Mexico City & Region
Mexico City is the largest city in the world in population, with over twenty million inhabitants. There are excellent museums and galleries, excavated pyramids and colonial mansions. There are the rural retreats of mountainous national parks like Cuernavaca to the south with its ancient palaces and in the east theCholula volcanoes and the thriving, ultra-colonial town of Puebla.
The city is exciting, frightening, bewildering and alive. The area is associated with the Aztecs, but their forebears and the true makers of the culture here were the Teotihuacan, whose giant pyramids remain standing 30 miles northeast of the modern city.
Guadelajara is seen as a slower and more conservative place than Mexico City, though some say it is the ‘most Mexican’ of Mexican cities. There are a series of plazas downtown, unchanged since Spanish colonial times, with a distinct provincial elegance and old-world atmosphere. Outside of the unruffled nucleus are the smart hotels, modern office blocks and shopping malls of the suburbs.
This is the barrier that keeps Mexicans out of North America and where people risk their lives to get into the States. For North Americans, Tijuana has always had a reputation for being a wild border town. Nowadays, though, you are more likely to find a hamburger than you are a to find a gunfight. Having said that, it is still a haven for criminals on the run, leachy businessmen, gamblers and schoolboys looking for a good time.
Over twenty million people come into Tijuana every year, but hardly any stay the night; this is No Man’s Land. The border patrol is where all the helicopters come in and at the borderline it is not really Mexico or the United States, until you get over the fence. Army people sometimes have to come to the border and try to stop the Mexicans from going across. When this happens the army people are pretty rough on the Mexicans.
Baja’s highway is literally littered with small towns like San Quintin, where locals drift in from the countryside, buy groceries, get repairs done or have a beer. Apart from that time passes very slowly. In San Quintin is a hotel called Cielito Lindon. Built for 50’s Hollywood stars, the place is now fading as we move further into the 21st century.
San Ignacio, colonized by the Spanish, is now a local centre for the ranching community, known here as rancheros. It’s also an oasis, a life-saving source of water in the past and a good place to cool off today.
Mulege is a small town on the coast which is popular with tourists. Mulege is another oasis town where the Spanish built a mission. These days, Mulege is quiet and peaceful, but a lot of Baja towns still have a hangover from the rough and tough frontier times when the peninsular was a haven for mercenaries, revolutionaries, prohibition busters and gangsters, or anyone on the run from the law.
A single rough track leads to the town of Batopilas, at the end of the missionary trail. It became rich in the 18th century, when silver was discovered in the nearby mountains. Because of its isolation, Batopilas quickly got a reputation as a hard town with tough men and strong women.
Batopilas is a cowboy town. There are no bars and no discos, so every once in a while, the people here get together, and this is when it gets dangerous. This is a butch and macho place, and the girls from town belong to the boys from town.
Perched high above a lake, five hour’s drive from Mexico City, is the traditional Indian village of Patzcuaro. Nothing much happens here, except once a year this sleepy little town wakes up to a very special visitor.
She’s got the most unforgettable face, and out here she goes by many different names. They call her the fancy one, they call her the skinny lady. They call her the baldy bone face, Mexicans chase after her, they lust after her, they mock her and they even sleep with her. Also she’s the favourite plaything and the most everlasting love. La Muerte: death. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), is a ceremony that occurs at midnight every November 1st in Patzcuaro, and is well worth experiencing.
Guanajuato is the old Spanish heartland of Mexico – a vast dry and rugged landscape. Home to Mexico’s only true national sport, ‘Chuarro’, Guanajuato was the cradle of the revolution against Spain. It was also the source of silver and gold for the Spanish, with which they created the most splendid cities in Mexico.
Guanajuato used to be the wealthiest town in the whole of Mexico; the Spanish built some of their most striking buildings here. Today there are no signs, no traffic lights, new buildings are not allowed and it looks just like a Spanish town from the 18th century. There is also an incredible maze of underground tunnels.
Architecturally, Guanajuato feels like a Spanish city, though in terms of its visual beauty it almost surpasses anything you would see in Spain. Here, though, you have the additional component of colour. Whilst in Spain the buildings tend to be more greyish, the colour here is amazing and you feel that you really are in Mexico when you come to Guanajuato.