Culture

A Pre-Hispanic Restaurant In Mexico Has Been Named One Of The World’s Best

Latin America has quickly moved up the ranks when it comes to fine dining – especially as much of the world finally catches on to the many treasures across the region.

For several years, high-end dining featuring fusions from Japanese and French mixed in with typical Mexican or Colombian or Peruvian cuisines have been recognized. Case in point: a Mexican woman was recognized as the world’s top chef in 2019.

But more recently, Indigenous flavors have started to get the recognition they deserve.

A Mexican restaurant has been named among the world’s greatest thanks to its Indigenous roots.

The world’s top 20 restaurants – as selected by Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine – finally features an Indigenous restaurant, and from Mexico’s Tabasco state no less.

A culinary critic cited the mole poblano with turkey, scarlet shrimp and the ambience among the reasons the restaurant was chosen to join the rankings of the world’s best.

Cocina Chontal is an intimate restaurant situated in a small house with brick floors and wooden tables where dishes are cooked on an outdoor comal and dogs hang out waiting for scraps. It may seem out of place compared to some of the more ‘high-end’ restaurants on the list. might seem an unlikely place to find one of the world’s best foodie haunts.

Cocina Chontal sits amid the jungle and is bringing Pre-Hispanic flavors to Mexico’s foodie crowd.

Credit: Cocina Chontal / Facebook

Sitting in the middle of the San Isidro de Comalcalco jungle in Tabasco, Mexico, is a restaurant that’s heart is the wood-field comal just outside the front door. The restaurant is on he outskirts of the Zona Arqueológica de Comalcalco, a Chontal Mayan site containing the remains of the westernmost city of the Mayan civilization.

Chef Nelly Córdova Morillo is a former lawyer who grew up eating traditional Chontal cooking on her grandparents’ farm. Her restaurant celebrates the pre-Hispanic cuisine of the region, serving traditional dishes made with traditional ingredients cooked over wood harvested from the surrounding landscape. She’s in touch with her roots and aims to share them with the rest of the world.

Popular dishes include “tortilla Chontal,” a type of fresh-masa quesadilla served with a dark green salsa that tastes of the forest, alongside frothy pineapple agua fresca.

Nevertheless, chef Nelly Córdova Murillo said ending up on the travel magazine’s list was a total surprise.

“Truly it’s incredible,” she told Travel + Leisure. “I was calmly baking some cinnamon rolls with my daughter, and suddenly it occurred to me to get my telephone. I found all these people congratulating me, and I didn’t know for what.” 

Córdova is among chefs in major world cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Bogotá, and Santiago, Chile. But she hasn’t let it go to her head. The award, she said, goes to all tabasqueños.

“It’s their culture, their traditions, their customs, their men and women, their products, and their artisans,” she said. “Cocina Chontal is that. It’s Tabasco in a small place.” 

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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Love him or hate him, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has long called himself the voice of the people – and many Mexicans agree with him. That’s why his latest announcement against social media companies has many so worried.

In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s (along with many other social media platforms) announcement that they would be restricting or banning Donald Trump from their platforms, the Mexican president expressed his contempt for the decisions. And his intention to create a Mexican social network that won’t be held to the standards from Silicon Valley.

Mexico’s AMLO moves to create a social media network for Mexicans outside of Silicon Valley’s control.

A week after his United States counterpart was kicked off Facebook and Twitter, President López Obrador floated the idea of creating a national social media network to avoid the possibility of Mexicans being censored.

Speaking at his daily news conference, AMLO instructed the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) and other government departments to look at the possibility of creating a state-owned social media site that would guarantee freedom of speech in Mexico.

“We care about freedom a lot, it’s an issue that’s going to be addressed by us,” he told reporters. He also added that Facebook and Twitter have become “global institutions of censorship,” sounding a lot like the alt-right terrorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“To guarantee freedom, for freedom, so there’s no censorship in Mexico. We want a country without censorship. Mexico must be a country of freedom. This is a commitment we have,” he told reporters.

AMLO deeply criticized the moves by Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump from their platforms.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO – like Trump – is an avid user of social media to connect with his constituents. He’s also been known to spread falsehoods and boast about his achievements on the platforms – sound familiar?

So, it came as little surprise when he tore into social media companies for ‘censoring’ Donald Trump, saying that they have turned into “global institutions of censorship” and are carrying out a “holy inquisition.”

Nobody has the right to silence citizens even if their views are unpopular, López Obrador said. Even if the words used by Trump provoked a violent attack against his own government.

“Since they took these decisions [to suspend Trump], the Statue of Liberty has been turning green with anger because it doesn’t want to become an empty symbol,” he quipped.

So what could a Mexican social media network be called?

The president’s proposal to create a national social media network triggered chatter about what such a site would or should be called. One Twitter user suggested Facemex or Twitmex, apparently taking his inspiration from the state oil company Pemex.

The newspaper Milenio came up with three alternative names and logos for uniquely Mexican sites, suggesting that a Mexican version of Facebook could be called Facebookóatl (inspired by the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcóatl), Twitter could become Twitterlopochtli (a riff on the name of Aztec war, sun and human deity Huitzilopochtli) and Instagram could become Instagratlán (tlán, which in the Náhuatl language means place near an abundance of something – deer, for example, in the case of Mazatlán – is a common suffix in Mexican place names.)

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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

Jorge Fernandez / Getty Images

It’s never too late to follow your dreams. It may sound cliche but one Indigenous woman from the Mexican state of Oaxaca is showing just how true that sentiment really is.

Although growing up knowing how to speak her native language of Náhuatl, she was never able to read or write it – let alone Spanish. Now after years of studying and being too embarrassed to attend classes, this 78-year-old woman can say that she achieved her dream and is now an award-winning author.

Despite being illiterate for years, Justina Rojas has finally finished primary school.

Justina Rojas Flores, a resident of the Oaxacan community of San Miguel Espejo, learned to read and write at 76. She remembers that at first she was embarrassed to attend her classes, but with the support of her teachers sh was motivated to learn the alphabet and words and communication.

In fact, she became so motivated that she’s recently authored a handmade book that earned her a national award. She recently told El Sol de Puebla, that “I was already cracking under pressure because I was cheating a lot, but the teachers told me ‘yes you can, Justina’, so I continued taking classes and it was thanks to them that I learned. After two years, I wrote La Mazorca, which is dedicated to the community of San Miguel Espejo.”

In her Indigenous language of Náhuatl, Rojas shared the history of La Mazorca, which emphasizes the value of appreciating all things – especially that which the land gives us.

“I beg you, if you see me lying on the ground, pick me up, don’t step on me. Just as you take care of me, I will take care of you,” is part of the story in the book that was awarded in 2019 by the State Institute for Adult Education (IEEA), an achievement with which Rojas feels accomplished, and with which motivates other people to enter the competition.

Rojas is proving that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Now, at 78-years-old, Rojas is able to celebrate her achievements. Though she admits that many in her community continue to doubt her real motivation. It’s common to hear people ask ‘Why do I learn if I’m old?’, ‘What use is it going to do?’, and ‘I’m on my way out so it doesn’t matter.’

But many of the people who ask these questions are the same people who don’t have the same opportunities, since they can’t read or write. According to figures from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) in Rojas’ community, there are around 2,267 inhabitants, and the majority are living in poverty, a factor that significantly influences educational access. Many, from a very young age, leave school to work to support their families and take jobs working in the fields or construction.

Finally, Rojas wants everyone to know that they should not limit themselves and to embrace knowledge regardless of age. “If you don’t know how to read and write, or if you know someone like that, I invite you to go where they teach, so that those who know more can share their knowledge with us.”

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