Jorge Ramos

One of America’s favorite news presenters, Jorge Ramos speaks with Adrian Potts about the fiestas of Mexico, cycling through Bali, and why travel is an antidote for troubled times.

Since leaving Mexico City for the United States as a fledgling journalist in the early 1980s, Jorge Ramos has become one of the most trusted faces among America’s Latino population. Presenting the nightly news to an audience of millions on the Spanish-language TV station Univision, he has long held a reputation for putting tough questions to powerful people—from a face-to-face encounter with Fidel Castro about the lack of democracy in Cuba, to pressing Barack Obama on deportations during his tenure, and, most famously, being escorted from a 2016 press conference of then presidential candidate Donald Trump after a terse exchange about immigration.

Mexico City. Credit: Kamira & Shutterstock.com.

But speaking from his adopted home of Miami shortly before co-anchoring the evening bulletin, Jorge is a far cry from the pugnacious newscaster of repute, especially when waxing nostalgic about his homeland of Mexico and the comfort dishes of his youth. “My favorite food is still tacos al pastor—with no pineapple, please,” he qualifies. “Although unfortunately I don’t have the resistance to really spicy salsa on my tacos that I used to.”

His dual Mexican-American identity is explored in his most recent book, Stranger, which is at once a clarion call for tolerance in modern times, and, in its lighter moments, a love letter to the best sides of Miami, the United States and Mexico, where he still travels several times a year.

How does the Mexico City of now compare to that of your youth? It has changed so much. Now it’s a gigantic city of more than twenty million people, but it’s still a really wonderful metropolis with an incredible selection of cultural possibilities. I go there to visit my mom, who’s eighty-four and doing great, then I secretly go to see the house where I grew up.

Where else do you love to travel in Mexico? La Riviera Maya, which is close to Cancún. There is a marvelous hotel there that’s been a home away from home for many vacations, and recently Tulum has become a magic place for my family. The other place is San Miguel de Allende. I love that idea of being able to walk everywhere; it’s almost European in that sense. But at the same time it brings me back to Mexico’s history and its architecture.

Mariachi & Charro Festival, Guadalajara. Credit: Kobby Dagan & Shutterstock.com.

What do people get wrong about the country?A big misconception is that we are all criminals, as some have suggested, which is absolutely not true. While the country has become more dangerous in some ways, especially for journalists, we celebrate life with an intensity that is hard to find in any other place on earth. The happiest and most intense fiestas and parties in the world happen in Mexico. Whenever I return home I feel completely embraced and protected by friends and family. You will never feel alone in Mexico.

Living in Miami, can you find many of the things you miss about Mexico? I had the longest search for the right tacos in Miami. I have to go to Homestead and to a couple of restaurants in Coral Gables to find the right ones with the right tortillas. But for the real thing I get on a plane to Mexico, and even before I get to my mom’s house, I stop at either El Fogoncito or El Tizoncito to get my dose of tacos. It doesn’t matter how good Mexican food can be outside of Mexico—and it is good here, we have great chefs—I need to go back to those places where I eat tacos standing up.

What’s special about Miami? You always get the sense in Miami that we all came from another place but that somehow it has opened its arms for all of us. Every time there’s a crisis, Miami is there for us. When there was a war in countries in Central America, Miami was there for them. When there was a dictator in Cuba, it was there for them. Miami never ceases to amaze me for its generosity and its understanding of the plight of foreigners.

Ubud, Bali.

What do you think the power of travel is in modern times? I think travel is more important than any other time since I arrived in the US in 1983. Nowadays, with such an anti-immigrant sentiment growing in Europe and in the United States, travel is a way to fight stereotypes and ignorance. It’s about much more than just spending a few dollars in a foreign hotel—whenever we sit down and have a conversation with a foreigner, an outsider, somebody who is different from us, our humanity breathes a little better.

Where was your last vacation? The whole Ramos family went to Tanzania. Life-changing.

Where will your next vacation be? Tuscany. I want to escape from social media for a whole week, walk to get my food and do nothing.

The thing you can’t travel without? I travel with my passport even on a domestic trip. I never know when I’ll have to cancel a vacation or skip an anniversary to cover a breaking news story.

Plane, train or automobile? The plane is the most marvelous invention on earth, but a train lets you travel like a human being. Europe and Japan have demonstrated that to travel by train is the future.

The people you’d most like to sit next to on a long-haul flight? I’m agnostic so I would have a ton of questions about heaven (and hell) for Pope Francis. Since we both speak Spanish, nothing would be lost in translation. And maybe he can teach me the secrets of faith.

What is your in-flight ritual? Beforehand, I ask for a bulkhead seat with a window and then create a cocoon for the duration of the flight. Once I land, I immediately check all the available flights to leave ASAP. Many people don’t know that before I became a journalist, I was a travel agent in Mexico. Believe me, it helps!

The language you wish you spoke? Italian. It is probably the most beautiful language on earth. It sounds like a song.

When were you happiest on the road? Exploring Bali with my family by scooter one afternoon. We got lost and had no phone reception, but there was no anxiety. We were alone, surrounded by rice paddies, and the sun was playing hide-and-seek with the trees. I looked back and saw my daughter and son, with the most sublime smiles on their faces, and I had never seen such happiness. I took a mental note: nothing mattered more than that moment.

Desert island or downtown? A desert island to escape from downtown.

If you could live at any hotel, which would it be? The Aman in Tokyo, Venice or Ubud; the Rosewood Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya, Mexico; or the St. Regis in Bal Harbour, Florida.

What is your room service indulgence? A chocolate milkshake at midnight.

The strangest place you’ve spent a night? I spent a night at a Holiday Inn in Kuwait City after the Iraqi invasion. The hotel had no electricity and had been burned by the Iraqis before they fled. Some floors were flooded. But the hotel stayed open and, for me, it was the safest place on earth.

What is your favorite market? The market of Oaxaca, Mexico. Its colors, aromas, and history will overwhelm your senses. You’ll come out a different person.

If you could travel to any place in any epoch, what would it be? I think the encounter of Hernán Cortés with the Aztecs in Mexico City in 1519 must have been a clash of two worlds.

What are the show-off spots in your hometown? I like to take a bike ride from Coral Gables, where I live, to the island of Key Biscayne. You’ll get the best view of Miami on two wheels.

Which places would you happily spend a weekend, week, month and year? Weekend: The Riviera Maya to relax and cure my Mexican nostalgia. Week: Bali during Nyepi, when the island goes silent for a day to practice yoga. Month: Mexico City to hear my mom retelling the stories of when we were young. Year: In Venice crossing every single canal.

Your biggest extravagance on the road? Renting a house on the beach to bring all my siblings and their families. We’ll remember those family reunions all our lives.

Describe a memorable meal from your travels. Tom yum goong soup at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok in front the Chao Phraya River—the spice burns your tongue and leaves an indelible mark in your memory.

Travel hell is? Waiting and waiting at the airport because your flight was delayed for hours and then getting a notice on your phone that it was canceled.

Where are you ashamed that you’ve never been? Venice during Carnival.

Three favorite stores on Earth? I try to avoid stores as much as possible, even when traveling. I’m a minimalist when it comes to clothes and things.

Most treasured travel memento? Some bullet shells that I brought from the Gulf War. I still have them. They remind me how precious life is.

Why do you travel? To learn, to love, to escape, and to regain my faith in humankind.

Christine Muhlke has over two decades of experience and connections in the food, travel, fashion, culture, and design worlds. The founder of Bureau X food consultancy, she has been an editor at Bon Appétit, T Magazine, and The New York Times Magazine.

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