Tag Archives: public space

Street Food in Mexico City: The Dirty, The Clean, The Tasty

Hayden - Mexico - Fruit juice stand in Mexico City

Fruit Juice Stand in Mexico City

One of the first impressions that I had of Mexico City upon coming here for the first time, seven years ago was that the metropolis was saturated with food.  In addition to grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes of all types, the streets themselves teem with places to eat. White metal stands line the sidewalks near major and minor thoroughfares, selling sandwiches, fresh fruits and juices, tacos, and antojitos (corn-based snacks such as quesadillas and tostadas).  Other vendors come early in the morning and set up tarps, coal-fired griddles, and a few plastic stools on street corners in residential and commercial areas, where they sell tacos, antojitos, and tamales.  Still other vendors are fully mobile, pushing carts, riding bicycles, or carrying baskets to ply their wares, often yelling out the types of products they have on offer (churros, roasted sweet potatoes, sandwiches, tamales, corn on the cob, sweet breads, tacos de canasta) as they weave their way through the city.  Street food, or comida callejera, certainly exists in other countries, but in Mexico it is particularly vibrant, omnipresent, and embraced as a part of the national identity.  People from most walks of life frequent street food stands, at least periodically, and many people depend on their products for affordable, nutritious daily meals.  Yet the majority of street food vendors, despite their iconic status and importance in the urban food landscape, exist precariously in the informal sector, where they are regularly declared to be problems by politicians and city residents alike.  Vendedores ambulantes (or mobile vendors) are commonly criticized in terms of public health, waste disposal, tax evasion, corruption, use of public space, or quality of life.  As an anthropologist, I am interested in the implications of these contradictory rhetorics and practices around street food for Mexicans, as consumers, vendors, and political actors. Continue reading