MEXICO CITY / QUERETARO / AGUAS CALIENTES / SAN LUIS DE POTOSI / MATEHUALA / MONTERREY / ZACATECAS / GUADALAJARA / MORELIA / MEXICO CITY / CANCUN /TULUM / BACALAR / CHETUMAL / CANCUN / OAXACA / PUERTO ESCONDIDO / HUATULCO. (JULY 2021 TO DECEMBER 2021)
Arrived to Mexico on the 25th of July 2021 having flown from Lima, via Dallas to Mexico City. Fortunately, the entry requirements into Mexico were very simple, no Vaccine or Corvid Test was required and they gave me a 6-month visa very easily. Mexico City was quite a change from Lima and although the airport was not confusing, it was still all new to me, so I just followed everyone else. It paid off and very quickly I was out, free and in the reception are where I met up with Luisa my grand amiga and traveling buddy. We stayed in the centre of old Mexico City near the main square, where you will find the huge sprawling government palace and the cathedral. Here we stayed about 2 weeks, exploring, walking and getting to know a little of this huge City of about 20 million habitants and in the case of myself, to become familiar with the life in Mexico, its cuisine, customs, currency, transportation etc. What I quickly realised is its transportation system is very good in terms of public buses within the city and country wide. The roads are spectacular, very well maintained and quick. The cuisine in Mexico is unique with the popular tortilla, a flat thin bread which forms the base of their dishes and from this you have the tacos, chips, quesadillas, enchiladas and burritos. Originally the tortilla was made from corn, this was before the Spanish came and after it was changed to flour as it was considered that corn was unfit for human consumption.
So here are some of the well-known foods from Mexico.
Burrito. This Mexican dish is made of corn or flour, it’s a tortilla which can be wrapped around any number of fillings. The fillings are prepared in such a way that they fit nicely into the tortilla, which is then folded so that the contents of the burrito are completely encased. A traditional burrito might contain some combination of meats, rice, beans and chili peppers.
Churro. Churros are a traditional Mexican desert that consists of strips of dough. The dough is piped into a vat of hot oil and fried until it is golden in colour and crisp. Churros are often rolled in a cinnamon sugar mixture to make them sweet. They can be served with thick hot chocolate as well.
Enchilada. This is a fast food made from corn tortilla dipped in hot sauce, filled with various stews, vegetables or proteins depending on the style. With enchiladas always expect a tasty spicy touch. They are served with sour cream, fresh cheese, onion and celery.
Elotes. In Mexico corn in its pure form is referred to as maize, but when its cooked, they call it elote. Sometimes they serve it with chili, mayonnaise and cheese. This combination is known as elotes y esquites. You will find it sold in the streets with a barbeque stick through its middle, its quite simple, but tasty and will not cost much.
Gordita. A small food, they are pocket shaped patties that are made with the same ingredients used to make tacos, but come with different fillings. A common filling is the nopales (cactus) and mushroom combination. However, there are numerous options to choose from. Gordita by the way means chubby in English, they are small so no need to worry about going on the scales. When you purchase a gordaite, you will have many fillings to choose from, so try several.
Guacamole. This dish is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most popular dishes, but few people know that this dish dates back to the time of the Aztecs. Made from mashed up avocados, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice and chilli peppers and sometimes a clove or two of garlic. Guacamole is often eaten with tortilla chips or used as a side dish.
Taco. Recognised as the most popular Mexican dish worldwide, the taco has become an art. Some say it is the, “art of eating with tortilla “and of course Mexicans would never deny a taco to anybody. Hundreds of fillings can be put on a corn tortilla. The most common are beef steak, flank steak, chorizo, hot and sweet marinated pork. You can also find tacos for vegetarians with assortment of vegetables, beans and cheese.
Quesadilla. These are a corn or flour tortilla folded in half, stuffed with cheese or other ingredients, deep fried and eaten hot.
