Can English-language Fishwrap Make a Comeback in Mexico?

The Mexico City News, back until the late 80s, was a good newspaper with original coverage. There was a Sunday section, Vistas, which I think Sally Sue Hulse edited, featuring regular columns, some good, some drek, from various parts of Mexico. Morelia’s section, the responsibility of the late Montgomery Budd was as much a social page as it was informative, and in those days when I lived back in Iowa, it was pretty exciting to have my picture run along with the local gossip. Even the travails of Ted Wick in Taxco and Bert Krause in Cuernavaca were more sophisticated than some of the stuff which passes for news in the Guadalajara Colony Reporter and Atencion San Miguel. Pete Hammil was editor-in-chief for a short period of time. By the time The News died, it was yesterday’s news.

The mid-1980s delivered a fantastic small magazine called something like Mexico Today, which, if memory serves me correctly, Michael Zamba edited. That magazine didn’t make it to the two-year mark.

In the 1950’s, Anita Brenner published Mexico/This Month, which fit well within the context of the times.

The News bit the dust four or five years ago, and the Miami Herald joint ventured with El Universal to publish a English-language daily which didn’t live up to the reputation of the glory days of The News. And it gave up the ghost a few months ago.

Reputable sources have The News making a comeback. Read more at The low-rent correspondent, who cites former Herald writer Kelly Arthur Garrett’s blog, Mexcalplan.

Today, the Internet makes access to other news sources easy, even if paid access is required. 75% original content should be the minimum. Let’s hope the new venture uses the Buenos Aires Herald as an example. Until then, I’m relying upon Ron Mader’s list of Mexican news sources at

French Seams

All I wanted was a kick pleat inserted into a dress, a Geoffrey Beane dating back to the days when the label meant something, days long before Grey Flannel. But I needed a dressmaker who knew the difference between a French seam and a silk seam.

Down the street, well actually a few streets, and off into the adjoining neighborhood of Vista Bella an old house, an expansive property on Rey Tariacuri just beyond Farmacia Guadalajara, was transforming itself into a new business. The first clue was that it might harbor an interior design firm, the likes of which might be found in cities more sophisticated than Morelia. As the window dressing went in, we pondered that it might be a high-end clothing store, the likes of which still can’t be found in Morelia. Bare and ancient mannequins stood over Chanel, Ferragamo, Prada, Carolina Herrera, and other labels, a swatch of fabric here and there, an appealing approach for a clothing store. My breath quickened as I entered, wondering about the merchandise and hoping the store would have an alterations department.

Only dreams were for sale there. The new place is Innardi, the first institution, or so it billed itself, granting a licenciatura (equivalent to a U.S.-level bachelor’s degree, only a tad better) in fashion design, promoting the Mexican textile industry. Feeling like a rube who’d walked into New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology, I asked the receptionist for a referral to a dressmaker who knew French seams, peeling back the sleeve of my Eileen Fisher perfect white shirt. She understood. And as she checked her Rolodex, I browsed the school’s curriculum, which also appears on its website. This school is serious business, and a semester’s tuition is $35,000 M.N. (just a shade under $3,500 U.S.D.) a semester.

Saturated with Sushi

Have you ever been confronted with a platter of sushi and the only familiar ingredient was the rice? And the menu’s Japanese translation to English read like a lab science manual? It’s  easy to feel like a novice at a sushi bar, where there always is another diner holding court over the finer distinctions between fish roes, salmon skin, and eel innards. As much as I like sushi, I don’t want to risk anyone slipping shrimp or fish liver onto my plate, but at the same time I hate to appear ever so ignorant. And there’s the matter of pretending that you already had kanimiso for lunch or you know the difference between futomaki and onigiri.

sushi Sushi has taken over Mexico like a storm. It first hit Morelia about fifteen years ago, when Mikono opened its doors. The hometown sushi café, which even delivers on motos, has eight branches in its own town, and ones in San Angel, D.F., and Moroleon, Guanajuato. For $42,400 USD ($480,300 M.N.), you can open your own franchise.

Walmart and its gourmet spawn Superama always have it, ready to go. So too do Costco and Sam’s Club.

In Morelia, all social gatherings of any consequence will have some kind of sushi. But there’s one hitch: Mexican sushi seems to always claim queso Filadelfia as an essential ingredient.

And not only Mexico has been consumed by sushi fever. Trevor Carlson’s new book “The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, From Samurai to Supermaket” and Sasha Issenberg’s “The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy” were both reviewed in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

A growing shortage of bluefin tuna in Japan has sushi chefs recalling the times when they had no choice but to substitute venison or horsemeat and experiments with smoked duck with mayonnaise. I hope they never find out about queso Filadelfia.



The Danger of Inbreeding

Australian television’s Big Brother show claimed its Friday Night Live episode was “designed as a tribute to Mexico and its vibrant cultural heritage.” But its treatment of Mexican culture was enough to have Mexico’s Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Secretary of Foreign Relations) firing off a protest letter to the program and the Australian government. The Australian clowns who threw garbage-filled balloons at the Mexican flag not only were confused about the order in which the colors of the flag were supposed to appear, but also seemed to think that this country’s cuisine is chili con carne, served up in a cactus-dotted landscape.

See the film at The low-rent correspondent.

What do you expect from a country which claims toe jam as its national food? If the Aussies intended this as a tribute, just how far do they go when they’re out to offend?

Dancing in Arocutin

Light years from New York City but only an hour’s drive from the bright lights of Morelia is Arocutin, a sleepy little burg along the shores of Lake Patzcuaro, where the leading business is the German-run Campestre Aleman, a trout restaurant and farm. The locals who haven’t left town still maintain old traditions during the town fiesta. Credit for this movie belongs to Brian Fey, the renaissance guy from nearby Erongaricuaro.

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