This weekend I am attending the second annual Casa 1910 Experience. It’s a mini celebration/festival-like weekend hosted by Casa 1910 cigars. Casa 1910 cigars is based in Mexico City. The company ties a lot of what it does in terms of its branding to the history of Mexico circa the Mexican Revolution. While today Mexican tobacco is a staple to the cigars we consume, the cigar and tobacco industry in Mexico is still somewhat an unknown. The purpose of this trip was not so much to look at the Mexican cigar industry, but to get a better look at Mexico’s (and in particular Mexico City’s) cigar culture. Today I recap observations from my first day in Mexico City. This is not meant to be a primer on Mexico City, but in a true blog-like fashion capture some thoughts of my first day in the Mexican capital.
Mexico is a huge country. It is the 14th largest in area and 10th in population in the world. The San Andres region, the most prominent growing and cigar-producing region, is eight hours east/southeast of Mexico City in the Veracruz region. This is not something that the Casa 1910 Experience will be visiting. The focus is more from a cultural end of things from Mexico City.
When many people in the U.S. think of Mexico its of vacation areas such as Acapulco, Cancun, or Puerta Vallarta. Some may also have a vision of border cities such as Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, or Nuevo Laredo. Compared to either the vacation or border cities perspectives, Mexico City is completely different. It’s a tremendous city with a huge metropolitan area. The best word I can think of to characterize it is sprawl. It’s one of the largest metropolises in the world, and it’s the second largest urban area in the Western Hemisphere behind Sao Paolo Brazil. The metropolitan area has a population of nearly 22 million. It’s also one of the more densely populated metropolises in the world – at 6,202 people per square kilometer. There are still cities that are larger and have more people, but when you factor in overall size, overall population, and density factor the spectacle of this city is amazing.
Mexico City sits 7,349 feet above sea level, so it’s a high elevation. So far, the temperature for this late November trip has gone from 48 degrees at night to 75 degrees during the day. There have been a couple of waves of thunderstorms that have come through the city since I’ve been here.
The traffic is simply unreal in parts of the city. From what I have seen in my first 24 hours in Mexico City, it’s not just the morning or evening commute, but lunchtime or late night. Chances are if you are going someplace by car, you will hit a traffic delay.
It’s not a very expensive city to stay in. Relatively speaking an Uber ran me under $2.50 USD plus tip to go 1.4 miles even with heavy traffic. I saw mojitos for under $5.00. The hotel I am staying at – which is one of the better ones in any urban area I’ve stayed in, is running only about $100.00 USD. I’ve had some good meals for under $20.00 USD. I’ll talk about cigar prices in a little bit.
Let’s turn our attention to cigars in Mexico City. You have this huge sprawling and densely populated metropolis, but there seemed to be slim pickings in terms of smoking in cigar lounges – and even premium tobacconists. In general, it was very tough to find a place to smoke period. The city instituted an indoor smoking ban back in 2008. Smoking has also been banned in many public places. Walking on the streets, I didn’t even see a lot of cigarette smokers.
I stayed in a hotel located in Mexico City’s financial district and adjacent to the Zona Rosa neighborhood. This area is beautiful part of the city with trees adorning the avenues, it has a sort of Greenwich Village theme, but Latin American style. Mexico City has a reputation for being one where you have to be very aware of your surroundings. While these neighborhoods are some of the safer ones in Mexico City, the urban guy in me keeps the sixth sense going when it comes to surroundings.
On my first day, I met up with Ivan Ocampo of Cigar Snob magazine in an elevator at my hotel. I was heading up to the roof (going the wrong way on the elevator as we were heading down) and he broke the news to me you could not smoke on the roof. He happened to be heading to a place called Cigar Point and invited me along. We experienced the brutal traffic of Mexico City. A 1.4-mile ride took about 35 minutes.
Cigar Point is a combination of an indoor and outdoor lounge. It’s located upstairs from Mercado Roma in the bustling Roma District of Mexico City. Mercado Roma could best be described as a combination of a food bazaar and bar. You walk into it and take an elevator up to the third floor where Cigar Point is. The humidor is small by U.S. standards, but I don’t have a baseline yet to compare it to other Mexican cigar stores. In the humidor was a mix of Cuban and Non-Cuban cigars (nearly a 50/50 split). The U.S. brands included Rocky Patel, Oliva, Gurkha, and Alec Bradley. Price-wise, it was hard to gauge, but it was probably slightly expensive by normal U.S. standards, but cheaper in terms of New York and Las Vegas pricing standards. While I will say the Roma neighborhood’s bars and restaurants attract a younger crowd, Cigar Point was more my scene.
There is a reason why Casa 1910 is hosting their event this weekend. Sunday, November 20th is Mexico’s Revolution Day Holiday (it’s also officially celebrated on the third Monday of November which is November 21 this year). November 20 marks the start of the Mexican Revolution. It essentially is Mexican Independence Day. There is a pretty cool feeling about being in the heart of Mexico City during a very important holiday. One highlight about the neighborhood I am staying in is that is a short walk from the Angel de la Independencia monument. This was built back in 1910 and meant to commemorate another milestone: 100 years of independence from Spain as a result of the Mexican War of Independence.
There are two other big events going on this weekend. First, the FIFA World Cup opens in Qatar, and soccer is huge in Mexico. Mexico is competing in Qatar. While Mexico’s first match won’t take place until after I depart, there definitely is an energy. Second, the San Francisco 49ers are playing the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca. I won’t be attending (nor do I have any desire to go to the game), but I’m seeing some Americans in town who are making the trip to the game. I was in London in 2018 when the Eagles played the Jaguars and the city was ablaze with excitement for that game. I’m not seeing the same energy from the 49ers game, but imagine it might gain momentum.
We will have other installments in “The Blog” from the 2022 Casa 1910 Experience!