Deciphering Mexico City’s Metro Icons

Mexico Affordable Travel

For anyone who has wondered about the strange symbols that mark the subway stops in Mexico City, the answers are finally revealed… I only figured out pyramid symbol at the Pino Suárez station, and the observatory symbol at the Observatorio staton.

Here’s the article from Citylab:

The Backlash to Mexico City’s High Line-Style Park


It sounds as if the critics have a good point, but this could be one of the nicest urban park spaces in the world… Right through Colonia Roma, my favorite neighborhood in Mexico City. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

chapultepec x

Here’s the article from CityLab’s website… These photos are taken from the article.

East LA Meets Napa 2015

AltaMed’s wonderful East LA Meets Napa fundraiser event celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday evening, and once again, I was lucky enough to be invited.

Established over 40 years ago, AltaMed is Southern California’s leading non-profit health care system delivering integrated primary care services, senior care programs and health and human services for the entire family.


The theme of the event is to showcase Southern California’s best Mexican restaurants, and the best Latino-owned wineries. It’s an inspired combination, and everyone put their best foot forward. Once again, the event sold out early, as I’m sure it will next year, judging by the happy faces of the attendees.

As in the past, the event was held at Union Station. When I first heard about it, I imagined we would be dodging commuters who were headed for the trains, but the airy courtyard of this historic building provides for a free flow of guests trying out the interesting foods and wines, as well as those who came to dance to the live salsa band.


Each of the participating restaurants brought one or two of their signature dishes. Especially memorable was the Cochinita Pibil from Doña Rosa, served on one of the most perfect tortillas I’ve eaten this year (for the record, I’ve eaten a lot of great tortillas this year.) Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen offered something daring (and delicious) by combining a Paella (the classic Spanish dish) with her distinctive Mole Poblano. Chichén Itzá, served their Yucatan special Panuchos, King Taco served, yes, tacos, and El Cholo once again brought their spectacular green corn tamales. Casa Oaxaca had people laughing about their grasshopper salsa… until they tasted the delicious flavor.


There were wonderful wines from Alex Sotelo Cellars, Delgadillo Cellars and Trujillo Wines. It was a temptation to visit LLamas Family Wines, San Antonio Winery, Ceja Vineyards and others, but I can only cover a certain amount of ground in one evening. I have those to look forward to in the future.


Once again, the event was flawlessly organized, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it. My list of must-visit restaurants has grown (in fact, I’ve already visited one since Friday evening) and I’ll be sure to share my experiences in the coming months.


The Chinese-Mexican Cuisine Born Of U.S. Prejudice

I just had to lift this article from NPR… I’m heading for the border to try this great sounding cuisine as soon as I can:

From NPR… including the photos –

If you ask people in the city of Mexicali, Mexico, about their most notable regional cuisine, they won’t say street tacos or mole. They’ll say Chinese food. There are as many as 200 Chinese restaurants in the city.

North of the border, in California’s rural Imperial County, the population is mostly Latino, but Chinese restaurants are packed. There are dishes in this region you won’t find anywhere else, and the history behind them goes back more than 130 years.


The Salcedo family sits in a coveted booth at the Fortune Garden restaurant in the city of El Centro, north of the border. The mother and three adult sisters are almost drooling, waiting for their food to show up. They come from Yuma, Ariz.— over an hour away — twice a month just to eat here.

A huge side order arrives, light-yellow deep-fried chilis, a dish I’ve never seen. Then a salt-and-pepper fish, which the Salcedos describe as “Baja style,” with lots of bell peppers, chilis and onions. But have you ever heard of Baja-style dishes in a Chinese restaurant?

Mayra Salcedo explains, “It’s like a fusion, Mexican ingredients with the Chinese. It’s very different than if you go to any other Chinese restaurant, Americanized Chinese restaurant.”


“When they order, they don’t say barbecue pork,” says Fortune Garden co-owner Jenissa Zhou. “They say carnitas — carnitas coloradas.” That’s “red pork” in Spanish.

Zhou came to the U.S. from southern China. Her husband, Carlos, is from Mexicali, where he worked in Chinese restaurants. It took her a while to get used to her customers’ taste buds.

“You can see, every table, they have lemon and hot sauce,” Zhou says. “In Chinese food, we don’t eat lemon.”

