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Beauty Brand Owner Adama Conté Santiago's Guide to Black-Owned Mexico City

Black business owner and tourism graduate Adama Conté Santiago gives us her guide to the best of Mexico City.

A panorama of the Mexico City skyline
Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

Mexican-Guinean Adama Conté Santiago is the owner of Mexico City’s low-waste botanical beauty brand Maëva Botanic Atelier, designed with the environment in mind.

“I’m a tourism graduate but found my passion in herbalism,” she says. “Maëva Botanic Atelier was born out of a trip to French Polynesia where I lived and worked for six months.” It was there that she made a promise to herself to protect the natural world in order to preserve the beauty around her at the time. “Maëva is all about simplifying the products we use, knowing the ingredients we’re giving our body, and healing our issues from the inside out.”

Here, Adama goes back to her tourism roots, sharing her top tips for making the most of your stay in Mexico City.

Adama looks at camera with loose afro hair and a yellow shawl over her face
Adama Conté Santiago is the owner of Maëva Botanic Atelier in Mexico City.Foto: Adama Conté Santiago

Where to stay in Mexico City

As one of the largest cities in the world, deciding where to stay in Mexico City can be tricky, especially for the first-time visitor. “If you want to hang out with expats and people of all nationalities, or you’re looking for a youthful neighborhood with a party spirit, I’d recommend staying in Roma or Condesa,” says Adama.

For a more local experience, there are two clear options—Coyoacán, known for its leafy plazas and the popular Frida Kahlo Museum; or the Centro Historico, with its historic buildings and world-class attractions.

What to see and do in Mexico City

For Adama, it’s worth exploring both barrios (neighborhoods) and museums in Mexico City, including Centro Historico, where you’ll find the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes); Santa María la Ribera, home to the El Chopo Museum; and Chapultepec Park’s Anthropology Museum and the Tamayo Museum. Polanco’s Jumex Museum is another favorite of hers.

Then, ride a bike down Paseo de la Reforma, tour the cantinas on Plaza Garibaldi, or browse and buy at La Lagunilla Market in the company of a local guide. Don’t miss the Alameda Central, the MUAC, and the futuristic-looking Vasconcelos Library (Biblioteca Vasconcelos) either.

The Kiosko Morisco in Mexico City.
The Kiosko Morisco in Santa María la Ribera is a highlight of the neighborhood.Foto: Abaru.Go / Shutterstock

Where to eat and drink in Mexico City

Few places do dining quite like Mexico City, home to options ranging from streetside vendors cooking up local snacks to splurge-worthy restaurants in districts such as Polanco. Adama agrees, serving up an all-caps recommendation for budget travelers: “TACOS. You’ll find a taco stand on any corner where you can eat a lot for a little. You can also eat in markets and tianguis [open-air street markets].”

If there’s a little more wiggle room in your budget, “check out any Coyoacán restaurant for typical Mexican dishes, or head to Santa María la Ribera for burgers and snacks in a charming neighborhood.” Roma, Condesa, and Polanco, meanwhile, are the places to go big or go home when it comes to great dining in glamorous restaurants.

For post-dinner drinks, Adama suggests visiting cocktail bars such as Supra Rooftop, Toledo, Fifty Mils at the Four Seasons, Bar Oriente, and Gin Gin. Wherever you go, look for places with a rooftop terrace “because the city at night is a show worth watching.”

a hand holds a plate of tacos al pastor while the other hand pours on salsa verde in Mexico City
Tacos are the lifeblood of Mexico City.Foto: Marcos Castillo / Shutterstock

Other top Black-owned businesses in Mexico City

When it comes to other Black-owned businesses in Mexico City, Adama recommends Emaye for cosmetics and textiles, and Laurice Fox for sustainable footwear for femmes, designed between New York City and Mexico City.

She also has some tips for other Black-owned businesses in the Mexican capital: “Don’t be afraid to show your roots; you’ll be surprised how many people identify with your story. Demonstrate that cultural diversity exists in Mexico City.”

Black history in Mexico City

Much like in Peru, Black Mexicans were only recognized on the census in recent years, with some Afro-Mexicans reporting being wrongly deported to Haiti or Honduras by Mexican authorities. However, Adama has seen progress in recent years.

“A decade ago, you’d see few Black people in Mexico City, but in the last four years, it’s been incredible to watch as more and more Black people have migrated to the city. [Meanwhile], more Afro-Mexicans are recognizing their roots,” says Adama of the capital.

Skyline of Mexico City at night
Mexico City comes to life at night.Foto: Suriel Ramzal / Shutterstock

All quotes from Adama Conté Santiago have been translated from Spanish to English by Lauren Cocking.

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