City to-do list …. You may be asking, “But where is the Anthropology Museum? Xochimilco? A street food tour? Attending a lucha match??  The Centro Historico??”  Do not fear– this is just a combination of our favorites + places we didn’t prioritize when moving there but later realized we had to do pre-departure.  :) Former and/or current Mexico City residents—what else have I missed?? Anything unusual spots or activities that were/are on your DF bucket list (or lista de cubeta, rather) before you leave this amazing city??

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

16 Tips for a great Mexican Independence Day

Have you ever wondered whether Mexico gets as excitable for its Independence Day as the United States does for the Fourth of July?  Are you curious what traditions Mexico has that parallel the American traditions of eating your body weight in grilled meat, dressing up in a t-shirt emblazoned with a bald eagle wrapped in a US flag holding a shotgun in its claw, and trying not to lose any digits while lighting off firecrackers?  Have you been too afraid to travel to Mexico for its Independence Day because you just weren’t sure what to wear?? My friends, I am here to help. :)

First, don’t be fooled by Mexican Independence Day’s better known brother, Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla. Mexican Independence Day falls on September 16th, but most of the festivities take place the night before on September 15th. My husband and I were lucky enough to be in Mexico for THREE Independence Days in a row– one in Acapulco and two in Mexico City. This string culminated in 2010’s Bicentenario frenzy, a.k.a. the 200th anniversary of the start of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. By this time, we’d settled in & become as well-versed in the ways of the Grito as we could hope for. So today, I pass along to you some of the tips we’ve gathered for ensuring you have a great Mexican Independence Day experience!

1. Nourish yourself with patriotic foods.

The above "chile en nogada" taco is basically the lazy man's version of this classic Mexican dish.

One of the most recognizable foods that emerges towards the end of summer is the chile en nogada. This consists of a chile poblano stuffed with a combo of meat/veg/fruit, covered in a walnut sauce & sprinkled with pomegranate seeds + cilantro. Note the colors of the Mexican flag! I sampled the above delight at the (apparently one-time) Tacos & Mariachi Festival last year, but I highly recommend you check out Cristina’s post of how to cook a chile en nogada and Lesley’s on where to do a chiles en nogada tasting in Mexico City.

2. Quench your thirst with patriotic drinks

Pretend this tall lime juice shot is a bit greener, and you'll get the Mexican flag patriotic feel... Bandera is the name for this 3 drink combo, whose color scheme matches the Mexican flag (in Spanish, also "bandera"!)

For those who have never had a bandera (the drink kind, not the actual flag kind), this is a fan-favorite combo in Mexico year-round, but it’s particularly appropriate when all those Mexican flags are waving across the country. There are a couple banderas visible in the photo above– it includes a shot of tequila, a shot of fresh lime juice, and a shot of sangrita. (Check out my current fav sangrita recipe scribbled in this pic, right side of the page, middle column, black ink starting with “3c tomato juice!”) The key here? These 3 shots are all SIPPED in sequence, not chugged. You’d order this from a waiter as “una bandera con _____” and insert whatever type of tequila you’d like there.

3. Remember that Independence Day falls within rainy season

Note the rather damp conditions that accompanied the Fiestas Patrias in 2009...

…and plan accordingly. Our 2009 celebration on the plaza in Coyoacan in Mexico City was a little wet, but as you can see above most of the locals planned accordingly with their umbrellas and rain coats!  It did put a slight damper on my themed dressing, unfortunately, and all I managed for 2009 was this:

A headband + a single flashing Mexican flag pin? This is Independence Day attire for rookies, people. Consider this the bare minimum of personal decor. :)

4. …but try not to let rain stop you from dressing up like an enthusiastic moron.

Needless to say for the Bicentenario in 2010, we got our act together and purchased as many Mexico flag-themed accoutrements as we could find for either us or our friends to wear. Street vendors are out in full force weeks before September 15 to make sure you are fully kitted up for the big day with not just clothes but also mascots.

I thought I was scoring a unique item by purchasing Señor Jalapeno in Querétaro, but of course I later saw versions of him for sale by every vendor + their pet dog in Mexico City.

John & I peaked with my tri-color mohawk, John's clown hat, flag stripes on cheeks, a necklace of tiny sombreros, and fake red/white/green braids clipped into my hair. Here we are, in the Zocalo on Sept 14th, 2011.

This crazy styrofoam foam hat was also a bold move.

I enjoyed the more traditional cowboy theme + masquerade masks that this group was sporting.

You also have the option to pick one patriotic color for your whole outfit and then add lots of meaningful messages all over the back of it... including the years of the centennial celebration & the actual Grito, as if to imply you attended those events wearing this shirt.

