Recently I went to my mom's hometown, a place called Cotija in the southwestern state of Michoacan in Mexico. During that trip, I took photos of some girls driving around the plaza in huge ATVs, which you can read about in the current issue of VICE. While on that trip, a few miles before getting to Cotija, we drove by a town called Tocumbo. Tocumbo happens to be the Mexican capital of ice cream and icicles ["icicle" is Mexican for "popsicle" -Ed.]. In fact, ice creams and icicles are so important for this town that they built a huge monument for them, aptly named: Monumento al Helado y la Paleta.
In 1946 a guy from that village named Ignacio Alcazar opened an ice cream shop in downtown Mexico City called "La Michoacana." Today there's more than a thousand Michoacana outlets in Mexico City alone, and more than ten times as many all over Mexico, and they are even opening stores in the US now. There's no town with more than a thousand people without one of these stores. La Michoacana is pretty much the biggest Mexican franchise store, and most of the stores are owned by people from Tocumbo.
Seventy percent of the people from the town work in the ice cream and icicle business, and as opposed to every other small town in the state of Michoacan or in Mexico for that matter, people from Tocumbo migrate to every town or city within the country to open icicle stores. Everybody comes back around Christmas time, the population triples, there are parties and weddings everywhere, and they even elect the Icicle Queen for the year. This year's lucky girl is named Nancy.
I spoke with Juan Valdovinos, who was the Mayor of Tocumbo in 1998 when they started the construction of the monument, and he told me that it was his wife's idea to build something to celebrate the most important thing in their town. After lots of models and muckups, they came up with the final design of a huge concrete strawberry icicle crossed with a blue flavored ice cream cone with orbits of more little icicles and ice cream cones. They thought it would attract tourists who like me, who would stop to take a photo.
After our conversation, Mr. Valdovinos invited me to one of the five ice cream parlors in the main square to try the local products. Funny enough, it wasn't one of La Michoacana's stores, but one called "El Atorón," which made it very clear for me that this town not only makes the best ice creams, but also some kick ass graphic design.