Mexico has been in the press a lot for cartel crimes but I don’t want it to discourage travelers from exploring the beautiful things the country has to offer. No where is really truly safe these days and I never want to stop traveling, especially due to fear. As long as you are street smart, keep your phones and wallets out of view, and walk with purpose, you will be fine. Just follow the basic rules of traveling such as not flaunting your valuables, keeping a low profile and learn a few key words of the local language. Study a map in advance and have an idea where you’re going. Don’t keep large quantities of money on you and always travel with just a copy of your passport. As a female traveler, I normally keep a back up stash of cash in my bra and keep smaller bills for bargaining in my front pocket. Men, I do suggest those odd strapped wallets that go under your shirt for back up cash for the day if you are venturing farther than usual from your accommodations.
All this aside, I’ve always been drawn to the Mexican culture and the arts. The fascination with the celebration of death and the bright colors have kept me intrigued most of my life. Frida Kahlo has been my favorite artist as long as I can remember and when the opportunity arose to fly to Mexico City, I grabbed it! I took a bus from Mexico City to Coyoacan to visit the artist’s famous blue home which she shared with the love of her life and long term partner, muralist and revolutionary, Diego Rivera. As a Mexican national or a student, you can get in at a lower entrance rate but as a visitor the rate was 130 pesos. I gladly paid the posted price as I was so excited to be standing in the beloved home of the woman I’ve idolized for so long. The home has been kept just as she left it when she departed this world, including dish collections and portraits, even the machinery used to straighten her back and the rusty old wheelchair. It was like stepping back in time. You aren’t allowed to take pictures but I just couldn’t help myself as this is usually the only way for me to remember things later. I spent a good portion of my day soaking up the art, the vibe and the quotes by Frida painted on the walls. I walked through her gardens and imagined her there. I imagined all the happiness and joy and the pain and suffering, the passionate arguments between her and Diego. I could feel everything and it was a day I’ll never forget.
Art is one of the energies that flows through Mexico but all of that comes from religion. Catholicism is the life force of the country and a visit to Mexico City isn’t complete without visiting the actual location where the Virgen of Guadalupe was first seen. I took a taxi and spent half a day roaming through the beautiful gardens and picking up pieces of information throughout the tour. I felt such a heavenly vibe while in the gardens that I forgot we were smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. I can’t say I had my own religious experience but it surely was something that made a lasting impression and my spirit did genuinely feel refreshed.
If you haven’t already fallen in love, take a step back in the rich Mexican history. Some of the most architecturally significant pyramids can be found just 45 minutes out of the city. I hired a driver and headed to learn more of the deep roots of Mexico. Teotihuacan was discovered in 1905 and was estimated to be established around 100 BC. I scaled the top of the sun and moon pyramids which were no easy tasks as I am a mere 5 foot 1 inch and the stones come to my knees. We saw where the sacrifices were held and learned about the beliefs of when the world would end. We got burnt to a crisp at the top of the sun pyramid and earned a few new freckles but I didn’t mind; it felt like a little memorable blessing from the gods. At the top of the moon pyramid, we found people doing sun salutations, yoga sequences, meditating and chanting as it’s known to be a very powerful spiritual location.
Cliché as it may sound, no trip to Mexico is complete without tacos and Margaritas but absolutely step out of your comfort zone. I’ve never had a bad meal in Mexico. Hole in the wall and pop up restaurants make my heart and my belly happy. Sometimes we wander from stand to stand trying new things that we couldn’t pronounce and almost always with a good result. I think what I love most about Mexico is the passion of the people; I don’t believe a day went by where I didn’t see some sort of a peaceful protest for something or other. Where that may scare off the less experienced travelers, please see it for the beautiful passion of the people who have overcome and continue to overcome incredible obstacles. I always leave Mexico inspired and refreshed.