It's all very well going to bar, a pub, a restaurant, but have you ever frequented a Mexican cantina? You know with the swingy doors, with the stench of urine emanating from the toilet doors that swivel shut as characters emerge from the latrine?
A few days ago, I visited several cantinas, and can assure you that it is an experience I will never forget, and enjoyed thoroughly. The centre of México City, close to the zócalo (which is where the Cathedral and el Palacio Nacional, and ofcourse a giant Mexican flag, and now during Christmas an ice skating rink!) , is home to several of said cantinas. In the past, visiting the centre at night was ill advised, however, after a recent project to encourage tourists and Mexicans alike to visit the centre which included installing cctv, and street lamps, the centre is a far safer area to visit. I am a scaredy cat, and can assure you that the centre is not only relatively safe (just don't flaunt your Rolex, and use some common sense), but absolutely beautiful.
The cantinas, the old ones, still have ficheras. They are women who sit at a table, and the men, can buy a ficha, a sort of poker chip, which they can then give to the lady and request a dance. Just a dance. This is not some form of prostitute, just someone to accompany you on the dance floor. It is truly charming to watch. After several tequilas, and beers, I danced the night away, merry as a mouse. It was glorious. The waitresses, with their tight jeans, slightly too tight for my taste, and pasty makeup, added to the charm. I believe that such tight jeans create what is called a camel toe...forming the outline of the women's "private parts", leaving nothing to the imagination. It was all out of a Cantinflas movie, and made me feel as if I had taken a big ole' step back in time.
I was invited to dance by some older men, who were slightly inebriated, and due to my shyness I said no thank you. When they kept asking, I was told to simply say that my boyfriend would get jealous. It worked like a charm! Great tip for Latin American countries!
The cantinas serve chicharrones (fried pig skin/fat) and complimentary peanuts on plates. Add some chile to the pig and peanuts, and you have a tasty snack to energize you for some serious dancing. Salsa, rancheras, cumbias....and don't be shy! I hope you may experience this one day. I sure am in love with cantinas, and am returning as soon as I can.
Viva México! Y viva la cantina Mexicana...Donde se llora, ríe, grita, baila, con una combinación de amargura y dulzura. En donde los amigos se reencuentran, en donde los enemigos se perdonan, y donde el tequila y la cerveza brindan por lo bueno y lo malo, por la vida que a veces no vale nada y por los que extrañamos con todo nuestro corazón.