Tamales. They are an icon of Mexican food. You can eat these all day and every day, especially on the Day of the Candelaria. It comes from the pre-Hispanic America and is, “ nahuatl “ in the indigenous language, meaning wrapped. Tamales can be wrapped in corn leaves or banana leaves and stuffed with any stew of choice. The most common are mole, shredded chicken or pork with green or red salsa, pepper with cheese and yellow corn kernels.
Taqiuto. This is a Mexican food dish that typically consists of a small rolled up tortilla that contains fillings including beef, cheese or chicken. The filled tortilla is then crisp fried or deep fried. The dish is often topped with condiments such as sour cream and guacamole. Corn tortillas are generally used to make taquitos. The dish is more commonly known as flautas when they are larger than their taquito counterparts and can be made with either flour or corn tortillas.
Mole. This is a sauce made from a mixture of dried chillies, tomatoes, chocolate, seeds and spices. It is one of Mexico’s most representative dishes and there are several versions of its origin. Its is said Poblano Mole, whose original recipe involved about 100 ingredients, emerged in the Convent of Santa Rosa in the city of Puebla, when a nun grounded in a metate different chilies and seasonings. Another version says that the Archbishop Juan de Palafox from Spain came to visit Puebla. One of the cooks got so nervous that he stumbled into the casserole where guajolotes (wild turkey) were cooking with all the ingredients and fell in. In Mexico, there are several types of mole, you should try each one.
Chilaquiles. This is a popular breakfast in Mexico. Made of triangular pieces of fried or toasted tortilla, called totopos, soaked in a red or green hot sauce toppled with shredded chicken, chorizo, shredded beef and scrambled or sunny side up eggs. Its is decorated with fresh cheese, coriander, sliced onion and is served with fried beans.
Tortilla. A tortilla is a thin pliable flat bread used as wrap in Mexican cuisine. They are typically made using corn or wheat flower. A dough is made by adding water to the flour and the dough is rolled into balls. These balls are then pressed flat in a press and are lightly cooked in a pan. Tortillas are used in an astonishing number of Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos and quesadillas.
Mexico is diverse many of its towns and cities have beautiful old Spanish Colonial Centres, sometimes it can come as a surprise as you will not be expecting this. The type of colonial centres will vary from place to place, but for sure in this mix there will also be a variety churches all with their particular style. The Spanish Conqueror’s certainly left a large imprint on the history and development of Mexico. Before the Spanish there existed a variety of very rich old cultures, which sadly were destroyed by the Spanish. The Mayan and the Aztecs to name a few. All this cultural mix will be important to appreciate when you are here and then along with this you have the rich diversity of beach, which is found on both sides of Mexico and another aspect of this country to know. You will also come to realise how large Mexico is and not a place you can get round in two weeks, so depending on your time you will have to be selective.
I arrived to Mexico City and from there spent some weeks in the north, visiting Queretaro, Aguas Calientes, San Luis de Potosi, Matehuala, Monterrey, Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Morelia and then returned to Mexico City. Really my favourite cities in the north were Zacatecas, Guadalajara and Morelia, they had a beautiful charm which set them above the others. There colonial centres had such a beauty. From Mexico City I flew to Cancun where I stayed some two weeks, it’s a huge tourist centre which enjoys up to 20 million tourists yearly and has a huge hotel infrastructure. You have to see it to believe, mile upon mile of hotels lining the beach. You will find all the international brands here and the airport is large enough to cater for this demand. Then travelled down to Tulum and after Bacalar and Chetumal, which is right on the Belize border and then back up to Cancun. Here I stayed another few days before flying to Oaxaca, where I stayed a month. This really is a very beautiful place and frankly it’s great to stay in the colonial sector and if possible, near the main square, called Zocalo. Most days I would sit in one of the coffee shops which stretched onto the main square, where you just enjoy watching the world go round. It’s a very atmospheric place, very old with large thick based trees and feels like the centre of town.
