Few predicted when Mexico joined the free-trade deal that it would transform the country in a way that would saddle millions with diet-related illnesses.
SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico — William Ruiz Sánchez spends his days grilling burgers and slathering fried hot dogs with pepperoni and cheese at his family’s restaurant. Refrigerators and fire-engine red tables provided by Coca-Cola feature the company’s logo in exchange for exclusive sale of its drinks.
Though members of the Ruiz family sometimes eat here, they more often grab dinner at Domino’s or McDonald’s. For midday snacks, they buy Doritos or Cheetos at Oxxo, a convenience store chain so ubiquitous here that nutritionists and health care advocates mockingly refer to the city as San Cristóbal de las Oxxos.
The family’s experience in food service began in the 1960s, when Mr. Ruiz’s grandmother sold tamales and home-cooked food made with produce from a nearby farm; those same ingredients sustained her boys with vegetable stews, beans, tortillas and eggs. Meat was a luxury.
Since then, the Ruizes have become both consumers and participants in an extraordinary transformation of the country’s food system, one that has saddled them and millions of other Mexicans with diet-related illnesses.