a morenita in mexico
Cristina Lugo is our pitch perfect brown girl guide to a culture so deep and varied, it stuns the soul. The Morenita Experience welcomes you to Mexico.
by: uma ramiah
There are some people in this world so infectious, so wild with zeal and talent, they seem to seep into your very bones. I have a number of these gems in my life. I just found another one in Mexico City.
Cristina Lugo knows and loves and experiences Mexico the way I think so many of us more displaced souls wish we did our own homelands: with depth, knowledge, glee, and a deep reverence. Her built-from-scratch business, Morenita Experience, curates luxury, insider experiences across the country for visitors looking to get past the tourist shit and feel just a little bit at home. I promise you, this is the only company I’ve encountered that actually does this. A few days with the Morenita team in Mexico City turned me from out-of-towner to insider, real quick, just as promised.
What’s the alchemy here? Morenita clearly sprung from something deep within Cristina: you can feel it when you spend time with her. The company is something she needed to build: like it’s filling a hole in her heart. She’s devoted to the (criminally underrated) elegance and intricacies and treasures of Mexican culture, and she’s fighting to share, celebrate and uplift them.
I hadn’t visited Mexico before I touched down in its big city a few months ago. Such riches I’d been missing. Mountain air and wide boulevards, expansive architecture, unparalleled art and music, exquisite food (on the streets and in the Michelins - how unbearably little the rest of us know about the bright star that is Mexican cuisine). And of course, the beautiful everyday hustle of a big city filled with every kind.
It’s overwhelming. Where to start? A lucky connection through a friend and a little research got me in touch with the Morenita herself, her warmth and welcome palpable even over email. And the expertise: after years of working with the best restaurants, hotels, travel, and art and creatives across Mexico, Cristina’s able to encounter travelers, quickly get to the bottom of the kind of experience they’re looking for, and open just the right doors.
“I’m taking some chef friends to Xochimilco Thursday morning,” she offered. “Join us, no?”
Off I went to her world, one where an already vibrant and welcoming city feels like it’s become family, sharing all its best secrets. She whisked me off at the crack of dawn for a misty-and-mysterious boat ride to the ancient Xochimilco canals for a visit to Yolcan, a farm collective growing fresh produce for some of the city’s best restaurants. I ate a gorgeous breakfast of fresh-made mole and quesadillas with chefs and foodies and farmers, learning all about the ancient Aztec farming techniques Yolcan’s working to preserve.
Another night was dinner at a Japanese-Mexican standing-room-only speakeasy for natural wine and some of the best bar snacks I’ve ever munched, followed by late-night stop in cowboy boots for all-night cumbia dancing at a neighborhood spot lined with red leather booths and a light up dance floor.
Cristina knows how you want to feel in a city you don’t know. How you want to let the best of it seep into your bones, just like she does. And she does it with such grace, whether gently informing and redirecting a couple Dutch tourists making faces at that gorgeous traditional mole for breakfast, or a giving a wild ride of an introduction to the world of Mexican modern art.
We tourists can be so damaging, with our deep need to be entertained, with how we feed greedily on the places we visit, with how we trod joylessly down too-well trodden paths. Morenita encourages another approach: an open-hearted, curious one that’s structured with respect, and that uplifts independent creatives, chefs, farmers, artists, musicians and small business owners. Cristina also rejects the celebration of “cheapness.” She’s pushing for Mexicans to value their own culture, and price it accordingly.
A delicious bonus: the definition of Morenita? Brown girl. As Morenita’s comms director Bella Luna writes,“Cristina named a luxury travel service - that for the most part caters to an American & European wealthy 1% - MORENITA, a term that refers to a brown-skinned woman, to the Virgen de Guadalupe, to Mexico’s indigenous heritage.”
She goes on:
“Perhaps this is the dawn of a new era where brown-skinned women will be held as ambassadors, as The Face, as the reference for Mexico. If we are truly honest with ourselves, there is nothing more appropriate, no greater justice, than having Mexico represented by una mujer morena. Perhaps it’s through the story of women like Yalitza or Cristina or so many others like them that Mexico rebuilds its pride and notion of self-worth and finally understands that all things Anglo are wonderful, but in Mexico, from now on, the more Mexican, the more morenita, the more valuable, the more desired, the higher the worth.”
Get it, Morenita, Cristina, you gold/dust woman. We’re behind you.
From the team: Morenita Experience is a luxury travel service that curates unique experiences of Mexico’s food, art and culture for individuals and companies. Our mission is to expose like-minded global citizens to the core of México’s cultural excellence. For stories and inspiration follow @morenita.experience on Instagram & Facebook. For a complete list of services, monthly newsletter, vlogs, blogs, and cultural content visit morenitaexperience.com For inquiries, availability and rates email firstname.lastname@example.org