Anthony Bourdain on Mexicans, Mexico and Why America Should Love Them

Under The Volcano

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—as we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs”. But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, provably, simply won’t do. 
We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.
So, why don’t we love Mexico?
We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires. Whether it’s dress up like fools and get pass-out drunk and sun burned on Spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.
In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in LA, burned out neighborhoods in Detroit— it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead—mostly innocent victims in Mexico, just in the past few years. 80,000 dead. 80,000 families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.   
Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history. Mexican wine country rivals Tuscany for gorgeousness. Its archeological sites—the remnants of great empires, unrivaled anywhere. And as much as we think we know and love it,  we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over a tortilla chip. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply ‘bro food’ halftime. It is in fact, old— older even than the great cuisines of Europe and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients, painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet. If we paid attention. The old school cooks of Oaxaca make some of the more difficult to make and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. And some of the new generation, many of whom have trained in the kitchens of America and Europe have returned home to take Mexican food to new and thrilling new heights.
It’s a country I feel particularly attached to and grateful for. In nearly 30 years of cooking professionally, just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, was there—and on the case—when the cooks more like me, with backgrounds like mine—ran away to go skiing or surfing—or simply “flaked.” I have been fortunate to track where some of those cooks come from, to go back home with them. To small towns populated mostly by women—where in the evening, families gather at the town’s phone kiosk, waiting for calls from their husbands, sons and brothers who have left to work in our kitchens in the cities of the North. I have been fortunate enough to see where that affinity for cooking comes from, to experience moms and grandmothers preparing many delicious things, with pride and real love, passing that food made by hand, passed from their hands to mine. 
In years of making television in Mexico, it’s one of the places we, as a crew, are happiest when the day’s work is over. We’ll gather round a street stall and order soft tacos with fresh, bright, delicious tasting salsas—drink cold Mexican beer, sip smoky mezcals, listen with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. We will look around and remark, for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is.  
The received wisdom is that Mexico will never change. That is hopelessly corrupt, from top to bottom. That it is useless to resist—to care, to hope for a happier future. But there are heroes out there who refuse to go along. On this episode of PARTS UNKNOWN, we meet a few of them. People who are standing up against overwhelming odds, demanding accountability, demanding change—at great, even horrifying personal cost.
This show is for them. 

It’s Fun, Warm and Safe on Mexico’s Pacific Coast

It's Fun, Safe and Warm on
Mexico's Pacific Coast
Common Sense Prevails

Story By Dianne Longson, Special to the Sun
October 24. 2014

It’s fun, warm and safe on Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Pelicans in the bay at Zihuatenejo. Dianne Longson

It’s that time of year when we book our annual trip to Mexico and this is what we hear: Why are you going to Mexico? Why not somewhere safe? We worry about you. Is it safe where you’re going?
Regardless of news reports, many Canadians still travel to tourist-friendly resorts like Cancun and Ixtapa, where they enjoy a warm, safe holiday free from the grey, wet Vancouver weather.
Other smart sun-seeking Canadians — often retired or semi-retired baby boomers — faithfully return to Mexico every year, decade after decade, to idyllic surroundings that are not all-inclusives.
There are a number of reasons why we choose to go when the media says it’s dangerous.
Here’s one: A friend and her family recently returned from a trip to Hawaii for a family wedding. She freely admits that Hawaii is idyllic, but they couldn’t figure out what was missing. After they arrived home it struck them — there were no Mexicans!
Aside from the dependable temperature, blue sky and sunshine from November through April, the Mexicans seduce us with their friendly, fun-loving family-centered culture, and those same people desperately need our tourist dollars. It’s sad that fear, caused by careful documentation by the media, makes visitors shy away.
Our favourite place is Zihuatanejo, a friendly fishing town nestled in a protected bay, next door to the purpose-built resort of Ixtapa (on the West Coast, south of Puerto Vallarta and north of Acapulco). Since its discovery in the 1970s, tourism is more important to Zihua’s local economy now than fishing.
Each year we return to a small Mexican hotel with a colourful market within walking distance where the locals shop for everything from savoury barbecued pork and warm tortillas, fresh prawns, mahi-mahi and mole sauce, to beef tenderloin, household goods, baking, handbags, trinkets and clothing.
We cook in or walk about town in the evening to enjoy one of many good restaurants. We may stroll the large public arts-and-crafts market or watch a basketball game in the town centre, or sip lattes before hitting the beach for a personally crafted margarita nightcap.
During our stay, it’s handy to fly out of the Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa airport to explore Mexico City (a 45-minute flight away) for a few days, or maybe take a five-hour bus ride north to the charming historical mountain town of Patzcuaro (founded in the early 1300s) with its Spanish colonial architecture, artisans’ studios and good shopping.
Earlier this year, we headed to the airport to pick up some intrepid relatives arriving from bitterly cold Ottawa. They joined us in Zihua based solely on our description and photos included in our annual Christmas letter.
They had read about the dangers of travel in Mexico, but on our recommendation, they discovered it only takes a little forethought and common sense to stay perfectly safe in most Mexican towns and resorts.
We frequently read about all the homicides in the Lower Mainland but we still choose to live here. Given the news stories, Vancouverites should be scared to go out at night, but common sense tells us we are safe. It’s the same in many places in Mexico.

Fresh Surf Art, Troncones View

Fresh Surf Art,,Troncones View

Downtown Troncones and Local Stores

Downtown Troncones and stores, from Zihua Rob's website.

Troncones Surf Dog

The Views From Casa Delfin Sonriente of the Mountains in Back and the Beach in Front.

The views looking from the upstairs of Casa Delfin Sonriente towards the mountains in back and the beach in front.    

The Green Room and Rose Suite at Casa Delfin Sonriente

Recent Photos of Casa Delfin Sonriente on TripAdvisor

Here are some recent photos our guests have posted to TripAdvisor. Take a look and please contribute your photos and reviews.