Those fried yellow chilis on almost every table, chiles asados, are served in a lemon sauce with lots of salt — kind of a margarita flavor. If you believe the rumors, some chefs marinate pork in tequila.

It’s not just on the plate where cultures combine. In the Fortune Garden kitchen, the cooks speak to each other in Cantonese. The waiters speak Spanish and English.

“The restaurants you see now are remnants of the Chinese population that used to fill the U.S.-Mexico borderlands in Mexicali and in Baja California,” explains Robert Chao Romero, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He teaches in both the Chicano and Asian-American studies departments and wrote the book The Chinese in Mexico.

And just why were the Chinese there? Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Spurred by anti-Chinese laborer sentiment among American workers, the 1882 law banned immigrants from China from entering the U.S. Tens of thousands went to Cuba, South America and Mexico instead. Many settled along the U.S.-Mexico border, becoming grocers, merchants and restaurant owners. Others managed to cross illegally and make lives in the U.S., including in Imperial County.

“The Chinese invented undocumented immigration from Mexico,” says Romero. He says they were smuggled in with the help of guides hired to lead them across the border. “Smuggling with false papers, on boats and trains — the infrastructure for that was all invented by the Chinese.”

Today’s Border Patrol grew out of the Mounted Guard of Chinese Inspectors, created to keep Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. At the same time, the Mexican government welcomed Chinese immigrants to go to the sparsely populated border region, to work on farms and in mines and canals.

The Chinese-Mexican cuisine this history begot is even more prominent on the Mexican side of the border, as I learn while taking a drive over the border with George Lim. He lives in the U.S. but commutes every day to Mexicali. Lim helps run one of the city’s oldest: El Dragon.

Why cross the border every day to run a restaurant? Lim explains that Mexicali’s population is nearly 1 million, which dwarfs the rural population on the California side of the border.


“Just doing the math, you’re going to have a lot more customers here in Mexico,” he explains. “And I hate to say it, but people in Mexico are more sophisticated than in Imperial about Chinese food.”

That sophistication may come from decades of people eating Mexican-influenced Chinese food here. Once, it was a necessity: Chinese cooks used Mexican ingredients like chilis, jicama and certain cuts of meat, because that was what was available. Now it’s part of a culinary legacy.

There’s a new dish at El Dragon: arrachera beef, served with asparagus and black bean sauce. Lim says that’s the best meat for tacos, a clear Mexican influence: “Asparagus could be both Chinese and Mexican, but the sauce, the black bean, that’s Chinese.”

I try out a kind of Mexican-Chinese-American hybrid: an egg roll with shrimp, cilantro and cream cheese that seems like it shouldn’t be good, but is. And at El Dragon, they put avocado in the fried rice.

Lim says people still come from China to work in Mexicali restaurants, and sometimes these cooks move up north, to work in Chinese kitchens in Imperial County.

“One of the goals is to go to the U.S., have a better life for you and for your kids, give them a better education, better opportunity, maybe earning dollars instead of pesos,” he says.

The same reasons, in other words, that drew their ancestors here from southern China 130 years ago.

This story first ran on KQED’s The California Report. Vickie Ly helped with reporting and translation. The series “California Foodways” is supported in part by Cal Humanities. Lisa Morehouse, an independent journalist, produced this story during a fellowship at Hedgebrook, a residency for female writers.

Deportees in Tijuana

nat geo

A large number of Mexicans deported from the U.S. end up staying in Tijuana. Here’s a fascinating article from National Geographic that presents the statistics in human terms. It’s a timely issue… There are also some great photos in the article.

Here’s the link:

East LA Meets Napa 2014

AltaMed held its 9th annual East LA Meets Napa fundraiser last Friday evening, and I was lucky enough to be invited.

Established over 40 years ago, AltaMed is Southern California’s leading non-profit health care system delivering integrated primary care services, senior care programs and health and human services for the entire family.

The theme of the event is to showcase Southern California’s best Mexican restaurants, and the best Latino-owned wineries. It’s an inspired combination, and everyone put their best foot forward. News is getting out, and the event was sold out early, as I’m sure it will be next year, judging by the happy faces of the attendees.


The location couldn’t have been more perfect… or more unexpected. We’ve all been to Union Station, but everyone is so focused on catching a train that very few people notice the lovely outdoor courtyards of this historic building. It provided a free flow that allowed us to listen to the great live music, meet new friends and sample delicious food and wines.