The south is quite different to the North, everything runs at a slower pace, its poorer, i.e. all the industry of Mexico is focused in and around the capital and to the north. The south relies more on its agriculture, coffee, cacao and tourism and you will also feel a stronger identity here, the people are more native/ indigenous. Oaxaca is well known for its artists, you can find some lovely painting as well as its handicrafts such as leather, pottery, highly decorated wooden figures known as fantasy, woven carpets and much more. You have Monte Alban, a beautiful archaeological site which was created 500 years before Christ and was the capital of the Zapotecas which lasted more than 1000 years. Then there is Mitla, which was the religious centre of the Zapotec’s and was believed to be a gateway place between the living and the dead. Both sites are outside of Oaxaca and you will also during these tours visit the many small local villages, which have a great range of handicrafts on offer. From here I travelled over land in one of the many regular 16-seater buses which goes between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido on the pacific coast. Road is predominately tarmacked, a little potholed for the last part, but this is because they are finishing a new road which will cut the journey in half. My journey took about 8 hours, we made two stops on the way and I left at 9am and arrived to Escondido about 5pm in the late afternoon. The lunch stop was good, it was very Mexican, very typical/ clean, not expensive and as I remember great views as we were still high up. This journey takes you up into the mountains, through small villages and the temperature warmish, but you can feel that it will be a little chilly at night. The lands are fertile so there is a lot of agriculture here. As you begin to descend for the last part of the journey the temperature begins to change until you arrive to Puerto Escondido.
On arrival here I only had to go a short distance to my hostel, which was right by the sea and in the heart of the town, which was what I wanted. The heat was much more intense, even though it was late afternoon. The town lies in the middle of a huge bay and does not have any of the brand hotels here. Its full of many privately owned hotels and hostels. I spent in the end 5 weeks here, I really enjoyed the whole experience. The ocean was warm and around some parts of the bay the waves were spectacular with lots of surfers. It made me think of Hawaii and those huge waves that they are so famous for and bye the way the wave here is the third largest in the world. Where I was based, the waves were smaller and great for body surfing. Most mornings around 6am I would run round a part of the bay by the sea and then stop where all the fishermen were coming in with their boats, after fishing through the night somewhere of the coast. They would be selling their catch to everyone who wanted to buy and it was fascinating to look inside their boats and see what they had caught. The bay itself was beautiful right at the far end you have what they called, “La Punta “, and I was at the opposite end, it made for a great walk, taking you right round the bay. Around the far end close to, “La Punta “, you will find a large village like settlement where a lot of the surfers stay and backpackers. Going around the end of bay you will also find a further beach, wild and deserted. There a lot of Turtles that come here and lay their eggs, which are all protected areas and there is also a lot of, “Game Fishing “, here too. You can go out in the groups which depart daily and fish most of the day, fishing rods are supplied. Puerto Escondido is a beach destination and is a place to relax and swim, there are some excursions that you can do, but for me apart from the fishing, which I did one day, I spent most of my time walking, swimming and sitting on the beach. I took the local bus twice for full days where I went further down the coast to Mazunte, another beach resort and also to Huatulco, but that was all. Mazunte is not very Mexican, it’s there for the tourists and it’s a real mix of backpackers and traditional, so you can find a mix of accommodation there. Majority though are backpackers. Lots of restaurants, meditation and yes, the beaches there are very beautiful. It’s not for everyone, but its defiantly got its charm. After Puerto Escondido I travelled to Crucecita, which is a part of Huatulco, its about a four-hour journey by regular bus, you need to change bus at Pochutla which is on the way. On arrival to the terminal, you take a taxi for about 35 pesos to the centre of Crucecita and the hostel where I stayed. This whole area has some fabulous bays with great beaches, the water is so clear and warm. I enjoyed the three weeks I was there and went to the beach most days. It’s a different coast line and atmosphere to Puerto Escondido, they even have cruise boats docking here. The main square of Crucecita is quite attractive and I also I found a great coffee shop there, which I frequented quite often.
Well folks I will publish on my blog, I still have more time in Mexico and will also be travelling to Guatemala, so look forward to sharing more experiences.