Mexico 2004: Intro
[Intro | Mexico City | Guanajuato | Guadalajara | Puerto Vallarta | Manzanillo + Colima | Morelia | Mexico City Return ]

Mexico. What can I say about such a wonderful country?

On December 12th, 2003, I stepped out of work for the last time and began preparations to take a trip to Mexico. On January 10th, I flew down to Mexico, landing in mid-afternoon on a gray and drizzly mid-afternoon. Initial impressions were good. Our plane came down over a monstrous urban landscape of mostly low but colorful buildings, and through the window I could see people moving about their lives.

The city was large, exciting, and more than could be explored in a lifetime. It had a different smell, a different way of moving, and it felt good to be exposed to something new and expansive as Mexico City. I hired a cab to take me to the Zocalo, talking in broken Spanish as best I could manage. It had been over three years since the last lessons, but I found the language returning quickly. I drove the conversation, learning about crime in the city, pollution, language schools, economic opportunity and free trade. I was interested especially to find out what NAFTA had done for the average Mexican, which is to say, not much. There's a vicious, although somewhat funny, economic circle being played out between Mexico and America presently.

[It goes something like this. Mexico sends human capital in the form of workers to the United States to fill low-wage positions, such as stocking Wal-Mart stores in the middle of night under contract and with no benefits. Those workers then remit large sums of money to their families (to the tune of some $13 billion USD in 2003), and their families then go to Wal-Mart in Mexico to spend the money.]

Mexico City, for all of the slights it gets as being a haven of crime and pollution, was wonderful. I spent several days wandering the streets and museums, exploring and learning about the world's largest city, and learning that like many large cities, it mostly closes down in the night as people retire to their suburban / exurban homes.

But I never felt more safe and more at peace than the time I spent in Mexico. The monumental fear of death and destruction, of life's difficulties, of misaligned teeth that grips America into a frenzy of imperfection recognition was not nearly as noticeable. Certainly, people wanted to look good and feel right, and get their work done, but they did so with a certain style of "mañana, mañana," that left things more loose and less stressful. Also noticeable was the fact that people were in fact more fit than in the States. Sure, there were chubby kids, and sweets are definitely a regular part of the Mexican diet, but the only really fat people in sight tended to be American tourists wandering around.

Mexico, from the Federal District, to Guanajuato, to Puerto Vallarta, is such a wonderful place that I plan on going back. Two hints for the interested: 1) Get your shots and eat the street food, you will not regret it. 2) Be security conscious but do not be afraid, 99.9% of the people are good people just as interested in getting to know you.

images ©2004, travel, mv