Talking and tasting “mole” in San Diego – Eavesdropping Traveler #2


In a town where you’re never quite sure if
you’re in Mexico, the Old West, a down-home US city with classic Americana feel or just
up another cul-de-sac in Southern California’s endless suburban sprawl, the one thing that
seems to unite everyone is a love of good Mexican food. I’m not just talking about your
standard tacos, burritos and chips and salsa. In this town, I’m looking for mole. There are moles galore. You’ve heard of guacamole,
but there are red moles, black moles, green moles, there are moles with namesakes like
the famous mole poblano from the town of Puebla. In Mexico, these are often linked proudly
to some place or region – Oaxaca is the “tierra de los 7 moles” – the land of the 7 moles.
But don’t forget, we’re back up here in San Diego. Our story starts a few blocks past this beautiful
stretch of architecture at the city’s famous zoo, with this guy. I bring him up for two
reasons. One, he’s a subject of extreme interest to some members of my travel party, and two,
his historical territory includes much of Mexico, where he was and even still is a iconic
figure for many traditional cultures. Cultures like the Aztecs. And that’s where I show you
that we’re on this tangent for a reason, besides showing you fuzzy animals, because, like the
Maya and the Zapotecs, Aztec peoples ground up chiles and other ingredients and cooked
them together to form these beautiful sauces, and they’ve done this for hundreds and hundreds
of years. Don’t think that these groups are all just Pre-Columbian peoples of ancient
Mexico, either. The language of the ancient Aztecs was Classical Nahuatl, and today there
are more than a million speakers of modern Nahuatl. That brings us to the real stuff: these savory,
spicy, complex sauces. (That’s what you’re here for, right?) The Aztec word is mōlli.
The Spanish added some ingredients to the mix, and added their language to the mix,
too, but sometimes the mixing went both ways. The Spanish borrowed the word mōlli, pronounced
it “mo-le”, and that’s the way it sounded when these hearty Mexican sauces made their
way to the Southwestern quadrant of these United States, where a lot of people speak
English, at least in some towns on some days. Thanks to all this history, you can scour
San Diego for “mow-layz” in English or “mo-les” in Spanish, but I don’t know how much luck
you’ll have speaking Nahuatl around here.

7 thoughts on “Talking and tasting “mole” in San Diego – Eavesdropping Traveler #2

  1. This was very cool. I'm a Mexican American living in North Carolina, and as such I'm very far from my ancestral cultures. That's not to say that I've ever been close to it. I was born in the south and have grown up in mainstream american culture.

    Anyways, my point is that I'm thankful that you take the time to create a cultural experience while maintaining the core of your Chanel which is language.

    Maybe you could talk about any experience you've have with Conchas? (A Mexican sweet bread)

  2. what about the word "tamal"? because my grandma in Puebla says "tamale", and if you're caught saying that in Los Angeles, I feel like someone will give me the stink eye.

  3. It's hard to believe there are 4K views but only 5 (now 6) comments! Do people have nothing to say about the video?!
    My opinion: I'll ask my friend (who's learning Nahuatl) to go there are try speaking it there.

  4. I was born and raise in San Diego, and I love Mole there. This video is making me miss my hometown. 😢😢😢😢😢😢

  5. South Texan Mexican food > South Californian Mexican food, though. TX is #1! We are much closer to Oaxaca too (but still far)! XD

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