Feathered headdresses worn by Concheros in DF's Zócalo

When I accepted Will’s Liebster Award nomination, I had to think up five questions for each of my own nominees to answer. Those are the questions below. After musing over it for a couple of days, I thought I’d write a post with my own answers.

Questions to My Nominees

  1. When did you first consider moving to Mexico, and how long did it take to make the dream reality?
  2. What do you like the best about living in Mexico?
  3. What’s your favorite Mexican movie?
  4. Who is your favorite Mexican musician?
  5. What are your favorite and least favorite Mexican foods?

When did I first consider moving to Mexico? And how long is it taking to make the dream reality?

As a very young man (some would say “boy”) I had dreamed of one day moving to a warm and exotic place, somewhere that I could escape the chill of coastal Northern California. In Mexico, maybe I’d be able to sit on a beach and swim in warm waters too. When I took Spanish in high school, my teacher, Mr. Fernandez, told tales of exotic adventures in Mexico, friendly people, and great parties. It sounded like a lot of fun. After I went to DF in 2005, and met Adrián, and fell in love with Mexico City, I started to fantasize about moving there. I discovered “Felipe Zapata’s” old blog, Tales of Zapata Street, which had detailed his own, relatively painless move, albeit to the sticks of Michoacán. Reading his blog, every day sounded like an adventure. I discovered other blogs, and they too told a wonderful tale. I started to travel more to Mexico, and discovered for myself that there was never a dull moment SOB.  By early 2006, I would meet F and by 2007, the idea of moving there became more and more interesting.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of fantasy real-estate shopping in DF (someday I’ll write a post about this) and spent a ton of time there. When I left my job in early 2012, I started spending more time in DF, usually three to four weeks every couple of months with F, working from his DF apartment, and generally living like a Mexican, shopping in los mercados, cooking at home, and riding in colectivos, and cursing the various sound trucks rolling around advertising stuff. F doesn’t live in a neighborhood you’d likely ever visit unless you knew someone there. It’s kilometers from the nearest tourist attraction and only recently got its first Oxxo. This experience showed me what the “real” Mexico is like, that it’s not all fiestas and margaritas. But it also taught me that I can indeed live in the real Mexico, with all its chaos and color.

Despite the greater freedom of not needing to show up in an office, I still had a lot of things to attend to here in Boston. I own a house, have pets, and needed to find a housemate who could look after it all while I was on an extended hiatus. And I had a number of other things keeping me here too, all too boring to write up.  Splitting up with F has also changed the calculus somewhat, though I still like the idea of living in Mexico. I am planning a trip south later this month or into early November, and I’ve been trying to free up my calendar. We’ll see if I ever actually move. Phase one will have me starting as a snowbird, and then I’ll see if I can work my way up to Mexican Eagle.

Mexican Eagle_MG_0376

What do I like Best About the Prospect of Living in Mexico?

I find Mexico endlessly entertaining. There’s always something happening, whether that be fire eaters at intersections, clowns in plazas, some kind manifestación (strike/demonstration), parade, festival, mariachis on the street, alebrijes, you name it. The people are interesting too, and I love wandering around just people watching. The fact that the fruits and vegetables are beautiful, delicious, and cheap, especially  avocados is a big plus too.  And from DF, you are within a few hours of many other fascinating places like Taxco, Puebla, Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, Cuernavaca, Tepoztlán, and many other interesting places. And there are a LOT of entertainment options that are very reasonably priced. In fact, everything except books, cars, and electronics are quite cheap.

Fire jugglers_MG_4405

What is my favorite Mexican movie?

It’s tough to name a single favorite Mexican movie. Y Tu Mamá También,  (2002) is one of my favorites. Gael García Bernal is a terrific actor, as is Diego Luna, and the two have great chemistry in this tale of loss of innocence. The road trip from DF to the mythical Boca del Cielo beach on the Michoacán coast is worth the price of admission alone.  Those two actors also play together again in Rudo y Cursí (2009) the tale of two country boys who are recruited to play soccer in the big leagues in Mexico City, where they experience big-time thrills, and big-time loss too. It’s subtitled, which is helpful as the Spanish is tough going. The two main characters are from the Sinaloa country side, whose strong regional accent they mimic, and the agent is supposedly from Argentina, which is another challenging accent. Amores Perros  (2001) probably ties with Y Tu Mamá También, for my favorite Mexican film, and I’ve become a big fan of Humberto Busto, who plays a small role in that film, but has gone on to become a well-established actor, now co-starring in Los Heroes del Norte. By the way, F’s neighborhood is a lot like that where García Bernal lives in Amores Perros.

y-tu-mama-tambien d jpeged and sharpened low res v2

As an aside, I’ve become a big fan of a Televisa series called “Los Heroes del Norte,” which now has two seasons available on DVD, though sadly it’s not subtitled or dubbed. But if you can work your way through it, you’ll learn LOTS of colorful Mexican slang, in addition to enjoying the crazy adventures of Mexico’s most famous and most unlikely band.

Los heroes del norte

Who is your favorite Mexican musician?

This too is a tough question to answer with a single name.  I LOVE Chavela Vargas. I very clearly remember where I first heard her. F and I were on our way to Puebla, not too long after we had met. We were in his little Ford Ka* passing through the mountains surrounding DF. F had a stack of CDs, and I had grown tired of what we were listening to. So I shuffled through the CDs and popped in Chavela, not knowing who she was. I IMMEDIATELY knew that this woman was a special musician. Her voice has an amazing texture, somewhat like a female Willie Nelson.  I would later learn that she was an icon in Mexico, and one of the few Mexican musicians to play Carnegie Hall. Aside from Chavela, I love a lot of Mexican music, with special callouts for Lila Downs, Los Buitres de Culicán Sinaloa, Nortec Collective, and Los de Abajo, among others.

*(Which being from Boston, I’ve always thought “Ka” was the funniest name for a car; they’re all called that here, LOL.)

chavela-vargas low res

What’s your favorite and least favorite Mexican foods?

Well, who doesn’t love tacos? Mexicans even refer to them as Vitamina T, they are considered so essential. Pastor is probably my favorite style. But I’m also a big fan of Chiles en Nogada which is often hard to find until September rolls around, as it’s considered a patriotic dish, and that’s also the season for several of the ingredients (pomegranate and walnuts). Sheesh, now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking of more foods too. Caldo Tlalpeño is probably my favorite Mexican soup, basically a chunky, mildly spicy chicken soup with mild chipotle peppers and fresh avocado along with carrots, celery, and other vegetables. Pozole is also a strong runner-up to Caldo Tlalpeño.  And I never miss an opportunity to eat guacamole when in Mexico.

Chiles_en_nogada wikipedia adjusted

My least favorite Mexican foods include atole, a bland, corn-based porridge which people drink as a beverage. It’s not awful or anything, but I find it rather uninteresting, and the texture is unappealing. Oh, and insects. Call it a cultural hang-up. But I don’t abide eating bugs or grubs or what-have-you.  I’ll stick to fruits, vegetables, or vertebrates.

What are your answers?