Philadelphia: Explore Philly's Latino Side

Philadelphia: Explore Philly's Latino Side

Philadelphia: Explore Philly's Latino Side

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PHILADELPHIA, March 1, 2016 – Art lovers are saying viva el arte to the eagerly anticipated exhibition Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism: 1910-1950 coming to the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 25, 2016 through January 8, 2017. A first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Mexico City’s Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, this 200-piece show features paintings, prints, books, broadsheets and many, many murals—perfect for Philadelphia, boasting more than 3,800 murals on walls all over the city. The show includes works from groundbreaking legends Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to important contemporaries such as Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo) and María Izquierdo. Philadelphia is the only city in the U.S. to host this extraordinary exhibition.

Thanks to a vibrant Mexican community, visitors to the show can experience the joy and richness of Mexican art and culture in Philadelphia beyond the museum’s walls. The award-winning City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program features numerous works by artists Michelle Ortiz and Cesar Viveros at locations around town. Philadelphia abounds with taquerias and fine-dining establishments where chefs serve up traditional cuisine or updated takes on their hometown recipes. And fiestas, celebrations and other special events highlight the colorful culture of the red, white and green.

Here are some places where Mexico meets Philly:

Viva el Arte:

  • Centro Musical stocks the largest collection of Latino music CDs in the entire state. It’s also a one-stop shop for musical instruments and a good place to find hits by Vicente Fernandez, Ana Gabriel and Pedro Fernandez. 464 W. Lehigh Avenue, (215) 425-7050
  • Founded by artists Isaiah and Julia Zagar in 1968, the Eyes Gallery specializes in Latin American crafts, textiles and exotic jewelry from Mexico, Peru, Haiti and elsewhere in South America and the Caribbean. From colorful Day of the Dead figurines and dolls to pottery from celebrated artist Josefina Aguilar, the gallery offers three floors of hand-picked fair-trade items from around the globe. 402 South Street, (215) 925-0193, eyesgallery.com
  • A vivid palette of global folk and contemporary art decorates the showroom at Indigo Arts, featuring the finest folk and contemporary art from Latino hotspots such as Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua. 1400 N. American Street, (215) 765-1041, indigoarts.com
  • All around town, art lovers can connect with Mexican culture courtesy of works created by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Recognizing the new merchants in the Italian Market, Journeys South: Different Paths, One Market by muralist Michelle Ortiz appears on canopies covering produce carts along 9th Street. At 3rd Street and Girard Avenue, visitors can view Fuego Nuevo (New Fire), a mural by Cesar Viveros that speaks to his Mexican heritage. And another work by Viveros, The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century, commemorates Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and is even signed by the pontiff himself. It’s on display at 11th and Thompson streets. (215) 685-0750, muralarts.org
  • A visual fantasy land of winding paths and secret passages, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens shows off the Mexican folk art that influences Isaiah Zagar’s work. Walls, ceilings, even floors are lined with mosaics fashioned from mirrors, tiles and found objects. 1020 South Street, (215) 733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org

Eat & Drink Up:

  • At the 12th Street Cantina in Reading Terminal Market, shoppers can dig into a plate of freshly made tortas, burritos, enchiladas, ensaladas and other menu items or stock up on all the fixings to whip up a traditional Mexican meal at home. 1136 Arch Street, (215) 625-0321, readingterminalmarket.org
  • One of the first places to make the neighborhood around East Passyunk Avenue a must-visit (and must-taste) destination, Cantina Los Caballitos draws crowds in search of craft beer, tequila flights and all sorts of flavored margaritas. Regulars often go for the slow-cooked goat with pickled red onions and vegan fajitas. 1651 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 755-3550, cantinaloscaballitos.com
  • Chef Jose Garces’ University City outpost has been transformed into Distrito Taqueria, a casual eatery serving up a menu inspired by Mexico City’s street food scene. In addition to the must-have guacamole, diners can’t wait to dive into plates of burritos, tacos and quesadillas made with ground beef, al pastor, chicken, tofu chorizo, sirloin and more. 3945 Chestnut Street, (215) 222-1657, philadelphia.distritorestaurant.com
  • Like its Passyunk Avenue sibling Cantina Los Caballitos, the Dos Segundos Cantina in Northern Liberties serves creative Mexican fare such as vegan “beef” tacos (made with seitan) and slow-cooked goat, plus endless chips and salsa, flights of tequila, 20 different fruit and specialty margaritas and a fiesta-like atmosphere. 931 N. 2nd Street, (215) 629-0500, cantinadossegundos.com
  • The Super Torta, a smorgasbord of a sandwich that includes carnitas, fried egg with chorizo, ham, pork al pastor, head cheese, breaded steak, quesillo, pineapple, avocado, refried beans, jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on Mexican bread, is for El Jarocho’s hearty eaters only. Those with smaller appetites can feast on fish tacos, tostados, burritos and other authentic cuisine at this South Philadelphia bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot. 1138 S. 13th Street, (215) 463-2205
  • restauranteur Stephen Starr has added his distinctive modern flair to traditional south of the border cuisine at El Rey, a Mexican-inspired diner that offers flavor-rich brunch, lunch and dinner items, as well as an impressive selection of tequilas and mezcals. 2013 Chestnut Street, (215) 563-3330, elreyrestaurant.com
  • Combining traditional Mexican comestibles with updated flavors, the El Vez menu features tasty dishes such as tuna tostadas, crispy mahi mahi tacos and pasilla braised pork—the perfect accompaniments to yummy margaritas. 121 S. 13th Street, (215) 928-9800, elvezrestaurant.com
  • While there are still dozens of Old World merchants selling farm-picked produce, meats, fish, poultry, spices and cheeses in the Italian Market, the nation’s oldest outdoor market has kept up with changing times. The influx of Mexican vendors, taquerias and bodegas has added diverse flavors to shoppers’ baskets, making it is as easy to find jicama and other Mexican produce and food items as it is to order traditional Italian treats. Folks line up early for the only-available-on-weekends tamales at Mole Poblano, and the homemade chorizo at Los Amigos Food Market is a favorite among cooks who want authentic flavors. 9th Street between Federal & Fitzwater Streets, italianmarketphilly.org
  • Quick with tasty, authentic apps and entrees and even quicker with stiff margaritas, Las Bugambilias delights discerning diners with menu items from three different regions in Mexico, but their calling card is the seafood of Veracruz, chef Carlos Molina’s hometown.
    148 South Street, (215) 922-3190, lasbugambiliasphilly.com
    • From south of the border to North Philadelphia, Las Cazuelas satisfies patrons’ Mexican cravings. Philly native Alfredo Aquilar cooks up classic ceviche, popular mole poblano and much more at this popular BYOB spot. 426 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 351-9144, lascazuelas.net
  • The scent of fresh-baked pastries and cemitas (Mexican sandwich bread) mingled with the aroma of just-made Cuban coffee and tres leches lures in a steady stream of all ethnicities to Las Rosas Cafeteria Y Panderia. Smoothies, virgin mojitos and Italian breads round out the selection at this cozy neighborhood café. 1712 S. 8th Street, (215) 551-1027
  • When a food truck evolved into the brick-and-mortar South Philly Barbacoa, lovers of authentic Mexican lamb tacos rejoiced. Petite and vibrant, the business belongs to Chef Cristina Martinez, who recently began grinding her own masa for her tortillas. 1703 S. 11th Street, (215) 694-3767
  • People step off of 5th Street and into Mexico when they enter Taco Riendo. Hungry patrons indulge in traditional Mexican favorites such as burritos, quesadillas and tacos and sip on whatever they want—it is BYOB, after all. 1301 N. 5th Street, (215) 235-2294
  • Los Taquitos de Puebla sticks to its traditional Mexican taqueria roots by serving only tacos and quesadillas. With mouthwatering dishes like the popular tacos al pastor (pork tacos with pineapple), patrons don’t miss extras like beans and rice. 1149 S. 9th Street, (215) 334-0664
  • It’s all in the name at Tequilas. The beautifully decorated, upscale Mexican restaurant keeps dozens of fine sipping tequilas on hand to complement the expertly prepared, authentic Mexican cuisine. 1602 Locust Street, (215) 251-5152, tequilasphilly.com
  • Tortillas don’t come any fresher than at Tortilleria San Roman, where they’re made while you wait using the same tortilla-making machines found on the streets of Mexico. Their salsas and pico de gallo are infused with traditional spices and the freshly made chips are so flavorful and crunchy, loyal fans travel across town to get their fill. 951 S. 9th Street, (267) 507-9161
  • After years of careful crafting and exploring the techniques of Oaxacan mezcaleros (distillers), the team at Dock Street Spirits has launched Vicio Mezcal, their artisanal take on what has been called the purest spirit on earth. Visitors to sister company Dock Street Brewery can provide information about the drink, though it’s not sold there. 701 S. 50th Street, (215) 726-2337, dockstreetspirits.com
  • A cozy Mexican restaurant that boasts a full bar and intimate 30-seat dining room, Xochitl dishes a wide range of modern Mexican flavors—from crab ceviche and short-rib tamale to carnitas and a 24-hour-brined pollo frito. 408 S. 2nd Street, (215) 238-7280, xochitlphilly.com