Each of the participating restaurants brought one or two of their signature dishes. Especially memorable were the chiles en nogada from La Huasteca, flautas de jamaica from Casa Oaxaca and the panuchos from Chichén Itzá. I was also delighted with dishes from La Parilla, Rivera Restaurant, Rocio’s Moles de los Dioses and several others. I even tried eating grasshopper for the first time… it was served in a salsa, so I could concentrate on the delicious flavor, and not the little beasts themselves.


There were wonderful wines from Alex Sotelo Cellars, Gustavo Wines and Trujillo Wines. It was a temptation to visit Nevarez Vineyard, Luis Ochoa Family Vineyards, Delgadillo Cellars and others, but there was only one of me, and it was only one evening. I’ll be looking out for their wines in the future.


The event was perfectly organized, and was a big success in all aspects. I was very fortunate to be a part of it. I have a list of restaurants that will keep me busy for months, and I’m already looking forward to next year.


10 Things Mexico Does Better Than Anywhere Else


A nice piece from CNN News. Here’s the link:

Icy beers, empty beaches. It’s a compelling image, but it captures only a feeble percentage of the diversity and excellence that imbues one of the most incredible countries in the world. Here are 10 things Mexico does better than anywhere else.

Celebrating death
Plenty of cultures do ancestor worship.
But who else turns the commemoration of their dearly departed into an annual fiesta of art, food and community?
On November 1, aka the Day of the Dead, Mexicans put together ofrendas (shrines) for loved ones who have passed away.Every ofrenda includes pictures of the deceased, food, drinks, skull-shaped candies, candles and cempasuchil, the Aztec marigold or flower of the dead.
The belief is that souls of children come back to earth to visit family and friends on November 1 and the souls of adults do the same on November 2.
Day of the Dead festivals take place across Mexico. Three of the most elaborate are held in San Andrés Mixquic (in Tláhuac, Mexico City), Patzcuaro, Michoacán and Janitzio, Michoacán.

Horn sections
From symphony orchestras to oompah bands to soul and R&B horn sections, everyone loves a blast of brass.
Whereas most countries tend to save their horns for parties and special occasions, however, Mexico kicks out the brass jams on a daily basis.
Where else can you hear tubas — actual tubas! — laying down bass lines on the radio every hour of the week?
It all comes down to bandas, the heart of both traditional and popular genres of Mexican music.
Bandas are typically comprised of 10 to 20 musicians who play brass instruments, woodwinds and various percussion.
Every Mexico traveler is charmed by mariachi, but bandas are a part of several broader genres, the most characteristic being ranchera, quebradita and corridos.

Mexico’s national liquor is a worldwide bar standard, with exports to 96 countries.
But don’t come to Mexico expecting to impress locals by chugging a syrupy sweet margarita or knocking down manly shots all night.
Tequila is meant to be sipped and savored, like fine whiskey, which, as any Mexican will tell you, the best tequila can compete with.
You can get a taste of the top-shelf stuff on the Tequila Trail, which includes some of the country’s most renowned distilleries.
Alternates are The Tequila Express tour operated by Casa Herradura and the Jose Cuervo Express tour.

Curing hangovers
Mexican parties are notorious for going berserk in the blink of a bleary eye.
That, of course, leads to a familiar disaster the following morning.
Fortunately, Mexico’s kitchens spring to life with the best hangover grub on the planet.
Wake up, guzzle water then inhale some spicy chilaquiles, carnitas (pork) or barbacoa (sheep) tacos with hot sauce and plenty of revitalizing grease — maybe slam a light breakfast beer if you’re in really rough shape — and you’ll be back making requests from the band by nightfall.

Double entendre (Albur)
Called “albur” in Spanish, double entendre isn’t just a linguistic trick for Mexicans, it’s an art form requiring a nimble mind and the ability to convey smart but subtle messages, often laced with sexual or R-rated undertones.
Many languages, of course, employ veiled connotations and witty wordplay.
But albur is so important in Mexico that there’s a national tournament to crown the best alburero.
The current champ is Lourdes Ruiz, who’s won the competition every year since 1997, defeating men and women. She even teaches albur courses.
Still not convinced Mexicans take double entendre more seriously than anyone else?
What other country has a day devoted to the subtle intricacies of its language?
In Mexico, Albur’s Day is celebrated on March 1.
Diplomado de Albures Finos (Course of Fine/Classy Albures) classes are held at the Galería José María Velasco (Peralvillo 55, colonia Morelos, Tepito, Mexico City); free admission; participants receive a diploma.

