Roaming around the the Parque de las Palapas in the central area of Cancun couldn’t have been more different than the massive resorts lining the Zonas Hoteleras.
In the couple evenings that we wandered the park, it was bustling with residents not tourists (like us). Featuring art exhibits (not gaudy gift shops), local performers (not Beetlejuice begging for tips), and open space for children to drive their mini cars, the park was clearly a gathering space for also surrounded with food kiosks and carts on all sides of the park serving up empanadas, quesadillas, tortas, taquitos and other familiar Mexican dishes.
I have an okay grasp of Spanish and at that point, had been in Cancun for 4 days, so navigating between a restaurant menu no longer brought any anxiety or posed any problems. However, there was one item that many of the food carts offered that I couldn’t decipher– the marqusita.
And I have never seen a marquesita before. I would explain it as a dessert crepe rolled up.
I watched several of the vendors pour batter onto a flat, iron griddle and fried it up until the crepe was soft yet crispy. After reaching that perfect texture, a variety of toppings were added: nutella, chocolate, cheese, banana and/or lechera (condensed milk) being some of the more popular ingredients.
The fact that I didn’t know what a marquesita was doesn’t mean anything, but since the marquesita seemed most-popular with the younger crowd and with so many of the carts specializing in this street dessert, I assumed that the marquesita was something of a new invention.
Not until this post did I discover that the marquesita was invented almost 80 years ago. The rolled wafer crammed with cheese and some caramel sauce was first conceived back in 1938 by Don Vicente Mena in Merida, Yucatan.
A translated version of this Vice article provides a deeper story:
The origin of the marquesita is located on premises of Mérida called Ice Polito, near the Parque de Santiago, a special place for local people. It has over one hundred years of existence this place, and according to the stories and reports, was where the marquesita was invented in the 40s, as a derivative antojito ice cream cone.
What is a Marquesita in English?
Where does the “marquesita” get its name?
Breaking down the word doesn’t give us any hints other than the “-ita” suffix which is attached to the end of words to indicate the “small” version. So that leaves us with “marques”. What is a small marques?
I couldn’t find an English translation for “marques” (or “marquesita” for that matter).
No matter the entymology, it’s surprising that a street dessert that requires very little skill to create, inexpensive ingredients and this delicious hasn’t been brought over to the United States yet in some way. One of the reasons I love traveling so much is experiencing the local cuisine, but on the other hand you know that you may never get the chance to taste it again.
At least I’ll always have this photo of me eating a marquesita: