I took a short trip to Detroit, Michigan where I became quite fascinated with the existence of an area called Mexicantown. This is a small portion of Southwest Detroit that is home to a large Hispanic population which was settled in the 1940’s by a flood of workers looking for those promising industrial jobs that once powered Detroit’s economy- it is here that I ate tamales. The tamale and its journey to my mouth is a story too long to tell in a short blog post. It is the result of layered histories and migrations which have produced: Tamaleria Restaurant Nuevo Leon. No bells and whistles here- just tamales. To the right of the ordering window hangs a large poster of Mexico reminding those visitors who pass through of the origins and traditions of the people that make up this small institution.
So I ate some tamales outside Tamaleria Nuevo Leon, and as I sat on the side of the road enjoying this hot steamy treat I pondered to myself, what is this place? This may seem to be a simple question, but like anything Hispanic- the history goes deep. Yes we can all locate it on a map: 2669 W Vernor Hwy Detroit, MI. But what actually is this place? I do not think it can be defined by the geographical borders that contain it nor can we say that it is Mexico. Here we have an amalgamation created by the journeys of those who have traveled and formed it.
This is the mapped area of Mexicantown, Detroit, and yes, it lets you know very little to almost no information about the place. However, perhaps the corn husk that formally contained my steamy treat, which sits in the shape of this cultural district can give you a better idea.