I've never been to a resort. It sounds silly to me because everyone I know who has been to Mexico has been to a resort. I, however, have the incredible opportunity to venture through "real Mexico" as I refer to it. My first time going to Mexico (or leaving Canada as an adult) was in 2017 and it was life changing. Since then I have been to Mexico four times, learning more about the country and myself every time we go.
What was once scary to me is now normal; such as people riding motorcycles without helmets throughout Mexico, or the lack of lines on the roads in cities. I don't think much of it when Fernando turns his backpack around to be on his chest, safe from pick pockets or makes sure I am still right behind him when walking through hoards of people. I still don't love the bus ride from Mexico City to Veracruz, but I sleep through it now (thank-you, Gravol). The fact that taxi's may or may not have functioning seatbelts while they drive down freeways at high speeds is still disconcerting, but not scary. Somehow all of the scariness of Mexico has become just an awareness. I think it was the second time we went to Mexico that I decided I wanted to go for a run by myself on the boardwalk in Tuxpan. I had to convince Fernando I would be safe, and quite honestly, myself as well. This trip though, I couldn't wait to go for a run by myself when I got the chance in Veracruz.
Mexico is full of life, but for me it is also a cage. I love it, and I will happily go back every time I get the opportunity, but I would be lying if I said it was easy. You see, I am incredibly naïve and I don't speak Spanish. I am learning but I struggle with it. As in I've been learning on and off for four years now. These two factors combined mean I don't have any independence in Mexico. The traffic is too crazy for me to drive there (we jokingly call it combat driving) and I'm not allowed to leave the house by myself. This stems primarily from Fernando's fear that I will get kidnapped or mugged. I used to think that was crazy until I tried to order Subway at the airport in Mexico once; I couldn't do it because I don't speak Spanish. When you're not on the resort or in huge cities, I think it's harder to find English speaking people, at least that are comfortable trying. Mexican's are taught English in school now, but language is one of those use it or lose it things so many people don't speak it, or won't. Since I wouldn't be able to ask for directions if I got lost, call for help if I needed it, or buy anything on my own....I came to the conclusion that Fernando is right; I should not leave the house by myself.
Fernando does his best to keep me entertained while also taking care of family obligations. I have no complaints there, though I think people think my trips to Mexico are more exciting than they usually are. Sometimes we go to the beach, for food, or shopping if I want to. We found a gym we like so we go to the gym almost daily which is great when you're eating so much amazing food. This time, we ventured around Poza Rica again for me to take photos of the street tacos place around the corner. It was my sole purpose of the walk - to photograph the simplicity of these delicious tacos. In traditional Fernando style he took me around the square where he feels it is safe enough to take me at night.
The below photos are a combination of his uncle's AirBnb in Tuxpan (check out @holatuxpan on Instragram for more), and the square in Poza Rica.
After a few days of hanging out at his moms, some in town ventures, and an overnight trip to his uncle's place on the beach, we decided to explore. Veracruz is a much bigger city than Poza Rica, about 4 hours away. It's not actually that far but the conditions of the road make it a lot longer drive than one would expect for a couple hundred kilometers.
Veracruz was fantastic. We checked out the local hot spot for tourists near our hotel where there were cafes, merchants, and historical monuments. We ate delicious food and that night Fernando took me for an evening walk down to a local cafe for dessert. The cafe was great but my favourite part was the people dancing in the plaza. I have never seen anything like it. Women and men dressed up to dance outside together. They were dancing the Danza. If you're like me and have no idea what that is, World Music Central says "Danzón is a ballroom dance played by the Cuban charangas. It is a descendant of the popular the Spanish danza of the 1800s and the French contredanse (contradanza) brought by the French immigrants fleeing the Haitian Revolution, who settled in the Cuba’s eastern region. The danzon was preferably danced during winter, because, according to the dancers, it led to extreme overheating. Therefore, in winter Cubans danced danzón, and in summer they waltzed."
I have two favourite parts of Verazcruz. The first is directly related to geography - the fact that it is warm enough even in the winter for people to be outside in the evening darkness and enjoy life. Coming from northern British Columbia where it is too cold to sit on the sidewalk at a cafe in winter I find it so energizing to see all these people out and about at night in the winter. People played music, sang songs, rode bicycles, and were out for evening strolls. The lights of the town combined with the music filled me with happy energy.
The next day we did the most touristy thing we have ever done. EVER. We went on tourbus ride of Veracruz. I had never been on a tourbus before before it sounded fun and his mom was interested in going too. I absolutely loved being on the upper deck of the bus, able to see all around. We watched people haphazardly fix a building wall with safety measures that were non-existent to barely existent; the difference between Canada and Mexico is incredibly obvious in this regard. We listened as the tour bus played a recording explaining the significance of the buildings and the areas we went through. It was in Spanish so I didn't get the whole story, but Fernando gave me the highlights.
The last day in Veracruz I was allowed to go for a run by myself and it was so fantastic. The perfect three day adventure.
Mexico City gives me headaches.
Not because of the traffic, the smog or the crazy drivers, but the elevation! We spend most of our time in Mexico at sea level or just above, so the 2200m elevation difference when we go to Mexico City to fly home is intense. We spent longer in Mexico City this trip because I had to get my PCR test before I could fly home. After my test we opted for another Touribus Ride and some learning at one of the museums.
As we circled the Mexico City core we saw beautiful architecture influenced by the spaniards, the changes to the city that came with immigrants moving to Mexico City from Europe, and the damage inflicted on statues and ancient buildings during recent protests.
We got off the bus at one of the historic sites and ventured into the museum region of Mexico City. I had been in some of the buildings before, two years ago, one another trip to Mexico. This time we opted for an archeological museum and we got to walk through what was once "Tenochtitlán, ancient capital of the Aztec empire. Located at the site of modern Mexico City, it was founded c. 1325 in the marshes of Lake Texcoco. It formed a confederacy with Texcoco and Tlacopán and was the Aztec capital by the late 15th century."
Walking through the ruins of the temples Fernando was upset at the destruction of the Aztec temples for the construction of the Spanish architecture that still stands in Mexico City. It is a weird feeling to walk through was was once someone's home, 700 years ago, that was ravaged and deconstructed. We checked out the museum and it is incredible to see even a glimpse of the customs and beliefs of the Aztecs. What they were able to create with the limited technology they had is impressive.
After a lively day of exploring Mexico City with a pounding headache, we rested. We stayed at the Camino Real and I highly recommend it. The staff were great, they had taxis on standby, the restaurants served delicious food, and the gym was perfect for our needs. Also, they have a little tunnel that takes you from the hotel to the airport terminal I needed. At 4:30am, not needing to take a taxi is a huge deal.
Despite the loss of independence I experience in Mexico, I will never say no to going when I can. It is a country of rich history, culture, and energy. If you've never been, it should be on your list.
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