Dressing like a cactus is also socially acceptable... albeit more so when you are in a parade with 200 of your other closest cacti.

5. Just because your friend buys a Mexican flag-colored mohawk, doesn’t mean you can’t buy the same one.

Great minds think alike?

6. Don’t make people guess whether your dog hates Mexico. Dress him up too.

This dog obviously spotted someone else taking a photo of him in his colorful Mexican dog football top.

Let everyone know that a Mexican Muppet is driving *your* dog on Mexican Independence Day, sombreros & all.

7. If you’re a man and you’re not feeling very confident about how to apply your Mexican Independence Day makeup, ask another man to do it for you. As long as you’re both wearing manly, fake mustaches, there’s nothing unusual about it.

Nothing to see here, people.

8. If you see the below patriotic-themed person wandering the streets, don’t let him/her touch you.

Terrifying. No idea what's happening here, but I think there may have been a curse involved. The weirdest part was this person never spoke, just did a lot of lurking. Furthermore, I'm not sure any hand sanitizer was used before that glove silently caressed most of Luis's face.

9. If you’re not very good keeping track of dates and times, try to attend the next Mexican Independence Day centennial event, i.e. in 2110 for the tricentennial.

For any of you who aren’t very good with details, Mexico really helped out last year by installing massive clocks in many of the larger cities to remind you just how of many days/hours/minutes/seconds remained until the Grito. Some of these clocks survived past the bicentennial, continuing to count upwards to an unforeseen future event, but apparently that event has also passed.  Most likely, you will have to wait until 2110 (or 2109 if you’re lucky) for this level of countdown granularity to be provided again. But in the interim, you can take advantage of all the special driving routes that the Mexican government has tagged with signs for the bicentennial.

This clock serves a similarly-important purpose as that of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.

10. If you see a massive tray of what looks to be festively-spoiled eggs, buy them!

Refrigeration be dammed, I say! There is little dispute among food scientists that these confetti-filled eggs are fine to store at room temperature.

I don’t know why the egg-shell-filled-with-confetti is not a more popular confetti delivery mechanism here in the US, but these things were awesome.  Not only do these enable you to dump celebratory Independence Day confetti on your pal, but you may temporarily trick him into thinking you are breaking a raw egg on him! Oh, the hilarity! Well, that is, as long as he doesn’t see you carrying this:

Often it is hard to use your ninja sneak-attack moves when carrying a tray of 30 confetti eggs.

11. Learn at least the first few words + the tune of the Mexican National Anthem (Himno Nacional Mexicano).

Susie has the best summary I’ve seen for the national anthem, with not only the lyrics & translation but also video of hot soccer players singing it. Trust me that this WILL be sung on September 15th, and you’ll feel like less of a jerk if you can *at least* mumble things in tune.

12. Learn the Grito– this one’s easy.

The actual Grito de la Independencia (Cry of Independence) is done at 11PM on September 15th. If you’re in any town in Mexico, some important city official will stand, ring a bell, and between rings shout out the names of various war heroes. He does the hard part– remembering all these names. All you have to do is vigorously shout “¡Viva!” whenever he pauses.  Got that?  Check out a full sample Grito from Suzanne here.

13. You can never buy too many fake mustaches too far in advance.

More mustaches, more better. We actually found that some vendors had RUN OUT OF FAKE MUSTACHES by September 14th. Plan your mustache shopping well in advance.

14. Be prepared to get sprayed by a can of foam if you are in the Zocalo for the Grito on Sept. 15.

For the big celebration in 2010, we actually went down to the Zocalo a day early to check out all the preparations/lights/vendors/etc.  It was great; there were still plenty of people out, but we didn’t have to go through security, risk wall-to-walls seas of people, or get doused in foam. I know it’s not the same as being there for the main event, but it was the next best thing!

Note the lack of spray foam coating our clothing.

15. Don’t forget to check out the annual Military Parade on Sept. 16 in Mexico City…but be careful where you sit.

The day after all the Grito craziness, there’s a fascinating show of Mexico’s military presence in a slooooow parade down Reforma. (Hint: wear good shoes.)

These armed ladies were a crowd favorite.

A number of the military companies had a B.Y.O.H. policy (bring your own hawk).

Here is my “where not to sit” photo montage:

I was constantly watching these children, and was amazed that their porta-potty roof seats did not collapse before a policeman finally suggested they relocate. I don't recommend you sit atop a porta-potty.

16. And last but not least, don’t forget that even though your 20-story office building might seem soulless, perhaps he would also like to participate in Mexican Independence Day.

My question: is there a row of windows under there whose inhabitants have to live in darkness from August to September?

While you’re here, check some of my fellow Mexico Today bloggers who are also writing about the mes de patria this month! You can click on the logos below to visit their sites. Enjoy!

