For two weeks or more it was just too hard to record my thoughts on this trip. Time and access to the Internet were in short supply. We were seeing things you don’t often see in Australia, like this car on fire:
I’ve had a chance now to digest some of my impressions and the overall purpose of such a marathon trip. People travel for many reasons: to catch up with friends and family, to see the places that they only know from movies and books, to admire special architecture, landscapes and paintings, to experience other cultures close up, to practices foreign languages, maybe to be SKIN-heads, and Spend the Kids Inheritance Now, or to enhance appreciation of home and all its comforts. My reasons embrace all these, but for me travel is also a form of research.
I triangulate what I know from other sources with what my eyes and ears and nose tell me. Those who saw my postings about Rajasthan last year know I was not delighted with what I perceived as a negative influence of some silly religious practices.
Preconceptions also did not prepare me for the delights of Mexico. Warnings about drug-related crime and heads in barrels were far from what I found in Mexico City and a brief journey across to the Yucatan Peninsula. Instead, I found a proud and mostly happy society that is actively working for a better life with ambitions of equal opportunity and decency for all.
Smiles, encouragement, politeness, ads that encourage reading and recycling, appreciation of their own and imported culture, and splendid buildings that are admired and looked after, like the Belles Artes in Mexico City:
I found a life around the plazas with a social cohesion that is both relaxed and proud, and a tolerance of the deviance that can never be fully eradicated in a city as huge as their capital. But how could he sleep on the busy footpath?
Along the way I climbed many temples, learning a bit about the Maya and the Aztecs, walking and occasionally cycling through jungles and peering into cenotes, the openings in the limestone plains that provided water for the Yucatan, since it has no rivers. These excursions were enhanced by the excellent archeology museum in Mexico City, which we should have devoted a whole day to.
When we got to Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico the pervasive background music took on a distinctly more Caribbean flavour, and perhaps the people were a bit darker skinned. By the time we got to Merida, the spell was cast: we saw a Ballet Folklorico in full enchantment of costumes, choreography and music. Another performance, for free and in the open, celebrated local singers and dancers. The colour of the craft and street stalls was almost an addiction: when everywhere you look is replete with bright light and charming decorations, anything less soon becomes dull.
The Merida town hall features wonderful murals by Castro Pacheco depicting the bad times of slavery in the sugar fields. I was lucky enough to wander into their modernised and very large modern art gallery, and recognised the style of another painter there, who was Pacheco’s acolyte. Another delayed pleasure of travel is that now I will tune in to any news about the areas I visited, and they now have my heartfelt best wishes.
One lasting memory of Mexico that will stay with me was the bakery in Coyoacan, the suburb of Mexico City named after coyotes:
It typified my experience of that city and that country: clean, efficient, wildly varied and totally delicious. I thought this leaves Baker’s Delight in the dust, as I walked the asiles choosing yummy things with tongs, to be wrapped by one set of attendants and paid for at the door. Only the size of my bag and belly limited my cache.
Next stop was Cuba, where such plenitude was not on offer. But that is for another day.