A bit of Mexico moved to Abuja recently when the first ever Mexican restaurant known as Casa Mexicana The Restaurant- opened in the city, and this was done in part by the traditional cutting of the tape by the Mexican ambassador to Nigeria, Alejandro Garcia-Moreno. Guests were also taken on a guided tour of the restaurant soon after the formalities were over.
This is culinary history in the making, and it will lend some Central American flavour to Abuja’s rich parade of restaurants which present foreign menus. There is also something new here, in the sense that you can buy a gift item and learn about another country (Mexico) while dining. There is genius in the childlike idea, the simple beautiful thought that you may learn while you dine. The mind should not be left vacant. It too can and should feed or be fed. There’s so much to stimulate the mind and delight the tongue, and you will leave Casa Mexicana a more informed human being, who has just had a meal in a slice of Mexico which has resurrected in Abuja.
Here is a total package, which does a lot to grow Nigeria-Mexico relations. It also looks like a place where visiting Mexican artists may wish to perform, and this was suggested by the performance by Martha Gordon-Osagiede, (a Mexican lady married to a Nigerian) who wore one of those large striking black Mexican hats which added much to the event as she sang. Though the event commenced a little late, yet guests who were both Nigerian and foreign were very patient what with the very creative, very colourful setting, nice wooden chairs, smiling chefs in tall white hats, large Mexican jugs, rich meals, and vast Mexican motifs, which all gave promise of a beautiful uplifting evening, and it was. The birth of the restaurant seems to be a natural consequence of the numerous activities of Maria Salinas Adegoroye in Nigeria over the years. With a first class degree from a Mexican university, and three master’s degrees from three different continents, she came to Nigeria twenty years ago, and has been passionately involved in Nigerian and Mexican culture since that time. She has introduced Mexican arts and crafts to Nigerians, and has set up a shop in that direction. Next, she has been engaged in a school cultural programme, and also began the very popular Mexican-Nigerian Christmas party which holds every Christmas in Akure. In her words “This restaurant, which we are opening today, is the latest dimension in my desire to promote Mexico in Nigeria. “She explains the concept of the restaurant “I saw a perfect space to bring on display the colors, taste and beauty of my Mexico; I was imagining a place where anyone can sit and feel that he or she is in the Zocalo –the traditional plaza in any of the towns of Mexico and enjoy the delicious food that many people ask me for in Nigeria.”
The event began with both Christian and Muslim prayers and these were followed by welcome remarks by Dr. Goke Adegoroye, Maria’s gifted husband and retired federal permanent secretary. He described the restaurant as ‘Nigeria’s first dine and shop.’ By this he meant that the restaurant will be a place where visitors will have a meal, but at the same time Mexican items will be on sale around them, and they may wish to make a purchase before leaving. Located in Ceddi plaza, Casa Mexicana will provide free internet service to customers, and there is a colourful area for children to play and recreate themselves while their parents dine in the other wing. Much careful thought went into the idea of the restaurant, and the owners strove for excellence every inch of the way as the restaurant took on form. There will also be many items from Mexico for customers to consider and hopefully buy. Indeed, there are many similarities in Mexican and Nigerian culture, and both cultures have a shared fondness for colours.
But then there is the much spoken about Mexican meals, a major element at Casa Mexicana. According to Mrs. Adegoroye “I am completely proud to bring to Nigeria the real flavours of my Mexican cuisine that was declared by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, ahead of many delicious and famous cuisines of the world, including the French. This honour was given to Mexico because, according to UNESCO, “In Mexico the ingredients and methods of cooking are exactly the same way that the ancestors were doing it hundreds of years ago”…The food that you are going to taste here today has the same ingredients as the food that you find in Mexico ;and I am very proud to inform you that unlike what you will find in many Mexican restaurants outside Mexico, I have been able to produce in Nigeria, using Nigerian maize, authentic fresh Mexican Tortillas.” She refers to “master Chef Roberto Pena Velazquez who as soon as he was told of what I was planning to do in Nigeria, resigned from his job in Mexico and came to help me set it up.” Later Goke and Maria Adegoroye danced while Mexican music played. It was all part of a fun filled opening, and various ambassadors were present, as well as many friends of the Adegoroye family including Dr. Bukar Usman and Dr. Tukur Bello Ingawa, who once provided a donkey for use during an earlier edition of the Nigeria-Mexicana Christmas party in Akure.