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Guayaberas: the must-have men’s summer shirt of Mexico

One excellent souvenir for any man visiting Mexico is the guayabera. To me, this is the consummate summertime shirt for men who want to look good but can’t be bothered to wear a stuffy suit. I won’t get into the historical debate about its origins, but within Mexico it originated in the Yucatan. Some Americans refer to it as a Mexican wedding shirt, and there is certainly no shortage of beach weddings that have taken place with the groom sporting one of these.

In Mexico City, I observed that guayaberas were standard slightly-less-formal attire for spring/summer wedding attendees, as well as a great option for an nice evening out. Heck, even Mitt Romney (random fact of the day: his father was born in Mexico!) has been spotted wearing them!

This light blue guayabera is one seeing regular wear by John on hot summer weekend nights here in DC.

For those of you who are residing in or passing through Mexico City, you may be wondering, “But where can I get a good quality guayabera without trekking down to the Yucatan?”  Luckily, I have your answer!  The store I’ve outlined directions to below isn’t really on the tourist circuit– it seems to cater more to wholesale business, e.g. I don’t recall seeing a dressing room, they’re not open on weekends.  However, the prices for the higher-quality linen shirts seemed as good as John had found anywhere in his searches and they have a solid selection of designs & colors organized by size for easy shopping.

If you’re in the market for gifts to bring back from your trip to Mexico & know your recipient’s shirt size, this could be even better than the 8,000 lucha libre masks we’ve distributed to 50% of our family and friends (albeit also a bit more $$). :) This store also had sizes down to 2 years old, which definitely made my list of “precious gift options for toddlers!”

Directions to a great guayabera store in Mexico City’s Centro Historico

Name: Guayaberas Yucachen
: La Academia 6, Piso 1, Centro, Mexico DF
–> just south of the intersection with Republica de Guatemala
Link to Google Maps Street View

Closest Metro Stop: Zocalo. From the Zocalo Metro, walk east on Seminario and take a left in ~3 blocks on Academia.

Phone Number: 55.5542.0537 acc to the Yellow Pages
Hours: Our vague recollections are this place was *not* open on the weekends or Mexican holidays and closes up shop by 6PM.
What else to know: lino means linen and algodon means cotton. There are also various fabric blends available. Linen costs more, but is the more traditional option.

As you walk north up Academia, look for the white GUAYABERAS sign overhead on the east (right) side of the street.

The entrance to the store (located on the 2nd level of the building) is inside this unassuming parking garage...

...and up these dingy stairs... The window displays filled with guayaberas will help you know you're on the right track!

Once inside Guayaberas Yucachen, row after row of shirts await your perusal!

In traditional Mexican retail store fashion, the salesperson will carefully follow your every move. ;)

Tell me these little guayaberas for 4-year-olds aren't the perfect gift that his mom will think is precious. (And yes, let's just ignore the fact that the 4-year-old will think it sucks because it's not a truck & you will become forever branded as the relative who always gives him clothes.)

Once you’ve made your guayabera purchase, expect to receive regular compliments on what a trendy hipster you are if you’re wearing it back in the US. If you are wearing it in Mexico or Cuba, this will not be as novel so don’t hold your breath. :) Take good care of it, and you will be able to constantly relive that beach wedding you may or may not have had!

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  I was also invited to an all-expenses paid trip to Oaxaca as part of my role and for the launch of the program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Ingredients for a Great Mexican Despedida

One Spanish word we quickly learned while living among the highly-transient expat population in Mexico City was despedida, a.k.a. farewell party. There seemed to be one happening on a monthly basis in our apartment building alone. As we approached the last few months of our time in Mexico, we paid more attention & made lots of mental notes as to what the ideal despedida might look like.

Our general policy with social gatherings is: more food, more people, more drinks, more better. Additionally for this event, I’d decided was that the only thing I reeeeeally wanted needed was: a tacos al pastor spit, with a dude serving tacos live at the party. (Because I knew *that* wasn’t going to ever happen again once we left DF.) Eventually John acquiesced. :)

Given that we aren’t actually Mexican, I’m not saying that the following list is by any means an official plan for organizing a Mexican despedida. But I am saying that we had an absolute blast, as did (I think) the actual Mexicans we had in attendance. That, to me, equals success.

