December 2, 2010
By Devlin Houser for the Tucson Weekly
NEW YORK — A small kettle of coffee spiced with sugar and cinnamon steeps atop a gas griddle nestled carefully in a shopping cart.
Yazmín Ortega, wearing a houndstooth coat, an apron and a baseball cap, adeptly flips a corn tortilla. She fills the taco with guisado, adds a dollop of red salsa and, with a shy smile, hands it to her customer.
The scene could easily be one in Ortega’s native state of Guerrero, Mexico. Instead, the scene plays out in New York City’s East Harlem, a neighborhood that in recent years has earned the well-deserved nickname of “Little Mexico.”
Along 116th Street, the epicenter of East Harlem’s Mexican community, shops advertise red-white-and-green long-distance calling cards, foods like tamarind and dried hibiscus, and CDs sporting the visages of Los Tigres del Norte, the popular Mexican-American band.
New York City has experienced huge growth in its Mexican population, changing the nature of long-established neighborhoods like East Harlem.