Snapshots of Mexico

Drew Duckworth
Jun 4, 2018 · 4 min read

Four weeks, four states in Mexico. Magic…

So many VWs in Mexico… This one is sitting outside of La Negrita Cantina, a great bar in Mérida: live music every day, lovely shaded courtyard, fine service. They make a nice pair, the little black one and the old white van…

Riders fill Paseo de la Reforma on Sundays: amazing to behold.

On our first full day in the country — a wonderful sight. On a beautiful walk from our hotel in Roma to Zócalo, we were greeted by thousands of locals (and some tourists!) on bicycles, filling one of the main streets in the city, Paseo de la Reforma. The avenue is closed to traffic each Sunday. Coming from a city that is working hard to create more of a biking culture, it was heartening to see so many people embrace two wheels, particularly in a city not known for its healthy lifestyle.

Casa Na Bolom, San Cristóbal, Chiapas

Diego Rivera’s El Mexico Antiguo (1929) under conservation works at the Palacio Nacional de Mexico

Our first day in the Riviera Maya was a tough one. The beach is a few kilometres away from the township of Tulum, where we were staying. With the cycling masses of Reforma front of mind, we walked into town, rented a bike and headed for the beach. It hit 30°C degrees quickly — there wasn’t a lot of shade. We followed the road down to the beach, but overran the turnoff to the public beach: most of the beachfront is privately owned. We asked at one place, who offered us a sunbed for the day for USD40 each: a little steep. We finally found the public beach, and a restaurant (Poc-na Tulum) with shade, reggae and cold beer. We stayed a while…

The sun was setting on the way back, as we slowly made our way back into town. The next day, we explored a little further afield, in a rental car…

The famous seaweed of Tulum

Mariachi waiting for customers at the Plaza Garibaldi, Mexico City

In my experience, hawkers are a fairly perisitent bunch. I can understand why: taking people at their word when they say ‘no thanks’ is often just reflexive — people often don’t really know what they want. So Mexico was quite a surprise. Street vendors, buskers, beggars, with very few exceptions, would take you at your word — no meant no. Without complaint, they’d move on. In how many other places can you say people are genuinely asking whether you’d like to sample their wares?

I wonder whether it comes from a basis of fundamental respect for one another. Perhaps that’s a romantic idea on my part, but the easy-going nature of most locals seems to be founded on acceptance. It is a place I feel very much at home. I don’t think this is just an aspect of the tourist / service industry either. People are genuinely friendly around town, in the markets, on the street. Even on the road, drivers move to the side and indicate if there’s room to pass.

Cenote Ik Kil, near Chichen Itza: a spectacular Yucatan sinkhole. Also one of the most fun, with a diving platform off to the side…

The town centres of Valladolid and Mérida are a joy to wander around. We’re told the heat in summer can be extreme: those thick walls and secluded courtyards look like the way to go…

It’s always a privilege and a pleasure to explore both sides of a place: the ritzy and the rudimentary. As a visitor to a country, you’re often welcomed warmly on both sides of the tracks. Mérida was like that. We strolled around the Mercado Lucas de Galvez, full of people shopping for daily essentials. And then we wandered up to Paseo de Montejo, lined with high-end boutiques, beautiful architecture and lovely restaurants. The market was more fun, but we were lucky enough to have the proprietor of the Posheria all to ourselves for half an hour, to talk about Pox, Chiapas, henequen and the like…

Shopping at Mercado Lucas de Galvez, Mérida

Frida Kahlo’s death mask, in the mirror of her day bed, Casa Azul

Cactus in the marvellous Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca

There’s something paradisical about Oaxaca. As well as all of the wonderful aspects that we’d found travelling throughout Mexico, like the friendliness, food and fiestas — Oaxaca seems to turn it up a notch. The artistic community is very strong there, bringing together local Mayan crafts with modern makers: the Zócalo is full to the brim of artists’ markets and galleries.

The Amate Bookshop deserves a special mention: it’s collection of English language books on Mexico is without peer, including loads of art and photography.

A boy busking with an accordian, Calle Macedonio Alcalá, Oaxaca

Agua Azul, Chiapas

More photos from Mexico on flickr and instagram

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