Country number: 48
Territory number: 53
When? December 1998
How? Bus, plane
Who? With friend Pat
‘I have a great relationship with the Mexican people.’
- Mexico has 32 UNESCO world heritage sites and an astonishing history. I was really looking forward to visiting. Frankly, I was disappointed. The Aztec and Mayan sites were interesting, although the guides at the Mayan sites seemed very unsure of their facts and, at times, apparently made up explanations of some of the archaeological features we saw. Heads of sacrificed victims used to play with in the ball court? Maybe, but a few supporting details please.…
- The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan became Mexico City, one of the largest, most crowded cities in the world. It has the highest elevation (remember Bob Beamon’s long jump?) and is the oldest city in North America. It was crowded and the traffic snail pace. We saw the Zocalo, (all decorated ready for Christmas- in Mexican colours) with its cathedral and Diego Rivera murals (they were definitely worth a detour).
- Teotihuacan, 25 miles outside the main city, took an age to get to. The huge stepped Aztec pyramids of the sun and moon provide good exercise and great views and the gory stories began. Human sacrifice was common in these times. During this sacrifice five priests, sometimes with their faces painted with different colours performed certain rituals. The heart was cut from the live victim, (referred as “precious eagle cactus fruit) and burned on a fire in the temple.
- The Mayan sites are further south, mainly on the Yucatan peninsula and we dutifully toured them all, (well it felt like all, we missed a lot of smaller sites out), trying to spot the differences. Palenque, Uxmal, Chichen Itza. The pyramid at the latter is named one of the Seven Wonders of the World in some lists. The road between viewings were long and tedious, the jungle scenery flat and uninspiring. The tedium was relieved by a stop at Merida- colourful shops crammed full of hammocks. Mexicans don’t use beds. The highlight of the tour definitely Tulum- an indescribably beautiful setting on the cliffs above an azure sea.
- The food was also disappointing. Nothing like the ‘Mexican’ offerings in the restaurants at home –on the whole bland and poorly prepared. Maybe we just ate in the wrong places.
Cancun – a tourist horror – an utterly gorgeous beach ruined by strings of high rise hotels and tourist tat.
- A peaceful last few days on the island of Cozumel. Plastic bracelets to be endured in the all-inclusive resort, but more powdery white sand and great snorkelling, surrounded by scores of inquisitive barracuda, drifting on the second longest barrier reef in the world.
Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States), is the official name of Mexico.
Mesoamerica was one of six cradles of civilization worldwide with the first inhabitants settling over 13,000 years ago. The Mesoamerican area gave rise to a series of cultural developments that included complex societies, agriculture, cities, monumental architecture, writing, and calendrical systems. Agriculture was developing here by 6,000 B.C. a, Hernán Cortés, led the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the early sixteenth century, laying the foundations for New Spain, centred on its new capital, Mexico City
Chocolate, chilies and corn were introduced to the world from Mexico.
Every year, millions of Monarch butterflies migrate from U.S and Canada to Mexico. (I would love to see this – it’s described in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Flight Behaviour)
The second largest border in the world is between Mexico and the United States.
Spanish is the main language spoken in Mexico.
To see more of my photos of Mexico, visit this page.