The top culinary foible of the capitalinos in Mexico City, that literally no one outside the capital or country can understand, is eating quesadillas without cheese. The official line is that in Nahuatl, the language from which Spanish derives the word quesadilla, quesadilla simply means ‘folded tortilla’ and the similarities to the Spanish word for cheese (queso) are simply coincidental. So, if you want a ‘real’ quesadilla in Mexico City, you have to tack on con queso (with cheese) at the end of your order.
Another of the culinary quirks for which the chilangos take a lot of flack is that they are huge fans of a torta de tamal. Tamales, officially described in English as stuffed, steamed corn dough parcels, are popular street snacks across the country, but no one quite loads up on carbs like a Mexico City local. In the capital, these doughy delights are stuffed inside bread and enjoyed as a sandwich. Delicious? Yes. Healthy? Probably not.
Mexico City is a notoriously congested city. In fact, it’s so polluted and crowded that on certain days of the week cars aren’t allowed to circulate in the capital. This crazy traffic also means that getting anywhere fast is unlikely to happen, even when you take public transport that bypasses the manic streets, such as the metro. As a result, the majority of workers in Mexico City will have at least a one hour each way commute to deal with, and it’s really not that uncommon to hear of people travelling up to three hours to get to work.
While this might happen in other cities around the country as well, Mexico City is the only place we know of in Mexico that regularly closes down principal avenues completely to cars, in order to have a weekly bike ride/ run/ rollerskate-a-thon. Every Sunday, Paseo de la Reforma is open for fitness fanatics and cyclists, who are are given free reign over many other city streets besides. If you’re interested in taking part in this excellent and strangely Mexico City tradition, economic bike rental is available on site.
If you’ve ever been to Mexico City, the chances are you’ve heard these screechy, whiny contraptions being played in key locations across the city, principally in the historic centre. They’ll bust out a few tunes and then ask for donations. However, if you’re a local in the capital, this squeaky annoyance just adds to the background noise of the already chaotic city, getting lumped in with the cries of tamale sellers and the pre-recorded soundtrack of scrap metal collectors.
Depending on your country of origin, you might not be entirely used to the very haphazard method of using public transport in Mexico City, but the locals sure are. Here, it’s not uncommon to see passengers practically dangling off the side of the bus, crammed in the stairwell, as they drive at full speed down busy main roads. Even if a bus looks full to you, the chances are at least five more chilangos will try and squeeze their way on before it sets off, and the same goes for the metro at rush hour.
A symbol of the country’s independence, this towering monument on Paseo de la Reforma is an iconic feature of Mexico City. It also happens to be the principal gathering point for any kind of social protest, celebration or march, whether that be a protest against gay marriage or a celebration of a major Mexican football team win. Either way, Mexico City locals are used to using the Ángel de la Independencia as a social gathering point.