World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico

Mexico: The Best Cultural Experiences

  • Passing Time in the Plazas & Parks: All the world may be a stage, but some parts have richer backdrops than others. Town plazas are the perfect settings for watching everyday life unfold. Alive with people, these open spaces are no modern product of urban planners, but are rooted in the traditional Mexican view of society. Several plazas are standouts: Veracruz's famous zɃcalo features nearly nonstop music and tropical gaiety. One look tells you how important Oaxaca's zɃcalo is to the local citizenry; the plaza is remarkably beautiful, grand, and intimate all at once. Mexico City's Alameda has a dark, dramatic history -- heretics were burned at the stake here during the colonial period -- but today it's a people's park where lovers sit, cotton-candy vendors spin their treats, and the sound of organ grinders drifts over the changing crowd. San Miguel de Allende's Jardȷn is the focal point for meeting, sitting, painting, and sketching. During festivals, it fills with dancers, parades, and elaborate fireworks. Guanajuato and Querȳtaro have the coziest of plazas, while El Centro in Mȳrida on a Sunday can't be beat.

  • Mɐsica Popular: Nothing reveals the soul of a people like music, and Mexico boasts many kinds in many different settings. You can find brassy, belt-it-out mariachi music in the famous Plaza de Garibaldi in Mexico City, under the arches of El Pariȥn in Tlaquepaque, and in other parts of Guadalajara. Or perhaps you want to hear romantic boleros about love's betrayal sung to the strumming of a Spanish guitar, or what Mexicans call mɐsica tropical and related cumbias, mambos, and cha-cha-chas.

  • Regional Folk Dancing: Whether it's the Ballet FolklɃrico in Mexico City or the Ballet FolclɃrico in Guadalajara, the almost-nightly park performances in Mȳrida, or celebrations countrywide, these performances are diverse and colorful expressions of Mexican traditions.

  • Fireworks: Mexicans share such a passion for fireworks and such a cavalier attitude toward them that it's a good thing the buildings are stone and cement, or the whole country would have burned down long ago. Many local traditions surround fireworks, and every festival includes a display. The most lavish are the large constructions known as castillos, and the wildest are the toros that men carry over their shoulders while running through the streets, causing festival-goers to dive for cover.

  • Strolling El MalecɃn: Wherever there's a seafront road, you'll find el malecɃn bordering it. This is generally a wide sidewalk for strolling, complete with vendors selling pinwheels and cotton candy. In some places, it has supplanted the plaza as a centerpiece of town life. The best examples are in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlȥn, La Paz, Cozumel, and Veracruz.

  • Regional Fairs: Almost every city and town has its regional fair (feria regional). They showcase the best products of the region -- tequila or fruit liquors, livestock, carved silver, or clay handicrafts. One of the most notable regional fairs is La Feria del Caballo in Texcoco, which takes place in late March or early April.

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