What is Really Important to See When Traveling to Mexico
As I traveled on Mexico’s State Road 180, from a major tourist attraction in the State of Yucatan, back to the resort where I was staying in the State of Quintana Roo, I pondered on what I was seeing and I was convinced that this was something I wanted to share. When visiting Mexico you cannot help but notice all the beauty and national treasures this country has in store. However, one of the most important things to see and really enjoy is its people. People with such a rich culture - they are colorful, warm, and ever so friendly. I could have easily made a choice to stay in my “all inclusive” resort and relax in a fantasy world completely removed from the every-day worries and realities of the world in which we live. Instead, I rented a car and traveled two and a half hours to see the breath taking Chichen-Itza, see the beautiful country-side, and the real side of Mexico.
Little did I know how much of a learning experience the trip would turn out to be. Just driving down the road, it was amazing to learn so much about the Mexican culture. The true Mexican culture, with real customs, traditions and, most of all, real people – not what we are normally exposed to through the media. The Mexican people’s family ties are very tight, even what we in the States consider to be distant relatives, to them these are close family. The family unit is sacred to them and, in fact, it is so sacred and so tight that even after a loved one’s death, they still show their love by building shrines to them in front of their homes. It was amazing to see the number of tiny shrines that were built on the sides of the road. Not shrines like we see in the States by the side of the road with flowers and the name of the deceased (and this is only done when the death is the result of an accident on that very spot), these are like miniature little chapels with a candle inside in memory of the loved one. There was even one with a picture of the deceased in it. Most importantly, these “shrines” were well tended to - the candles were lit and the flowers were fresh.
Another aspect of their culture that was most fascinating and inspiring is the strength of their religious faith. Not only were there shrines to honor the deceased on the side of the road, but every so often I would find small chapel-like structures built in front of homes and businesses. Inside these chapels there was always the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, or Christ or a saint. Again, there was always a lit candle inside these structures. How striking that was to me. To think that people actually took time from their daily lives, which seemed to be consumed in nothing but hard work, to keep candles lit, and fresh flowers in front of their saints of devotion as a sign of their faith. One instance that struck me in particular was as I was passing the small town of Villadolid (on a Sunday afternoon) it seemed that a great celebration was about to take place. There were white paper bags on the side-walks of what would be their main road (but was actually a narrow little road) with candles lit inside, leading to a small Catholic Church. I am calling it a church because it had an altar, chairs, and three walls. In fact, just one whole wall, the two side walls were only built to about shoulder height. The front wall of the church was completely missing, exposing the altar and chairs to the sidewalk and road. Nevertheless, it was their church. As I drove a little further, it became clear what the celebration was all about. Right there on the side of the road, there were a couple of your girls wearing the most beautiful (but modest) white dresses and veils with their mothers arranging the veils on their heads. There were also a couple of young boys, all dressed in white with the most white and shiny shoes I have ever seen. They were getting ready to do their First Communion. At that moment I could not help but wonder how long these people had been saving their hard-earned “pesos” to be able to afford to dress their children appropriately for such a big day in their religious faith.
While in Mexico, among many wonderful things I was able to experience, I experienced a great vacation at a resort, I was able to experience one of the seven wonders of the world – the great Mayan ruin Chichen- Itza, but most of all I was able to experience the true Mexico . From the peddlers selling their beautiful wears at the tourist attractions, to the resort workers who could not do enough to make your stay a great one, to the beautiful little girl who as dirty and bare-footed as she was , had the biggest brightest smile as she waved good-by from a road-side refreshment stand.
Next time you are looking for a foreign country to visit, I strongly suggest you consider Mexico. It has beautiful beaches, mountains, breath taking Mayan ruins, and beautiful people – both inside and outside. What else can you ask for?