MEXICO CITY – For most people, even the smallest bite of a raw chili pepper means a flushed face and a rush for a gulp of water. But Manuel Quiroz can guzzle down dozens of Mexico's spiciest chilies, rub them on his skin and even squeeze their juice into his eyes without so much as blinking.
The 54-year-old Mexico City taxi driver said Saturday that he has made thousands of dollars with his talent and wants to become the world champion chili eater. But first he needs to find an organization that can crown him with that title.
"Chilies don't sting me. They don't affect me. It's just like eating fruit," Quiroz said at a market in the Mexican capital. Shoppers stared in amazement as he crunched on a habanero, the hottest chili pepper in a country that likes its food spicy.
Quiroz said he discovered his talent when he was 7 and grew up betting people that he could eat more chilies than they could. He never lost.
"I'm the best. No one can rival me," he said.
His biggest windfall came when he entered a competition organized by a local television station and took home the $2,000 purse.
Quiroz said he plans to try to get his abilities recognized by Guinness World Records. To his knowledge, no one in the world can swallow more chilies.
"Chilies are the pride of Mexico," Quiroz said. "The world chili-eating champion has got to be here."
Quiroz said he has never been examined by a doctor to find out if there is a medical explanation for his extraordinary endurance to the spice.
"Why would I go and see a doctor?" he said. "There is nothing wrong with me. Eating chilies makes me feel great."