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« August 20, 2006 - August 26, 2006 | Main | January 7, 2007 - January 13, 2007 »

December 29, 2006

THE FOOD OF TAMPICO: A TASTE OF NORTHERN MEXICO by Habeeb Salloum

THE FOOD OF TAMPICO: A TASTE OF NORTHERN MEXICO

by Habeeb Salloum

    For a while we gloried in the 21st century luxuries of Club Maeva Miramar, Tampico’s seaside resort.  Our food matched the lavishness of our abode, but we knew that it was not the real cuisine of Mexico.  When Mexican dishes were on the menu they were altered to comply with most of tourists’ tastes.  For the authentic food of Mexico’s northeastern Caribbean coast we had to dine in the restaurants downtown - in the heart of the city.  Of course, the decor in many cases, could not match that of Club Maeva Miramar’s Doña Juana Cata Restaurant, but the dishes were the true cuisine of the city.       

    Situated on the northern shores of the Pánuco River on the Gulf of Mexico, 400 km (248 mi) south of the American border, the present Tampico, is surrounded by a complex river and lagoon system, mingling together to give the town a unique setting.  Together with the sister cities of Altamira and Madero, forming a metropolitan zone in the State of Tamaulipas, it is a traditional Mexican urban centre, replete with history and a locally developed cuisine.  The city is noted not only for its cuisine but also for its petrochemical industry, and for its historical downtown, full of architectural elegance, lively markets, fine parks and historic structures that date back to the beginning of the 1900s - the golden era of the city.       

    An important trade centre and the second most important port on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, it was once the original ‘Mexican Riviera’ - the choice resort area of royalty and the rich.  Here they came to spend their winters, long before the concept of tourism was invented.  However, by 1960, Tampico was all but forgotten as a desirable destination.  Oil tankers from the nearby port facility fouled the once-gorgeous beaches and tourism almost died out.       

    Today, Tampico's tourist fortunes are beginning to return, thanks to a newfound awareness in environmental protection, and a change in government priorities.  This has given the city a new lease on life and has retrieved some of its tourist allurement from the past.  Still unspoiled by mass modern tourism, Tampico, a city of some 307,000, remains the place where a traveller is able to see, feel and experience the real Mexico and its local kitchen.

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