Kitchener-Waterloo

Taco Stand Project brings spirit of Mexico to Cambridge

A new project by The Idea Exchange in Cambridge will give residents a new way to connect with one another, organizers say.

Project aims to give residents a new way to connect - sometimes over tacos

The Taco Stand Project at The Idea Exchange in Cambridge is meant to give residents a new venue to connect. (Luis Alvaz)

Smiling faces, quick conversations, the smell of cooked meat and warm tortillas - it's a familiar scene in many Mexican cities.

A taco stand may be the most authentic place in Mexico to get a meal, a hub of the community and local economy. Iga Janik of The Idea Exchange in Cambridge wanted to embrace that atmosphere and bring it home.

A trip she took earlier this year to Mexico City inspired the Taco Stand Project.

"It's really about sort of digesting everything that's happening around Mexico City and street food culture is such a big component of it," Janik said.

"Anything goes," she added, and newcomers to the city are thrilled with the idea.

"I had people in tears over this because this is how the world operates. Mexico City didn't invent taco stands because it's a really cool, cultural thing to do. It happened out of necessity," Janik said.
Tacos will be served at public lectures and events, including at the opening of the art exhibit With Mexico, From Love on Nov. 25. (Tim Chin/Canadian Press)

Taco stand pairs with art exhibit

The Idea Exchange is setting up a taco stand in its lobby until at least February.

It coincides with an art exhibit, With Mexico, From Love, which opens Nov. 25.

Tacos will indeed be served when there are special public lectures and events, like during the art exhibit's opening. But for the most part, the stand will serve as a venue for residents to use it for whatever they like.

People could use it to talk about their cultures and holiday traditions in December.

Mexico City didn't invent taco stands because it's a really cool cultural thing to do. It happened out of necessity.- Iga Janik, curator at The Idea Exchange in Cambridge

"I'd want to see people making toys and cards rather than going to the dollar store. I'd like to see youth using our social machines – hack your jeans, make things, bookbinding – things that you can do yourself that doesn't require you going out and spending money," Janik said. 

Stand a venue for ideas

One session already booked is about Turkish coffee. Another is a seed swap.

"For us, obviously it's a very different context in Cambridge, in a library, in a lobby. But researching taco stands and [their] history, for the most part, those taco stands in Mexico are unregulated. People build them, they cook in their house, they bring it out, sell cheap food on the street," Janik said.

"In Canada, we can't really have unregulated anything, so what we're trying to do is open up the taco stand as a venue, not just for food, but those ideas of the other kinds of economy. So this is about surviving [in the] 21st century and sharing ideas."

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