- Pleasant hawkers It seems to be a fact of life that where there's a major tourist attraction, there's someone trying to sell you something or other not far away. What's nice about Mexico is that the hawkers are actually friendly people, who'll help you out even if you don't buy something. Plus, if you say "no thanks, I don't want an enamelled copper plate, thank you", these people actually say "ok" and go away!
- Juice bars No Mexican town seems complete without a collection of juice bars. These supply the freshest and tastiest juice you've ever tried. They don't even start squeezing the fruit until you place your order. An orange juice for one contains nothing more than the juice of six oranges, and will set you back around 25 British pence. Mind you, with oranges on sale in the market at about 35 pence a kilo the raw materials aren't exactly expensive.
- Murals The art movement of the "Muralists" was led by Diego Rivera. Spurning the more lucrative production of traditional paintings, a number of Spanish painters prefered commissions from town councils to decorate public buildings with historical murals. A socialist-inspired drive to educate the masses coupled with artistic skill to provide a beautiful education in the rich history and social problems of this country.
- Siestas Lunch time runs from about 1pm to about 4pm. People return to their houses for a nice slap up lunch before heading back to work to finally finish around 7pm. One nice side-effect of all this is that the fathers spend time with their kids. For all the talk about the macho culture, Mexican fathers seem to do a lot more visible childcare than their counterparts in other countries.
- Evenings in the town plaza Every town has a plaza or two. These typically centre around a bandstand or a statue, have some shady trees - often laurel trees pruned to rectangular shapes - and a plethora of benches. Every evening, people gather. The kids run around playing games, the teenagers flirt, the parents chat and the grandparents join in. It's lovely to see all ages taking part, and there's a great relaxed feeling around the whole affair.
- Everyday music Music is just another part of life in Mexico. There are performances in parks, parades, concerts, and just groups of buddies singing all over the place. Most of the music involves traditional songs that everyone seems to know, and just about everyone joins in at the drop of a hat: self-consciousness is not part of the Mexican psyche.
- Colonial architecture If you remember not to think about the Indians whose lives were ruined, the architectural legacy of the colonial era is pretty stunning. Baroque and neo-classical churches and public buildings of distinction, private houses built around cloistered courtyards and nicely proportioned streets, and the plazas: such havens of greenery and great places to meet.
- Pride in local history Each town has some kind of story to tell. Be it participation in the War of Independence, the Mexican revolution, pre-hispanic history, the writing of the constitution or wars against the invading USA, French, Spanish, British - take you pick, they all had a go! Each town has put together a small museum about this history and their local crafts which makes a great 50 minute lesson in local history, and which add up to a picture of a nation full of wars and many acts of both bravery and treachery. Each town also has many statues. My favourites are the many statues of 'insurgentes' which for the Mexican seems to be an heroic rebel.
- Cathedrals and churches Each town has a beautiful cathedral (usally on the plaza) and often several other churches too. As well as being historic and lovely buildings containing some interesting art, they are also calm places for solitude and contemplation much used by local people.
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
Church interior, Guanjato
Courtyard detail, Guanajato
Relic, Guanajato church
Street scene, Morelia