What do you think of when the country of Mexico is brought up? Most Americans have mixed views and ideas about Mexico. Generally speaking, Mexicans are viewed with the disdain in the USA. Murderous cartels, poverty and corruption, are usually some of the negatives that are spoken of about Mexico. Having just returned from Mexico City and having traveled to various parts of Mexico in the past, I can tell you the hospitality of the Mexican people, the rich culture, the delicious food and the beauty of the country far out ways the bad things you may have heard about the country.
Yes, there are drug cartels, who mostly operate in the North of the country, close to the boarder with their number one customer, the United States. Don't go to Mexico with the idea of doing drugs or buying drugs and you should have no issues. There are roads and areas that are dangerous at certain times, but with a little common sense and doing some homework before your visit, you should be fine. Just like the USA, there are places where you know not to go, same in Mexico.
Mexico City was a place I had heard was dirty, dangerous and run down. The Mexico City I visited was the opposite to any of those adjectives.
After almost a six hour direct flight from New York To Mexico, we arrived to a modern international airport, hoped into a cab for the 4 mile ride to the center of the city.
You can find clean hotels for as little as $60 US dollars a night and an average meal costing around $12.00 US dollars. You also have all the five-star hotels and restaurants that are found around the world, but still considerably cheaper than what you would pay for the same accommodations and food in the USA or Europe. You for sure get a good value for your dollar or Euro.
When we arrived, to our hotel that first night, our hotel restaurant was still serving food till 11pm. Grabbed some Guacamole and chips, why not add in some grasshopper for protein. The grasshopper, known as Chapulines are sold as snacks and often added to salads and dips. Insects are common food source around the world and only now starting to make it 's way into the diets of Americans.
The next morning, we where out to see what Mexico City had to offer. The answer is it has a lot to offer. The week we where there, Formula 1 car racing was taking place in the center of the city. Fans of the sport from all over the world had descended on Mexico City. One of the favorite Mexican drivers / pilot, Sergio Perez, was the crowd favorite for team Red Bull. The fans were camped outside the drivers' hotels morning and night to get an autograph or a photo. Formula 1 has come to the States, but does not have following as it does in other countries.
Tickets where sold out for the three days of races, so missed it this time.
Mexico City has a rich history. The city was founded by the Aztec people in 1325, an advanced people who built pyramids that can still be explored today. Originally Mexico City was built over a lake system. Today the buildings of the city lean and are cracked due to the unstable marsh / lake land the city was built on. In the early 1500's the Spanish invaded Mexico. The Aztec fought the Spanish, and at one point thought they had driven them out of their country, but they came back with more forces and ultimately defeated the Aztec people. The disease the Spanish brought to Mexico, soon killed off the Aztec people. Later the French, under Napoleon, invade Mexico City, for a couple of years to be driven out of the country. This quick history lesson in Mexican history can be explained further with a visit to the number of museums in Mexico City, with artifacts from all periods of the country's rich history. The Anthropology Museum and the Chapultepec Castle are a must visit, if you don't have time to explore the many Museums in Mexico City.
Having an art-based company, with skulls always front and center in our designs, the perfect time for me to come to Mexico was the first week of November. Why this time of the year? The celebration of the Dia de los Muertos takes place in Mexico. This is celebration of all those who have died and to celebrate their memory, in English you might know it as the Day of the Dead.
This is a week long holiday, starting on Halloween, where the whole country celebrates with parades, festivities and visits to their loved ones in the cemeteries. The whole country celebrates the Dia de Los Muertos, but Oaxaca City, Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta are known for their huge festivities.
Part of the holiday consist of making an "Ofrenda" to the deceased loved one. An Ofrenda is an alter made in the home, business or town center that usually has a photo of the deceased, flowers, fruits and things the deceased enjoyed in their life. Say a good bottle of Tequilla. The care and time put into the many Ofrendas was quite impressive. Trips to the cemeteries is unlike a visit to a USA cemetery. Many of the tombstones in a Mexican cemetery represent not only the person who died but their occupation and likes in life. example if you were a boat captain, your tombstone might be in the shape of a boat or anchor. The cemeteries are also decorated with flowers and handmade Catrinia's (female skeletons) and Skeletons.
People visit the Cemeteries at night doing candlelight vigils.
Around Mexico City where art exhibits of colorful painted skulls done by various artists. All preparing for the big parade thru Mexico City to take place on the first Saturday in November.
The parade started around 2pm on a sunny afternoon and wound it's way for two miles to end in the city's main sqaure, Zocalo. The parade lasted for three hours, with people 5 deep throughout the whole route. Savy Entrepeneur's where selling stools to stand on for $5.00 dollars to see over the crowds who showed up hours earlier to get a good spot. Over 1 million people attended or where part of the parade. Colorful floats, marching bands, dancers and basically everyone wearing skull make up, made for sure a unique experience. You could get you face painted for 10 bucks, which took about 15 minutes, to be part of the celebration.
A must have in Mexico City, is a taco. Any type of taco from shrimp to pulled pork is available at Taquerias around the city. A Taqueria is a place that sells tacos. Can be from a food cart to small restaurant specializing in tacos. Their hot sauce is no joke, so be careful!
My impression of Mexico City.....the people are friendly and always smiling, the food is top notch, the music and art scene rivals any big city, great value, affordable and just a great place to visit. Highly recommend a stay in Mexico City.