Mexico City Streets: Highlights of La Roma Neighborhood
By Lydia Carey
Mexico City Streets: La Roma is a guide to one of Mexico City’s most vibrant and artistic neighborhoods. Written for both locals and tourists, this book will help you navigate alleyways and barstools while at the same time providing practical information about life as a Roma resident.
A behind-the-scenes look at all of La Roma’s eccentricities and quirks, this book offers a carefully culled list of useful services, eating and drinking musts, hotels, shops, and cultural gems, stitched together by anecdotes and history. Best of all, it’s written by a 10-year resident of Mexico City, Lydia Carey!
Here is one of the book’s reviews, from travel editor Tim Leffel.
Most of what you read about Mexico’s capital city is about the tourist highlights: what you see and experience in the corridor running from the historic center through Chapultapec Park.
This great guide to La Roma dives deep and detailed into a hopping neighborhood that’s accessible to that corridor but is completely devoted to its residents.
That goes for the buildings too. Some from the 1920s made it through the last earthquake, many others were replaced by something blocky and dated.
This “never know what to expect” aspect of Roma keeps things interesting, but makes it tough to figure out at first.
This detailed guidebook breaks it all down into multiple sections and gives the best recommendations from the high end to the low end and all points in between.
Many of Mexico City’s top restaurants and bars are here, but it’s far further back on the gentrification scale than neighboring Condesa and still has a wide collection of shops that run the gamut from the strange to the utilitarian.
It’s also filled with terrific photos in a wide range of subjects. If you really want to “travel like a local,” head to Roma and let this book whisper in your ear.
Excerpt from the Book, La Roma
Growing up at Guanajuato 183, Emilio Pacheco lived the exhilaration and heartbreak that would inspire his 1981 book Las Batallas en el Desierto (Battles in the Desert).
Pacheco is one of La Roma’s most beloved sons and the streets of his neighborhood were used for the filming of the book’s adaptation, Mariana, Mariana, less than a decade later.
A few blocks down from his childhood home is one of the neighborhood’s most enchanting public spaces, the Plaza Luis Cabrera.
The plaza has recently gotten some attention from neighborhood groups and boasts photography displays, Day of the Dead altars, and other cultural happenings.
Interestingly enough, this small park is not actually zoned as an open, public space, and even though it has been a part of the neighborhood from the beginning (it was meant to mirror the Río de Janeiro Park further down on Orizaba) it could technically be torn down and developed.
For now, its towering fountain is surrounded by a buffer of trees; children, dogs, and love-struck couples stroll along its oval sidewalk. Several restaurants grace its perimeters (Cabrera 7, Non solo, El Ocho, and Porco Rosso), and the collection of small bars described in the following pages is just a few blocks away.
The Sears on the corner of Insurgentes and San Luis Potosí (the Plaza Insurgentes) was one of the Colonia’s first department stores, and it initiated a shift in the area’s zoning, making Insurgentes the commercial corridor it is today.
Mexico City College
Across the street, at San Luis Potosi 131, was the first campus of the Mexico City College, a junior college started in 1940 by Mexico City’s ex-pat community. The school would eventually become the Universidad de la Américas A.C. Its early staff consisted of American ex-pats escaping McCarthyism and Europeans fleeing the Spanish Civil War and later World War II.
Engaging classes and left-leaning ideology made the school popular. In 1946 the Mexico City College was approved for study under the G.I. Bill, bringing in a new surge of students, including William S. Burroughs, who was studying Mayan languages there when he accidentally shot his wife Joan in La Roma’s Bounty Bar in 1951.
There are lots of great options for eating in this area, from the hip Mercado Roma to the iconic Embajada Jarocha and the Saturday morning Asian buffet at Mikasa Asian grocery store.
A boisterous lunchtime crowd also hangs out on Jalapa between Chihuahua and Guanajuato, where a little strip of lunch spots – ChicoJulio, El Tuscan, and Falafeltito – line the sidewalk with outdoor tables.
While you relax over fish tacos and a michelada (a mix of cold beer and lime juice with salt around the rim), you can get shoes fixed up at the repair truck just down Jalapa between Chihuahua and Alvaro Obregon.
An upscale culinary corridor is settling in at the corner of Tonala and Zacatecas, where you will find Maximos Bistrot, the gourmet project of Chef Eduardo García; Lalo, his new breakfast bar across the street; Anatolia, a laid-back fusion of Mexican, Spanish and French cuisine; and down the block, chef Daniel Ovadía newest project, Nudo Negro.
Make sure to check out the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Fatima, the famous site of the murder and robbery of Father Juan Fullana. Stop in at the Taller Tlamaxcalli to buy some traditional Mexican juguestes (toys), grab a taco at the vegan taquería, and say hi to Juan the parrot – he’ll be sitting outside La Mony on San Luis Potosí.
Lydia Carey is a writer and translator originally from outside of Chicago who has been living in Mexico for almost a decade, writing, eating, exploring and telling stories. Her works have been widely published on both the web and in print and she blogs about daily life in her adoptive home, Mexico City, at her blog www.mexicocitystreets.com.
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