Mexico is awesome.
One of the six cradles of civilization, its ancient culture and vast territory went from conquerors to conquered to a tumultuous independent period marked by foreign invasions and subsequent internal political upheaval.
As the world’s second and fourth country in ecosystems and biodiversity, it boasts over 200 thousand different species of flora and fauna. It’s also the world’s 13th largest country and the 10th most populous.
Its culture is vibrant and complex, strongly identified with its pre-Hispanic past and the period of colonial rule. More contemporary influences from places as far as Asia and the Middle East make Mexico a kaleidoscope of stories, colors, sounds and flavors with a global appeal.
On top of that, it’s the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the hemisphere.
My familiarity with Mexico started at 3 with “El Chavo del Ocho” (“The Kid from number Eight”), my, Spain’s and the whole continent’s (including Portuguese-speaking Brazil) favorite TV show.
Like the rest of Latin America, I grew up with Mexican pop stars, variety shows and telenovelas. On Mother’s Day, Mariachi bands were a fixture. Mexican accent and expressions were as familiar as Venezuelan or Colombian ones. When I visited Mexico for the first time, I felt right at home.
However, for North Americans used to Cinco de Mayo stereotypes, a first visit to the megalopolis of Mexico City could be such a cultural shock.
The world’s sixth-largest metropolitan area and the second-most densely populated in the Western Hemisphere, its political, economic and cultural activity could make London and New York feel small. Vibrantly entertaining, English, Chinese, Arab, Russian and many other languages are heard in its world-class museums, restaurants and nightclubs.
Founded by indigenous people, Mexico City is the oldest capital in the Americas. The ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan is just about 25 miles to the northeast. Site of many of the most architecturally-significant pyramids, it’s here where you can see the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun.
No visit to CDMX is complete without experiencing some of its magnificent museums. My favorites: Museo Nacional de Antropología (where you can see the Aztec Sun Stone), Soumaya Museum, Museo Jumex, Frida Kahlo Museum (located in “La Casa Azul,” where she was born, grew up and died) and Museo Mural Diego Rivera.
The Riviera Maya is probably the only place where you can enjoy warm, crystal clear waters and turn to spot an ancient ruin behind you. The eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula is formerly known as “The Cancun-Tulum Corridor,” and it includes the cities of Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos.
Famous for its all-inclusive resorts, charming boutique hotels and water sports, I recommend checking out the cenotes (natural sinkholes used as water suppliers by the ancient Mayans) and the archeological sites of Coba.
Aside from their achievements in astronomy, what’s most impressive about the Mayans is that they built temples, palaces, pyramids and observatories without metal tools.
The desert meets the sea at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula in an area known as Los Cabos, which includes the twin towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
Though the region was underdeveloped until relatively recently, it has a rich history dating to colonial times. Hernan Cortez named the sea after him (Sea of Cortez) in the mid-1500s. Moreover, its remoteness lent it to being a pirate hideout, most notably for the English explorer Sir Francis Drake.
Pioneered by Las Ventanas al Paraiso and The One and Only Palmilla, Los Cabos is home to the world’s best hotels, including Viceroy Los Cabos and its flagship restaurant Nido (nest), with aesthetics inspired by the 1951 John Steinbeck’s book “The Log from the Sea of Cortez.”
Steinbeck and his expedition companion, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, must’ve been as inspired as contemporary visitors by the famous Cabo sunsets.
The spectacle is one of the highlights of this part of the world, and many hotels and restaurants offer coveted tables from which to enjoy them.
Perhaps, it was one of the sunsets which prompted one of my favorite quotes from the book, dealing—both literally and figuratively—with journeys:
It would be good to live in a perpetual state of leave-taking, never to go nor to stay, but to remain suspended in that golden emotion of love and longing; to be loved without satietyJohn Steinbeck
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