Mexico City has about 18 million residents which give it quite a buzz. This surreal ambiance is created by their corruption, pollution, and the enormous gap between the haves and have-nots. Stopping at red traffic lights is only for cowards, brave taxi drivers consider it optional. For the faint of heart such a crazy atmosphere is best tolerated on a temporary basis only.
A good place to get away from the hustle and bustle would be at the Condesa Hotel in a neighborhood dotted with Art Deco buildings shaded with jacaranda trees, where you can rub elbows with the movers and shakers of the artistic world. Mexico City’s art scene is a hot commodity. Maco Fair boasts eighty-five galleries replete with excellent artists who no longer travel to Europe for inspiration.
In the Centro Historico, downtown, 17th century cathedrals stand next to Aztec ruins, and the well-heeled shop at Roma and Condesa; there you can frequent the restaurants and bars into the wee hours of the night, and hope not to get robbed or kidnapped. Vendors sell large paper flowers, wooden objects, pineapples and pinatas to tourists. As you drive to Polanco, through broken streets filled with potholes which give you a whiplash, you reach fantastic mansions and well-guarded jewelry stores visited by beautifully dressed women descending from chauffeured driven cars, entering Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques.
I have visited Mexico several times going to Puerto Vallarta, Rosarito Beach near Tijuana bordering California; flew from Miami to Cancun; and drove down to Juarez, the chaotic border with Texas. When we lived in Arizona, I would drive across the desert for four hours to the border of Punta Punesco, to escape the heat and do a little swimming.
I had a little adventure in Cancun, when the hotel’s maid discarded my exit tourist visa, and the Immigration Officer would not let me leave the country without it. I explained my husband was the pilot of the plane, and with or without the little piece of paper I intended to fly away with him. He was looking for a little something under the table if I wanted a rapid duplication of papers, but I could not oblige because I had spent my last peso buying two enormous paper roses, one in pink and the other in yellow, which I wanted for my large Chinese vase. My husband was in the cockpit and had no idea where I was. When an official told him “you must give me $20, or I keep your wife,” John replied, “that’s a lot of money. Just keep her!” Then he started the checklist, the weights and balances were finished, he turned off the external power starting the engines, and when they started to pull the gate away, he shouted to the Mexican officer, “well I guess $20 is cheaper than a divorce.” I sprinted to the plane with my paper roses flying in the wind as the overweight guard ran behind me huffing and puffing yelling: “pare.” But I did not stop. As I scrambled up the moving steps the passengers broke into applause. I didn’t speak to my husband for a week. He said I was not going with him on another trip. So we compromised. From then on I traveled the world alone.
Mexico shares borders with Belize, which has some of the best diving in the world. It also shares borders with the Caribbean Sea, the Texas Gulf of Mexico, and in the North Pacific Ocean it abuts Guatemala and California.
Their per capita income is one-fourth lower than that of the USA, and their income distribution remains highly unequal, with many millionaires in the country; notably, billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s second richest man. There are few advancement opportunities for their large Ameridian population which is highly impoverished in the southern states. In 1994, their peso was devalued throwing the country into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century causing the government to quash the Zapatista uprising in the eastern Chiapas Region.
Mexicans are predominantly 60% Mestizo (Amerindian and Spanish) which is 89% Roman Catholic, 6% Protestant and 5% “other.” Their legal system is a mixture of US constitutional theory and civil law, with some acceptance of ICJ jurisdiction.
Mexico can’t seem to handle its population explosion and outmoded infrastructure. The border regions are straining with the water-sharing arrangements with the USA, creating an ongoing problem by polluting our rivers. Major drug syndicates control the majority of drug trafficking producing ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, shipping them to US markets.
Mexico has an absolute natural beauty, especially housing the world’s second-largest reef system along the entire Riviera Maya, with many new resorts and high-rises being built for tourists.
Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan city, was recently voted as one of the new seven wonders of the world. In its prime time, it was a great commercial center and power in the Mayan culture. Although absolutely barbaric to us, the Chac Mool statue was the stone for human sacrifice, and the ultimate honor during the Toltec Maya era around 900 A.D.
The gods were also offered rituals of “cenotes” or sinkholes that connect to underground rivers. These were critical to life as they supplied the only source of fresh water. Occasionally, humans were also sacrificed in these sacred wells. Divers love to go into them to look at stalagmite and stalactite rock formations which filled with rain water over the centuries, but often find broken pieces of Mayan pottery.
This Riviera Maya is a place of gorgeous beaches and amazing waters which has become a perfect place for a vacation. If you stay away from the madness of Mexico City, you can have a wonderfully inexpensive holiday, thoroughly enjoy a beautiful country, great weather and fun times.
Just keep a low profile and be cautious.
For 5000 years, the Mayan calendar was extremely accurate. But also according to Mayan legend, the end of time will come on December 22, 2012. This gives me a few more weeks to explore this wonderful world before the end of time!
Hasta la vista!