Recipe for: Great Mexican Despedida

Serves: roughly 100 hungry/thirsty friends


Papel Picados: colorful, cut paper decor in the colors of the Mexican flag to perk up a lame-o party room, + nattily-dressed guests

Lona: a massive tarp covering the outdoor party area during rainy season, whose presence will almost ensure that it doesn't rain

Carne: an asinine amount of beef. In this particular American-skewed case, enough that you have to use a large cooler to mix the ingredients for John's Magic Burgers

Maestro de la parrilla: the Grillmaster, also appropriately attired

Alcohol y Mesero: just a small selection of adult beverages...plus a fantastic bartender/waiter to serve them. If you're in DF, we highly recommend Jose Cosme, who can be booked for events by emailing eligiotoze1@hotmail.com or calling Eligio Torres Zurita at 56-58-44-16 or cell 04455-54371894. Cost was about $100 pesos/hr pre-tip & he was fantastic, even cleaning up as he went.

Botella Grande: a comically-large inflatable bottle of Pacifico, purchased at the Corona brewery. Rife with potential for witty photos all night long.

Amigos: a bunch of great friends, whose presence is the only sad thing about the despedida because it reminds you how much you will miss them after you leave :(

...y mas amigos....

...y mas amigos... :)

Mariachis: the oldest, largest mariachi band to be found in Plaza Garibaldi, thoughtfully hired for you by your friends

El Mariachi Grande: They include the Big Jolly Mariachi, who comes complete with a massive sombrero that I'm totally sure gets cleaned following every performance, after it's been on the heads of 90% of the attendees

El Mariachi Apestoso: They also include The Stinky Mariachi. I don't know when this guy last washed his Velveteen Rabbit Mariachi Suit, but suffice it to say, it had been a while...

Copitas de Gelatina: Jello shots (This may also be a *slightly* Americanized despedida ingredient.) The mariachis informed us they could not have excesssively-cold drinks w/ice for fear of damaging their delicate vocal chords, but jello shots were evidently A-OK.

Tequila: room-temperature tequila shots were also deemed acceptable by the discerning mariachi crew

Limbo: it's generally a good sign when an impromptu limbo challenge emerges at your despedida

Baile: if the host and hostess both suck at latin dancing (note: unlikely at normal despedida), a thoughtful friend should attempt to teach the hostess how to dance, even if she is giggling like a moron.

Tensión Sexual: what would a party be without some good old-fashioned sexual tension between partygoers? Here, you can see the sexual tension FLYING across the air in front of Karina between me & The Stinky Mariachi. Meanwhile, John chats away in the background, oblivious to the orange-clad threat on his marriage.

Una Taquiza de Pastor: last but not least, the tacos al pastor spit, complete with the stern-looking tauqero. Tacos al pastor were my favorite taco option in Mexico-- marinated pork accompanied by onion, cilantro & pineapple. After waiting until the last minute to arrange it, I went with the local El Tizoncito chain (http://eltizoncito.com.mx/taquizas.php), who performed admirably-- even arriving almost an hour EARLY to set up! (shock) Hire your own trompo de pastor starting at ~$3k pesos for ~320 tacos + all the fixings/plates and tip (go to their Condesa location on Tamaulipas to sign a contract).

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a large sala de fiestas & shake to combine.

Mezcalerias vs. Home Depot on a Friday night…

I hope to do a more reflective “my time in Mexico & how things are different here, etc. etc.” post in the near future. But for the moment, I wanted to share a snippet that really sums it up for me personally:

Average Friday Night in Mexico City:

  • get online
  • find address for hip new mezcalería/taquería/trendy bar/tasty restaurant in Condesa/Roma dripping with hipsters
  • gather together with MBA/Embassy/blogger/other random friends
  • head out for fun night
  • think to self, “This is great; I can’t believe we get to live here for two years.”

My Friday Night Tonight in Arlington, Virginia:

  • get online
  • find hours of operation for Home Depot
  • gather together my documentation for the lamp/faucet/towel rack/toilet paper holder I special ordered
  • head to Home Depot
  • think to self, “This is great, I can’t believe Home Depot is open until 10PM on a Friday.”


I’m not necessarily saying our lives are duller here, but let’s just say that finding this toilet on the street in DC was pretty much the wackiest photo opp I’ve had in the last month.

A toilet on the sidewalk probably wouldn't even merit a second glance in DF. :)

But I do have hope! I had my first street tacos last week from District Taco‘s cart set up in our Ballston neighborhood; they were solid, with tasty salsa verde. We discovered a restaurant/bar that sells mezcal (albeit for $14 a shot). I went to a craft show & found blugrn design, who sells paper products with lucha libre imagery (two of my favorite things). I’ve been practicing my Spanish with the guys from Bolivia who’ve been helping us with some home improvements. We haven’t moved back into our townhouse yet, but once we do, I think we’ll organize a belated posada to get our social lives moving again. And of course, my job hunt continues (any hot DC-area leads are welcome!). :)

So we’re making progress. Next on our list? Checking out whether the Washington Post food critic is a reputable source for advice on authentic Mexican tacos

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