The sidewalks of Mexico City are crowded with small food stands that draw big lunch crowds. But, it has found little space in its heart for gourmet food trucks serving traditional food such as tlayudas, a toasted corn tortilla topped with shredded beef, avocado, cheese and hot salsa.
These kitchens-on-wheels are in a legal limbo in Mexico city, where police chase them out of the streets while lawmakers fail to regulate their businesses, forcing them to huddle in places like parking lots or street fairs.
With the help of social media including Twitter, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram the food trucks advertise their locations to their loyal customers. They publish pictures of their menus, ranging from sushi to Lebanese kebabs.
Fernando Reyes, president of Foodtrucks DF, an association that represents dozens of the city's nearly 300 food trucks, said, "When food trucks park on a street, transit police or a borough authority arrives to kick them out. While they now exist in the northwestern border city of Tijuana and the Caribbean resort of Cancun, food trucks cannot operate freely like in other countries."
The food truckers spend between $24,000 to $120,000 to start their businesses. The owners admit that they pay bribes to stay open.
Several bills have been proposed in the capital's legislature to allow these food trucks to operate as long as their food quality and gas and water tanks are regulated. Priscila Vera, a former city lawmaker for the conservative National Action Party, said, "The proposed legislation was killed due to 'complicity' between the authorities and leaders of the street food stands."
Critics say that the traditional food stands lack sanitary standards, with no running water, boiling oil or water in large cauldrons from the early morning.
In contrast, Reyes said, "The food truckers want to work legally and pay taxes, promising high sanitary standards with stainless steel stoves, water tanks and refrigeration." His association is pushing for legislators to revive the bill to finally give the food trucks a place in the capital.