Lo­cal

Un­der the spell of Mex­ico's col­or­ful his­to­ries and fabled towns

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There’s noth­ing like know­ing Mex­ico—the place I first came to know by sam­pling gourmet en­chi­ladas and watch­ing Thalía on tele­vi­sion—than by tak­ing in a fork­ful of Tostada de Gu­sanos de Maguey, an as­sort­ment of agave worms, grasshop­pers, and chi­can­tas ants served on a tray. Like my ex­pe­ri­ence of tast­ing this del­i­cacy, my week in the Latin Amer­i­can coun­try was col­ored by fright and thrills, many of which I wouldn’t have tried had Mex­ico not been too charm­ing to re­sist.

I’d like to think Mex­ico has hyp­no­tized me. From the mo­ment I stepped foot in its city cap­i­tal, which is one of the most pop­u­lous and vi­brant mod­ern cities I’ve ever seen, to when I vis­ited the tree-lined streets of San An­gel and Coyoacán and the wa­ter­ways of Xochim­ilco, I was im­mersed in its whirl­wind of cul­ture, tra­di­tions, and habits. My time there made me feel like a ci­ti­zen rub­bing el­bows with Frida Kahlo— which, in a way, I did.

I walked the foot­steps of some of Mex­ico’s most revered artists and writ­ers, in­clud­ing a visit to Kahlo’s Casa Azul, the artist’s house-turned-mu­seum ded­i­cated to her life. I also vis­ited the Mu­seum of Dolores Olmedo, a 16th cen­tury build­ing with a co­he­sive col­lec­tion of fine art as well as hun­dreds of pre-His­panic fig­urines and sculp­tures.

There were so many sights, and tak­ing them in was more im­por­tant than see­ing. At Xochim­ilco, I cruised its canals on a col­or­ful tra­jin­era while learn­ing about the Aztec’s in­ge­nious tech­nique of grow­ing food. There was also Teoti­huacán, one of the most im­por­tant Me­soamer­i­can sites in the Amer­i­cas. The gas­tro­nom­i­cally ex­cit­ing and scenic Oax­aca had me vis­it­ing mar­kets, meet­ing choco­late-mak­ers, and try­ing lo­cal hot choco­late, while the sa­cred arche­o­log­i­cal site of Monte Al­bán was a trip through time.

Nav­i­gat­ing towns like San Miguel de Al­lende, a bustling ex­pat cen­ter pep­pered with cathe­drals, shops, restau­rants, and art gal­leries, was an ex­pe­ri­ence, and walk­ing on its cob­ble­stone streets to get to the Sanc­tu­ary of Ato­tonilco, a World Her­itage Site adorned with Mex­i­can baroque mu­rals, was un­for­get­table.

The Ato­to­tonilco Gallery presents the best Mex­i­can folk art there is. Here, gallery owner Mayer Shac­ter show­cases works from tal­ented and imag­i­na­tive lo­cal artists and crafts­men along­side an­tique pieces and craft items borne out of cen­turies-old tra­di­tions of Hui­chol art, Mex­i­can pot­tery, Mex­i­can pa­pel mache, vin­tage

ser­apes, Oax­a­can wood carv­ings, and many more. My last day in Mex­ico was spent at Gua­na­ju­ato, a great place to sam­ple re­gional Ba­jío cui­sine. I traipsed in its nar­row streets and un­der­ground pas­sage­ways, wish­ing I didn’t have to leave this coun­try and its rich his­tory.

But of course, I had to. Many years of trav­el­ing had taught me this: you never leave a for­eign coun­try un­less you want to. Mex­ico, since my visit, has stayed with me. •

Mex­ico has a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing for every­one. From fla­vor­ful food to his­toric sights.

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