Dinner Diplomacy: Like the Country Itself, Mexico’s Cuisine is Diverse and Misunderstood

Dinner Diplomacy: Like the Country Itself, Mexico’s Cuisine is Diverse and Misunderstood

Javier Diaz de Leon, consul general of Mexico in Atlanta, introduces chefs from Merida at Atlanta’s No Mas Cantina. In 2010, traditional Mexican cuisine received UNESCO World Heritage designation as a cultural treasure, but the joints that serve most Americans must not have gotten the memo.

Many serve a half-baked version featuring beef and chicken as the main proteins, accompanied by cheese, tortillas, rice and beans in a dizzying array of combinations labeled numerically to make ordering simpler. Burrito chains bring another uniquely American dimension, and while they may be wildly successful from a commercial standpoint, they don’t make them like your abuela used to.

If not sophistication, there is a certain efficiency to “American Mexican” cuisine. But the Mexican government’s Atlanta outpost is betting that Americans with more discriminating palates will also make more informed travelers, benefiting the bilateral relationship and the Mexican economy. David Cetina, chef at La Tradicion in Merida, Yucatan, visited Atlanta to showcase traditional Mexican cuisine. Mr. Cetina is one of 25 gastronomic ambassadors designated by Mexico’s foreign ministry to spread the word about the country’s flavors around the globe. “Food is a very strong ingredient now for modern tourism. One of the stronger strategies to promote tourism is to promote Mexico as a gastronomic destination,” said Javier Diaz de Leon , Mexico’s consul general in Atlanta.

For Mexico that’s key, given that tourism accounts for 7.4 percent of gross domestic product and sustains 4 million jobs in the country, according to one report .

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