“My dad started this stand in March of 1970, the year I was born,” says Israel Carrillo, who runs Mariscos el Buzo, a small seafood stand in the corner of Calle Segunda and Gonzalez Ortega (Avenue G) in downtown Tijuana. The seafood stand is the closest food from my apartment, so I have visited plenty for the past couple of years.
“I serve fish ceviche tostadas, shrimp, octopus, clams, black clams (patas de mula), and oysters. In winter I serve marlin tacos.” Carrillo took over his dad’s stand in 1988 and has been in the same spot since.
I usually get a shrimp cocktail. Sometimes I’ll add clams and octopus ($6 for a small, $8 for the big). I’ve had it with black clams a few times, but the ink turns the whole cocktail black, making it look oil spillage. The shrimp are jumbo size, and the octopus has a vivid purple color.
I always do small talk with Carrillo, but this time I delved further. “The octopus comes from Campeche, and it’s the best octopus in the world,” he says. “They send it over to the United States for packaging and then import it back. All the shellfish and fish come from Baja Sur. The shrimp comes from a variety of places, sometimes from Mazatlan, sometimes Baja.”
As to why the name “Mariscos el Buzo,” Carrillo tells me a funny yet sad story. “Buzo” is Spanish for a scuba diver.
“My dad liked to drink a lot. In Mexico there’s a saying that one who is always drinking is a person underwater, so they called my dad ‘El Buzo.’ Since it fit with him serving seafood and his drinking habits, he named his spot ‘Mariscos el Buzo.’”
Carrillo’s dad died in 1991. Talking about it doesn’t seem to affect his spirits. “My dad was successful. He opened two more stands in the area and opened a restaurant in this same block. None of them are left except this original spot. As for my children, I don’t think they will have the same fate serving seafood. Hopefully they’ll study hard and work somewhere else.”
His fish ceviche is basic, and he hasn’t changed the recipe since his dad’s original. With so much ceviche in Tijuana, I find his subpar, but for a dollar a piece I can’t complain too much. If you want a bigger tostada with shrimp and octopus, it costs $3.50 and it improves the meal a lot.
You’ll find Mariscos el Buzo Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.