This weekend in Chicago I found, by chance, the restaurant where I had my very first Mexican taco experience. Or, at least, it was the right street, and block, and if the birria (goat tacos) were not sold at the Reyes de Ocotlán, they were sold at a place that no longer exists.
In order for you to understand how tacos have become a meaningful part of my life/delicious procrastination method, I bring you back in time several years. I had just completed my comprehensive examinations and defended my thesis proposal. Two important hoops. Little did I know how many more were to come. I decided that of all the Latin American literatures, Mexico was the one for me. A combination of aesthetics and political and religious commentary did it for me. Only later would I find my favourite sexenios (six-year presidential terms), Ávila Camacho and Alemán (1940-1952).
I had just presented at a conference in the rural Midwest and decided to meet up with my brother in Chicago. We stayed at a hostel in Greektown (recommended for both food and inexpensive stays: the Parthenon) and took ourselves on the most unique tour of Chicago any two people have ever taken. We saw the Bean, the Chicago Public Library, the Navy Pier and other conventional tourist things. Then we went to find the site of a historic murder (Leopold and Loeb) and took refuge from the rain in a what essentially was a Gospel Hall McDonald’s. It sold gospel music CDs from local singers. That was one of those times when you realize that you are on transit and that your stop is not really where you would normally want to get off so you look at your sibling and say, ok, think back to backpacking in Central America. Let’s keep the map in the pocket. Let’s accidentally go to the South Side of Chicago.
The next day my brother had to go back to school and so I looked through a tour guide at the hostel. I found a list of hipster coffee shops (second spiritual homeland, after the desert) and an offhand remark about cheap tacos. So I took transit all over the city to find both. The experience of being able to order tacos, consommé and coke was life-changing. Indeed, this was the point déclenchent, or deciding factor in my future escapades on a taco tour. And I don’t even really like birria.