Vatican City does a pretty fair job as the center of the faith and it has some decent paintings on its ceiling. But its population of 800 souls isn’t exactly staggering.
Mexico, by contrast, ranks second in the world for number of Catholics (Brazil is first, the Philippines third) and, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico, 83.9% of the Mexicans are Catholic.
Nothing says “Mexican Catholic” like a reverence for the country’s seemingly endless manifestations of the Virgin Mary.
Which may be why the priest Miguel Hidalgo carried a symbolic flag of Guadalupe when he led the opening stages of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most venerated Virgin in Mexico, maybe the world.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is also one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Mexico, reportedly the most visited Marian shrine in the world.
Each December 12, about 5 million pilgrims from across Mexico visit the Basilica to thank the Virgin for her favors or to ask for a miracle.
Basilica of Our Lady of Gaudalupe, Plaza de las Americas 1, Col. Villa de Guadalupe, Delegación Gustavo A. Madero, Mexico City; +52 55 5118 0500

Quick lunches
Known around the country as Vitamin T, tacos, tortas, tamales and tostadas are part of the everyday life.
Mexicans are constantly on the go, so it’s no wonder puestos and changarros (food stands) can be found on practically every corner.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the subway, leaving school or taking a lunch break away from the office — Mexico’s streets offer endless options for a fast and delicious meal cooked right in front of you with super-fresh ingredients.

Soap operas
In 1958, Telesistema Mexicano produced “Senda Prohibida” (“Forbidden Path”), the first Mexican telenovela (soap opera).
Fifty-six years later, its successor Televisa has produced a whopping 740 telenovelas.
The formula hasn’t changed much.
A man and woman fall in love but, for tragic reasons, can’t be together. After overcoming obstacles they finally get married.
Fifteen years after exporting its first soap opera, “Los Ricos Tambien Lloran” (“The Rich Cry Too”), Televisa has found a rich market outside Mexico.
Of all countries that export soap operas, Mexico ships out the most, carving niches in other Spanish-speaking countries, as well as China, the Philippines, Israel and Saudi Arabia. (Link in Spanish.)
Televisa isn’t the only network producing successful telenovelas.
TV Azteca and Argos Comunicación also create top-notch weepers.

Wrestling costumes
Professional wrestling (lucha libre) may be more Hollywood north of the border, and grittier in other countries, but nowhere is it as full of pathos as in Mexico.
Those hilarious/spooky masks aren’t just fun to look at, they’re a major part of the drama.
Removing one from an opponent’s head is one of the greatest triumphs and most thrilling moments in lucha libre.
Matches are held at Arena Mexico in Mexico City on Tuesdays (7:30 p.m.), Fridays (8:30 p.m.) and Sundays (5 p.m.). Tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster.

Polite lies
Mexicans’ deep fear of appearing rude has given us a bred-in-the-bone aversion to uttering the word “no.”
Instead — and unfortunately for those unfamiliar with the rules of courtesy here — we’ve developed a talent for white lies that allow us to say yes to fulfilling any request.
Even if we can’t do anything about it.
White lies can be as clichéd as “the dog ate my homework” or as morbid as “my beloved great aunt has suddenly developed pancreatic cancer.”
But the granddaddy of polite lies is “ahorita.”
“Ahorita” literally means “right now,” but it’s almost never that.
When a Mexican tells you they’ll do something “ahorita,” be prepared to take a seat, because the wait can be long.
Think of ahorita as the Mexican art of procrastination — it’s been passed from generation to generation — a term that can mean anything from “in 10 minutes” to “in three weeks.”
Ahorita’s cousin in crime is “I’m on my way.”
This really means, “I’m on my way to finishing this TV show, maybe getting off the couch, calling my sister, taking a shower, grabbing a snack and actually leaving home to meet you.”
You’ve been warned — we’re great at it!

Cinco de Mayo Isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day


Not only is Cinco de Mayo not Mexican Independece Day, but it isn’t even celebrated in most of Mexico.

This NPR piece explains it well:


On a less serious note, here’s a list of Cinco de Mayo Do’s and Don’ts from Buzzfeed: