- Marcos Gonzalez Diaz
- BBC News Mundo correspondent in Mexico
A neighborhood in Mexico City popularly known as “tacolandia” has been attracting a lot of attention in recent years.
It is not about the cinematic Roma neighborhood. Neither of his neighbor Countess, a favorite place for so many foreigners to live. Not even from the affluent Polanco area.
A little further south, the Narvarte neighborhood is seeing how, after having renowned artists among its illustrious neighbors decades ago, the interest in living in this area is once again skyrocketing after it has become fashionable.
Magazine Time Out, for example, included it in October between the 40 coolest neighborhoods in the world. Downtown São Paulo, Brazil, is the only other Latin American enclave to appear on the list.
Narvarte is “a neighborhood that is emerging as one of the best places to live and visit in Mexico City,” says the magazine, which highlights its gastronomic offer (“the taco hunter’s mecca”) and the solidarity of their neighbors.
But what is this neighborhood of the Mexican capital that has been talked about in recent years really like?
Between tacos and gourmet places
Located in the Benito Juárez delegation, Narvarte is one of the youngest neighborhoods in the city since its birth in the 1940s.
Although it lives with the constant noise of the planes that fly over the area, the neighborhood is perceived as a place away from the bustle of the historic center (which, curiously, is not that far), full of wide streets and green areas that invite you to walk.
Its reputation as “cradle of the taco” is, of course, well deserved: almost on every corner you can find one of these places, with the famous meat tops at the entrance ready to prepare the tacos al pastor.
El Bilsito, which during the day works as a mechanical workshop, at night it becomes one of the busiest taquerías thanks to its appearance in the well-known series “Las Crónicas del Taco” (and its irresistible dishes, obviously).
But in Narvarte the most traditional businesses coexist with another style of more refined restaurants, breweries handcrafted or signature cafes that multiplied dramatically in recent years.
“I think that the businesses that are opening are what attract people. There are many new and welcoming places, while other neighborhoods are already saturated,” he tells BBC Mundo Abigail Martinez, who opened his plant store Lévaro Plants and Crafts four months ago.
“Some girls told me the other day that ‘Narvarte is the new Condesa (colony),” she says, while proudly stating that her cute business is going ahead despite starting in the middle of the pandemic. “Although people did not go out, those who passed took things.”
Sense of community
These places have attracted a young population or of a more alternative wave, which already saw potential in Narvarte due to its relative safety, good communications, less seismic movements and, above all, prices to live lowers than in other known areas.
Pinche Gringo BBQ, a restaurant specialized in meat in the southern United States style, claims to be one of the first businesses other than taquerías and cantinas that was installed in Narvarte back in 2013.
“It is a pride to be part of this growth,” its founder tells BBC Mundo And Defossey, the New Yorker who for obvious reasons gives the place its name.
“This neighborhood is eclectic, a mix of classes that you see in the restaurant itself, where you can have a family from Interlomas sharing the same table with another from Iztapalapa (one of the most expensive and one of the most humble areas of the city) . That does not happen in other places “, ensures.
In it coincides Javier Azuara, a young photographer from the city of Toluca who chose Narvarte when he moved to Mexico City four years ago in search of more affordable rentals than those in Roma or Condesa.
“Narvarte is still a neighborhood, the community formed by the neighbors is felt and not everyone lives in their own way. It has everything that other areas offer, but cheaper. That’s why I prefer to live here, “he explains to BBC Mundo.
In Pinche Gringo they also highlight the solidarity of the residents of the area. “In a pandemic, people bought us not only because they like the food, but because they told us that they did not want us to close,” they recall.
The inevitable gentrification
However, as is the case almost every time an area becomes fashionable, Narvarte has experienced a boom real estate in recent years it has largely altered its essence.
Sergio RodriguezA resident of the neighborhood since he was born 65 years ago, he tells how many of the older people who lived here were selling their properties “to a very aggressive real estate movement.”
“And for about seven years, they have not stopped building buildings that they call upper-middle class that are worth many millions of pesos,” he tells BBC Mundo.
“Young couples usually arrive, with income … and with pets. They no longer have children You hardly see each other on the street like when I was little and we used to play in the street “, this textile entrepreneur responds when asked about the changes he is observing in his neighborhood.
And while longtime residents criticize that prices have risen, those who own properties are also satisfied that their investments have increased in value.
According to a study published in January by the real estate portal properties.com, Vértiz Narvarte (in the south of the colony) was the fourth area of Mexico City with the highest increase in capital gains during 2019: 74.11%.
“It always happens that when a neighborhood reaches the top of ‘cool’, as it happened with Condesa and Roma, people look for another one nearby, it makes it famous, it begins to gentrify, it becomes more expensive and it reaches a ceiling again”, Azuara thinks.
“Perhaps the next one is the Doctores neighborhood, where people from the Roma neighborhood are already moving to get much cheaper prices. The same thing will end up happening to Narvarte, it will reach its peak in perhaps five years, “predicts the photographer.
Young but with history
Waiting to find out what will happen in the future, the Narvarte has enough historical charm to also take a look at its past.
Founded on the land of a hacienda around the Rio de la Piedad, one of the most widespread beliefs is that the colony owes its name to who was president of Venezuela, Andrés Narvarte.
But experts like the ethnohistorian Armando Ruiz Aguilar, Born and raised in Narvarte, they detract from that theory.
“There is nothing that links the life of that character with Mexico, while in the General Archive of the Nation there is a document from 1780 that says that the owner of that hacienda was called Joseph de Narvarte, or ‘de Nalvarte’ “, he tells BBC Mundo.
Since then, numerous personalities have lived in its streets, from the singer Pedro Infante, the writers José Agustín and Parménides García Saldaña, or Ernesto “Che” Guevara himself before embarking to Cuba.
Its architectural history highlights points such as the Ethiopia roundabout, inaugurated when Emperor Haile Sélassié visited Mexico in 1954 as thanks to having been one of the few countries that supported him before the invasion by Italy. A replica was built in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Another of the emblematic places was the Social Security Sports Park -currently converted into a shopping center- and that in addition to being the scene of innumerable baseball games also served as the main morgue for thousands of victims of the 1985 earthquake.
In that earthquake and in 2017, the building of the Ministry of Communications and Transportation was seriously damaged, already evicted, and whose beautiful murals by José Chávez Morado and Juan O’Gorman are nevertheless one of the most emblematic symbols of Narvarte .
Due to all these memories of the past, and despite all the changes that Narvarte is experiencing, Sergio Rodríguez assures that he would not move to another neighborhood after more than six decades in it.
“The Mexican is deeply rooted in his land and, for me, Narvarte is my little town. I like my neighborhood and, if it were in my hand … here I would die “, ensures.
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Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.