Fiestas During The Exhibition:

  • Día de los Muertos, the Mexican folk tradition of honoring departed loved ones on All Saints Day, has captured the imaginations of local arts and cultural organizations. Throughout the Halloween season, celebrations and ceremonies featuring music, costumes, brightly painted sugar skulls, well-dressed skeletons and elaborate altars covered with flickering candles, marigolds and food abound around town. Festivities are on tap at the Penn Museum and Mütter Museum, and an annual parade marks the event on South Street. October-November. Various locations.
  • The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is marked with a traditional serenade and mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, where a shrine honoring the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe holds special meaning to devout Mexicans. December 10. 1723 Race Street,
    (215) 561-1313, cathedralphila.org

Mexican-Americans Making Philly Marvelous:

  • One wouldn’t expect the executive director of the Mexican Cultural Center (MCC) to also be fluent in Norwegian or play a mean set of drums, but doing the unexpected is what makes Ana Flores the go-to person for any number of topics. Since arriving in Philadelphia in 2010 from Puebla, Mexico, she has positioned the MCC as a force on the city’s cultural landscape, forging relationships with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. (215) 592-0410, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • It’s the culinary traditions of his native Mexico that fuel David Suro Piñera’s passion. Together with his wife Ann, the Guadalajara native introduced Philadelphia to upscale, emerging Mexican fare when he opened the elegant Tequilas. He went on to create his own boutique, artisan-crafted tequila brand, Siembra Azul, using some of the proceeds to establish the Siembra Azul Foundation, a non-profit group that empowers Mexican migrant workers to achieve their goals. And despite a breakneck schedule, Piñera sits on numerous boards around town, including Puentes DeSalud, Board of Advisors for Drexel University’s culinary school, Philadelphia Academies Inc. and Friends of Farmworkers. (215) 546-0181, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Cesar Viveros Herrera came to Philadelphia after a stint as a deep-sea diver working on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, where the self-taught artist painted small murals during his downtime. During his early childhood, Herrera’s friends would trade their toys for figures he made from clay dug from his back yard in Veracruz. A chance encounter with a Mural Arts Program artist and his talent for community collaboration ultimately led Herrera to become one of the Mural Art’s most prolific artists. Between Pope Francis signing The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the XXI Century, the mural he painted commemorating the pontiff’s visit, and being sworn in as an American citizen, he counts 2015 as one of his best years ever. (215) 431-0763, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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