To help everyone at Tea “go there”, we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write a blog post to share their adventures with all of us (and the world)! Jason, Tea’s Reporting and Back Office Manager, had his travel itinerary set on Mexico City and has since returned to tell us all about his cultural experience.
As is often the case, perception rarely mimics or resembles reality. Regardless of your specific notion of Mexico City, I’m here to tell you that it is the hidden gem of the Americas.
From the oft-used traveler phrase “una cerveza, por favor” to the much less heralded “quisiera los chapulines” (I want the grasshoppers), my partner and I aimed to experience the spectrum of what Mexico City has to offer—or at least I did; she’s a vegetarian which excludes her from things like pork, beef and ant larvae.
Mexico City is full of intrigue and history. It sits adjacent to one of the largest pre-Colombian cities, Teotihuacan (which doubles as an amazing tourist destination just an hour from the city center). It also sits directly on top of one of the most impressive Pre-colonial cities, Tenochtitlan, which at its zenith was one of the largest cities in the world.
Tenochtitlan, coincidentally, was situated in the middle of a lake… one which the Spanish proceeded to drain, eventually making room for modern Mexico City, home to 22 million inhabitants. As you’d imagine, a lake bed is not exactly an ideal site for a city that lies in an active seismic zone. In fact, days before we were originally supposed to visit, in September 2017, a ~7.1 earthquake hit central Mexico wreaking havoc across the capital.
In the face of disaster, Mexico City banded together. There were stories of residents and passersby digging strangers out of collapsed buildings and world-renowned chefs feeding thousands of volunteers throughout the day and night. Though we did not witness these events first-hand, we did see the byproduct. We arrived just 4 months later and saw very little evidence of a major catastrophe. And, more than that, there was a real and palpable sense of community and warmth exuding from the people of Mexico City, of which I could not imagine it would have been possible to have overcome so quickly.
Besides its wonderful people and deep history, Mexico City also has an obscene amount of museums to visit and a cornucopia of food to devour. You could spend years exploring the street food alone and that doesn’t include the incredible (and accessible) fine dining scene. Calling Mexico City a food mecca would seemingly trivialize the breadth and quality of food available there.
Frida Kahlo’s house, which doubles as a museum, is a must see. There is also a central market just a 10-minute walk, away from downtown, which has amazing tlacoyos—a woman outside with the blue masa makes the best I had—and tostadas.
Here is just a sampling of some of my favorite food:
Top to bottom: Guacamole, Vegan Ceviche (Los Loosers, a vegan restaurant, was some of the best food we had), Chile Relleno and Churros with chocolate dipping sauce.
Quesadilla with zucchini flowers and my favorite, tlacoyo—a cheese stuffed blue masa tortilla topped with cheese and peppers.
Braised beef torta, a gordita stuffed with pork and an egg huarache.
Grasshoppers and guacamole, plus more grasshoppers and mealworms (gusanos de la harina) with pico de gallo. Delicious. Really!
Mexico City is a giant, sprawling megalopolis of which we only grazed the surface of possibility. On our return trip home, we talked about how close it is to our home in the Bay Area (closer than New York, Miami, or D.C.), and how unfortunate that it took us so long to get there. We also started planning what we will do (and eat) on our next trip… stay tuned!