Mexico continues to be the top tourist destination for Americans traveling abroad. Cheap flights, many of them direct, miles and miles of white sand beaches, numerous cultural activities and adventure tours as well as the country’s world-famous hospitality continue to attract millions of visitors each year. In fact, in 2013 Mexico received over 15 million visitors from the United States alone.
Here are 5 things to know about Mexico to know before your next trip to this great country.
1) Mexico is an incredibly diverse country
Mexico is a multicultural country with over 116 million people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse interests. Each state of the Mexican Republic has its own cultural traditions, many based on the living heritage of the indigenous peoples and the fusion with the descendants of the Spaniards following the period of colonization.
Today, there are still 59 different indigenous languages spoken throughout the country, and the descendants of the great Aztec and Maya civilizations continue to thrive and contribute to Mexican society and culture to this very day. Likewise, Mexico has received millions of immigrants from the rest of Latin America, Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia, who have invested their skills and knowledge in developing the country.
2) Mexico is more than mariachis
Son Jarocho is one of many outstanding expressions of Mexican music
Like its people, Mexican culture has transformed through time. The old fusions with the new, giving birth to ever-evolving forms and expressions of national identity. And although many people’s first thought of Mexican culture is of mariachi music, Mexico has a rich history of producing incredible artists in other genres as well. From the great painters such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and David Sisqueros to incredible actors such as Cantiflas and María Felix, authors such as Octavio Paz or Carlos Fuentes or famous groups and musicians such as Jorge Negrete, Lila Downs and Café Tacuba, Mexico’s cultural contribution to humanity is enormous.
3) Burritos and Chili Con Carne
While the history and delicious diversity of Tex-Mex food is a tale worth telling, it is not the same as what we sometimes mistake for Mexican food. As is the case the world over, Mexican food has developed and been transformed over time. Like the modern day people of Mexico, the country’s culinary tradition as such begins with the Spanish Conquest, when the dietary staple of the indigenous people fusioned with the culinary customs and traditions of the Spanish invaders. As with everything, this fusion grew and took on an identity of its own until finally becoming what we know today as Mexican food.
But that’s not all.
As diverse a country as Mexico truly is, each region has contributed its own dishes to the potpourri of national cuisine. From panuchos in the Yucatan Peninsula to tamales from Chiapas, Veracruz-style fish, stews from Mexico City, pregnant fish in Puerto Vallarta orMexican-style barbecue from the north, Mexican cuisine is extremely diverse and incredibly delicious.
Burritos, nachos and chili con carne are all tasty, but they are still Tex-Mex.
4) Safe or Not Safe?
The issue of crime and violence has been all over the news in recent years. And while it would be wrong to deny the fact that there are serious problems with these issues in Mexico, it is very important not to take it out of context or reduce an entire country to what is seen through a very filtered lens.
The truth is, while crime and violence do exist, the extreme manifestations of drug-related activities—the number one cause of conflict in violence in Mexico—are largely limited to the northern border regions with the United States. In fact, tourist destinations such as Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos are considered to be safer than many other cities or tourist destination throughout the world.
5) Preparing for your trip to Mexico
So you have decided to travel to Mexico and are eager to explore the great land of your southern neighbors. The time is almost here for you to set off on your adventure, but then you begin to ask yourself, “What do I pack?!”
Unless you are going on a backpacking adventure off-the-beaten-track, you will be happy to know that most amenities that you have learned to grow and love, such as Wi-Fi connections, ATM machines and purified water are readily available in all major destinations. What’s more, like in the U.S. Mexico is on a 110V system. In other words, you will be able to plug in your tablets and smartphones just as easily and effortlessly as you do at home.
You will also find that many people in the hotels and service industry generally speak good English. US dollars are mostly accepted everywhere, although it’s good to withdraw money in Mexican pesos or change your money at the hotel or a currency exchange office.
What’s important that you do bring along are any medicines you may be taking along with their respective doctor’s prescription. While you will have no problem finding a pharmacy, most require Mexican prescriptions for the purchase of most medicines. Finally, take along a copy of your passport. If something were to happen to it, having a copy will greatly facilitate the bureaucracy of replacing it.
But perhaps above all, pack lightly so that you have room to take home some amazing souvenirs!
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