South Asian and Mexican foods aren’t typically perceived as valuable, or worth more than ‘cheap eats’. That’s why Saqib Keval and Norma Listman created Masala y Maiz: to bring food back to community, where it’s valued. But there are complexities–Mexico City is undergoing a gentrification crisis, rising rent and erasing Spanish in some areas, and many customers are seeking out hotspot restaurants like Masala y Maiz. Mexico City is so fed up with gentrifying Americans that flyers are popping up: “New to the city? Working remotely? You’re a f—ing plague and the locals f—ing hate you. Leave.”
Masala y Maiz is countering this by completely reimagining how their restaurant runs: they employ a collective leadership model in the restaurant, and everything from their wine to corn is sourced ethically and specifically – often from female owned and indigenous companies.
Gentrification is just one of many challenges Masala y Maiz has risen to meet and overcome over the years: from attempted extortions by government agencies, being shut down, and ongoing corruption and bureaucracy in the food industry. Not only have they refused to pay the bribes, they’re bringing community back to the industry and to Mexico City.