It all started after a fairly simple question: Where should we go
next? Having previously focused an entire issue of Swallow Magazine
, the anti-foodie magazine, on the Nordic countries, and then
dedicating one entirely to the Trans-Siberian express, it would be hard -- nay,
almost impossible -- to find something to compete (especially hard to compete
with a weeklong train journey that meanders across Russia, Mongolia and,
finally, into Beijing).
City from above. Torre Latinamerica.
The answer was under our noses. After weeks of deliberation, Mexico
was initially dismissed as being too close, too familiar, and too expected. But
the truth, really, was a reluctance to engage with a country and cuisine quite
literally thousands of years old, and enough information to fill 20 issues
alone. Enter Mexico City. A condensed slice of the country -- hectic, chaotic,
polluted, and dangerous -- the capital certainly had its reputation cut out for
it. We booked the first flight out.
Mexico City is filled
with Cantinas; traditionally a kind of bar frequented by males for drinking
alcohol and free food. The cantina's golden age was in the 1940s and 50s and they are slowly
disappearing or being renovated. This is El Gallo D’oro, founded in 1874.
Upon arrival, it quick became clear that Mexico City’s reputation,
while true in parts, was much exaggerated. While parts held the lure of illicit
pleasures, others promised tranquility and sophisticated elegance. The once-faded Roma neighborhood, with its Belle Époque architecture, was the
image of turn of the century Austria set in Latin America. And Condesa, green
and leafy, and dotted with Deco, was quite the urban planners dream. Mexico
City was clearly not what we thought it might have been.
U. de G. A cantina specializing in roasted goat.
The reality is that Mexico's capital is, at once, full of chaos and
also calm. A sophisticated metropolis of urban extremes. A city where the old,
the new and everything in between could, would, and always do, meet in the
middle. Following a brief encounter with the city's chief architect for
municipal works, we were promised a helicopter ride with the Mexico City Police
Department to see the full extent of the city's sprawl. In for a penny, in for
a pound as they say. Arriving at the police headquarters on the edge of the
historic center, we were quickly ushered through to the heliport. Waiting in
the sun sat a sparkling blue police chopper, blades slowly whirring. We got
El Mirador. A cantina where women are still prohibited from visiting the bar area.
ascent was brief and without any turbulence, and we headed towards the city
center. Our aim: to shoot the iconic (and Empire Stateesque) Torre Latinamerica
for the cover of the magazine. At first glance, readers might associate the
image with New York, but after a closer look it's clear that before you lies a
different entity all together. A city no less exciting than the Big Apple, and
much, much more unexpected.
Left: Strange fruit from the Central de Abasto wholesale market. Right: A cook from Nico’s in
Colonia Azcapotzalco, a restaurant with only women in the kitchen.
Nilsson is a photographer based in New York City. Born in Sweden, Marcus
attended culinary school and worked his way through the industry to be an executive
chef before moving to New York to continue his food career. In 1999, he
gave up cooking for art school, where he was introduced to photography after
taking an darkroom class the second semester. Marcus’ work has appeared in
various food publications including Martha Stewart Living, Food&Wine and Bon
Appetit. He can be found on Instagram
sharing his daily snapshots.
Marcus is part of The Opener,
an exclusive, invite-only contributor
network that will bring the best food, culture, and innovation writing to the
pages of Coca-Cola Journey.