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Guadalajara cafe has a Chicago connection

Submitted on Thu, 08/16/2007 – 13:58.
Story by Amanda Nielsen
To read more about Amanda’s experiences in Travel Writing Mexico see her blog at

In a small Guadalajara café, each day begins with a rendition of “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen),” a song based on a column by a Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich.

One of the owners of the café, Myriam Vidriales, had a fellowship at the Tribune for four months in 1999, and, through a series of coincidences, later discovered the column interpreted in song by Baz Luhrmann.

While people all over the world identified with the column as it mistakenly spread across the Internet as a commencement speech given by Kurt Vonnegut, it has become especially significant to Vidriales and her husband, Eduardo Castaneda, both former journalists.

They translated the column into Spanish and turned these words into artwork on a wall in their recently opened Café Morgana. The words are painted in hand-drawn black script and fill an entire transparent wall in the back of the café. A handful of words are larger and yellow to draw more emphasis: “canta“, “mucho calcio“, and “respeta a tus mayores,” or “sing”, “get lots of calcium,” and “respect your elders.” Some letters and words are thicker and darker than others and their shapes create a tree with long branches that stretch and blend with the other words.

“It’s a very long story,” said Vidriales, who sports dark, shoulder-length hair, a flowing skirt, and an energetic face. She was on a trip with a friend when she heard the song by Baz Luhrmann on the radio. She felt like she could connect with the message, so she looked it up on the Internet and discovered that it was written by Mary Schmich. She couldn’t believe it — the author was a former colleague who had sat near her at the Chicago Tribune.

When she and her husband were creating the café, they decided they wanted to write something on one of the walls. They thought about poems and lyrics, but one day, a friend from China emailed her the lyrics of this song and she realized that this was what had to go on the wall. “It’s a story of many interesting coincidences,” she said.

Vidriales, 34, and her husband, Castaneda, 36, created a welcoming, artistic and down-to-earth atmosphere at Café Morgana, which opened on April 16, 2007. The had considered the idea for almost 10 years.

A mi me gusta café,” Castaneda said explaining his taste for coffee. They often like to invite friends over to their house for coffee, so they thought it would be neat to open a café.

Viviana Vazquez, 30, sat outside the café with her friend Gillian Lomeli, 26, sipping a beer and eating chips sprinkled with Tabasco sauce. She said this was the third time she had visited the cafe since it opened three months ago. “My favorite thing about the café is the design and the decoration,” she said.

This eclectic and artsy café is like a Mexican version of Starbucks, but much more original and unique. Little touches of flair have been added by the owners and appear everywhere such as the mirror in the women’s bathroom that says, “Eres hermosa,” or “You are beautiful,” and the crystal and mirror sun-catchers hanging in random corners.

Comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, the warm red, green and golden-yellow paint, relaxing music of Coldplay, soft jazz and world music, and an influence of nature such as silhouettes of tree branches painted on the walls and leaf-print armchairs, create a Zen-like atmosphere that permeates the café.

Vidriales and Castaneda hired a friend to create designs for the café based on the colors and ideas they envisioned. According to Castaneda, they gathered inspiration from movies and European cafes and finally created the combination art nouveau/art deco café it now is.

The menu sports a wide range of items, from different types of paninis and quiches,to chocolate truffles and cakes, and a wide selection of tea, coffee or chai lattes.

Castaneda said that the number of customers varies a lot, but on a “good” day they have about 50 people come into the café and joked that “on a bad day, two.” Many customers are “regulars” who come in about three times a week. They try to encourage regular customers by offering a punch-card for a “coffee on the house” after the purchase of 10 coffees.

Castaneda, resembling a movie-director donning shaggy dark hair and glasses, mainly works at the café. He said his two favorite things about working there are making people feel good with his coffee, sandwiches, and food, and talking to and meeting new people.

Vidriales works at the café when she can, but is now the press manager of the Feria del Libro, the largest Spanish-language book fair, that takes place annually in Guadalajara from November 24-December 2.

Like her husband, she enjoys working at the café because of the interaction with people, and says that it is very similar in some was as being a reporter. “It’s something that also connects you to the people,” she said.

At the end of each day, Castaneda steps behind the red-beaded curtain into the kitchen and presses a button. As the waitress sweeps up and Castaneda puts things back where they belong, the “Sunscreen” song plays in the background.

“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it…Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself…”,0,4664776.column?page=1

Café Morgana is located on Pedro Moreno 1290 (just a few blocks from the main Avenida Chapultepec). They are open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m., and Saturday from 5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. You can visit them on the web at:

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