I can’t remember when it first appeared. This pull to go to Mexico, but I had put it off due to fear for about a year. Fear from what we see on the sensationalized news about Mexico. But in a small corner of my mind, I could see colours, music, a history I didn’t know much about and crafts. After hearing great feedback from people I know who had recently been to Mexico, I decided that I should just do it and booked onto a tour.
Some months later, I landed at the Mexico City International Airport. I didn’t know other countries in the Americas refer to themselves as being in America. I just think of the USA as America and every other country has its own name. So when I was asked at the airport where did I take the last flight from, America wasn’t a great answer. I felt like I had offended the whole country and didn’t even set foot outside the airport yet.
I usually don’t have expectations of the town or country that I’m travelling to. I know life is fluid and with time, cities do change.
Food: As they always say, food in the country is better than imitations outside of the country. All I had really known prior to being in Mexico were tacos (the American way with sour cream and cheese) and nachos.
Boy are we missing out!
Succulent meat with more salsa toppings I have ever seen. Mexican cuisine is all about the textures and also having a combination of flavors of saltiness, sweetness, sourness and spiciness all in the one dish. I did find some dishes were too heavy for me (eg mole and tamales) or maybe it was just too hot and I just didn’t have the appetite (highly likely). I know each region has their specialty so only having been in a few regions, there is still many more to try!
My favourite dish that I had was the chiles en nogada which is a stuffed green chile with a creamy walnut sauce dotted with pomegranate seeds. Coloured like the mexican flag, this dish is popular in Central Mexico when pomegranate season begins. I also took a liking to chapulines (grasshoppers covered in lime and chilli) which not so coincidentally, goes so well with mezcal or tequila. Delicious!
Colour: One of the things that attracted me to wanting to go in the first place. I was not disappointed! I didn’t expect the towns to be so colourful until I googled the cities that I would be visiting. Unlike the Eiffel Tower or Strasbourg, I was just not exposed to travel pictures of Mexico. Which was a shame but now I have my own pictures to share. Streets lined with coloured buildings and even churches.
I also loved seeing the alibrijes (folk art sculptures) in the souvenir stores, the colour combinations and detailing of some quite large and other minuscule animals. So much happiness to my eyeballs. The streets were simply accented with colour when possible- there were alot of murals, hanging flag banners and even saw pin wheels hanging outside a school. I think this perhaps is a celebration of the culture and is a popular medium of story telling within the country.
People: As a beginner Spanish speaker, I was secretly hoping that it would be enough to get by. It was ok and I found the locals really friendly and I tried out best communicating in my basic Spanish. Despite the language barrier, I felt really welcomed to each place whether it be a restaurant, site, museum etc which is not often the case. We also didn’t get pestered in the streets- once you say no, they move onto the next person and don’t follow you down the street like in some other countries.
There was also this sense of proudness but not in the sense of arrogance. Proud of their history, food, culture and their willingness to show this overwhelmingly.
Safety: After reading what’s in the news, I was on edge from the moment I set food in the airport- not going to lie! However, I did eventually feel ok but in saying that, took extra precautions eg. only being out during the day/or with a big group of people and being aware of surroundings. I had heard of people being followed even in the day in busy areas so just be aware and reduce your risk as you would anywhere else in the world.
Cities: Each city was just so different from the next. I know this is often true in other countries but I feel that in Australia, all the big cities are quite similar. Mexico City is just like any other large city- busy, lots of people, traffic and things to do while the smaller cities were more quaint with each town’s history seeping into modern day life and quite varied architecture.
My first taste of Mexico did satisfy the ‘longing’ to visit and left me wanting more. I know that there are still a lot more contrasting areas of the country to what the central area is like and in particular I am keen to head south east from Mexico city to Yucatan.
What were your first impressions of Mexico? Is it on your list still waiting to be seen?