Our Favorite Places and Experiences in Mexico

Now that we’ve completed two years of Peace Corps service in Mexico, we were reflecting on some of our favorite places and experiences.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  • La Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) in Oaxaca City.  Local artisans display their skills by carving large radishes in the shape of churches, nativity scenes, Frida Kahlo, or whatever strikes their fancy.  Their talent is displayed on December 23rd in the main square of the city.
  • The ruins at El Tajín (Veracruz State).  This wonderful archeological site rises from the jungle and you can sense what it was like to be one of the first outsiders to see the place.
  • Carnival in Tepotzlán (Morelos State).  This Pueblo Mágico is near Cuernavaca and offers the annual carnival week traditional of the bouncing dance of the Chinelos, performers wearing bearded masks and colorful costumes.
  • El Grito in Querétaro City.  On the night of September 15, the Governor of Querétaro State comes onto the balcony of the Palacio de Gobierno in the Plaza de Armas and intones the call for independence heard throughout the country that night.  Fireworks explode directly overhead and the embers fall onto the crowd of 5,000 completely filling the square.
  • Voladores in Papántla (Veracruz State).  These flying acrobats perform outside the main church and you can watch them while seated at a restaurant in the plaza principal.
  • Folkloric dancing in Guadalajara.  You can see these presentations in many places in Mexico, but one of the best is the performance by the Ballet Folclórico of the University of Guadalajara, which has the additional benefit of being staged in the beautiful Teatro Degollado in the centro histórico.
  • Semana Santa in Querétaro City.  On Good Friday, the streets of the historic downtown of the city are filled with penitents wearing pointed hoods and carrying heavy crosses in a silent procession.  During Easter week, the faithful visit seven churches through the centro histórico with special altars dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.
  • The anthropology museum in Jalapa (Veracruz State).  While not as large or overwhelming as the Museo de Antropología in Mexico City, this museum is extremely well designed, has a remarkable collection, and contains several of the colossal heads of the Olmec people.
  • Hillside dining overlooking Guanajuato City.  There are several restaurants on the hill behind and above the Teatro Juárez and one of our favorites is the Gallo Pitagórico, where you can enjoy Italian cuisine and take in the view of the city below.
  • The mask museum in Zacatecas City.  This is located in the old church of San Francisco. It presents a remarkable collection and an explanation of masks in their cultural context.
  • Sitting at a café in the Plaza de Armas in Querétaro City.  We prefer the ones located under the Portal Quemada (on the eastern side of the square), but you can´t go wrong at any of them.
  • Pink flamingoes near Celestún (Yucatán State).  We saw only a few hundred, but if you go at the right time there are thousands as part of their annual migration.
  • Monarch butterflies near Valle de Bravo (México State).  Peace Corps rules prevented us from going to Michoacán, but there were thousands of butterflies nesting in the Piedra Herrada conservation area.  The nearby Pueblo Mágico of Valle de Bravo is a lovely place for a weekend trip.
  • The five Franciscan missions in the Sierra Gorda (Querétaro State).  There´s one in Jalpan and the other four are nearby in small towns.  Founded by the nomadic Padre Junípero Serra, the exterior of these churches were created by master indigenous craftsman.
  • Mural art in Mexico City.  These masterpieces of 20th century Mexican artists, including Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, are on display in various locations throughout the capital.  Don´t miss those at the Palacio Nacional and Palacio de Bellas Artes.  If you have time for only one, the most representative of all is Rivera´s Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda, which is on display in its own museum (El Museo Mural Diego Rivera) located appropriately at the far end of the Alameda.
  • Unexpected performances in the plazas of Querétaro City.  On any given night, you can stumble upon unanticipated concerts, dancing, theater, and street performers in the main plazas of the centro histórico.

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