Mexico De-Mythified

The town of Tepoztlán as seen from the surrounding hills.

The town of Tepoztlán as seen from the surrounding hills.

I have spent little time in Mexico prior to my recent move to Cuernavaca. I admit my mental images of Mexico have been dominated by two media-transmitted stereotypes. The first image is right out of movies like The Magnificent Seven or about Pancho Villa where the local people are peasant farmers and the bad guys are horsemen with big sombreros and bandoliers of bullets crisscrossing their chests. In these movies it is always hot, everybody is perspiring, and Banditothere is no water to be found for miles.

The second image comes from movies and news stories portraying drug cartel violence where the bad guys drive shiny Escalades or Humvees, carry machine pistols in their thigh holsters, and are seldom seen without an AK-47 held across their chests. (How they keep those SUV’s shiny while driving on dirt roads all the time is a mystery.) These guys have either just killed a bunch of rivals and innocent civilians, or they are prepared to do so if anyone interferes with their drug transaction to move a few bundles of cocaine across the border into the United States.

Sundays at the market in Tepoztlán are the busiest days.

Sundays at the market in Tepoztlán are the busiest days.

As it turns out, I have seen little evidence of poverty, violence, or water shortage. The grocery stores are immaculate. The open air markets have amazing selections of fresh fruits and vegetables at great prices. The arid reaches of the northern desert are nowhere in evidence in the central states. And I have not heard a single gunshot at any time during my first week in Mexico.

My first impression of the cities is they are clean. Even with a scarcity of garbage cans, garbage and litter get picked up regularly. The countryside is a mixture of open space, scenic mountains, and pine forests stretching beyond the horizon. The weather is mild even in January with daily temperatures in the 70° – 80°F range. With these considerations, Mexico is pleasant.

The State of Morelos in Central Mexico is lush, fertile, and scenic.

The State of Morelos in Central Mexico is lush, fertile, and scenic as seen from this mountain view.

The best part of Mexico is the people. On the drive from the airport, I commented to our driver, Vicente, that people seemed less reserved than the local people of the Central American countries we have visited. To which he replied, “Nuestros corazones están abierto.” Our hearts are open. And he is right. I have not felt the suspicious eyes of people watching me like I am an exploitive American. (Latinos have stereotypes of Americans, too.)

It is with a sense of ease and comfort that we begin to settle into our daily way of life in Mexico. We have experienced some of the culture and history of Mexico along with some amazingly good food. These are some of the benefits of living here, and we have barely scratched the surface.

living in Panama

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18 comments on “Mexico De-Mythified

  1. mkesling63 says:

    Spending a lot of time in Mexico, the farther away from the border towns you are, the better it gets. Hollywood is just that, Hollywood. Most here bad mouth the water and around the border towns and tourist towns it is bad, but where we were the well water was fine.

    • There are more stereotypes than those I wrote about. Your example of ‘don’t drink the water’ is classic. The more we can tackle these types of exaggerations and misconceptions, the sooner we can increase the mutual respect between neighbors.
      Thank you for your comments.

      • mkesling63 says:

        I have better. Cure the start of the misconception cause. Not to say your way is not needed, too. I am for making the entire earth’s water table good and removing all that deprives it of health.

  2. Mike, it only gets better. The people are incredible, the food spectacular, the sites amazing. You MUST go visit Xochicalco. Less than an hour from Cuernavaca. It’s an amazing ruin in very good shape and full of amazing history.

    Glad you and Flo are settling in and seeing the country and its people for what they truly are. Wonderful.

  3. cillahughes says:

    Wow. Beautiful imagery,

  4. annewoodman says:

    I love the sentiment of “our hearts are open.” Wonderful. And gorgeous photos! I hope you have an excellent visit.

    • There is much more to say about Mexico. I just had to get the stereotype stuff out of the way so readers (including family) would know we are safe in Mexico. Now I can move on. Thank you for your comments, Anne.

  5. Chi Nguyen says:

    People who tell you there is so much poverty and violence in the rest of the world usually don’t leave too far from their home. You are out there Mike and Flo, telling it like it is, and the rest of the world is hardly falling apart. Hong Kong has the best food selection I’ve ever seen in my life. I can get See’s candy or La Duree macarons from Paris, both fresh. There is plenty of food, from very inexpensive local foods to high end whatever.

    I enjoy reading that Mexico is just as beautiful as I remembered it! –Chi

  6. I hear it every time we go to Mexico. The typical “warnings” mostly from those who have never crossed the border. 🙂 I have driven all throughout Mexico though that was about 13 years ago. But we go at least once a year now by plane. I’ve been to many areas and can say that even though my husband is Mexican, I look very much like your typical “gringa” . I have never been treated anyway but great. I actually feel like royalty when I am in Mexico. Having family that lives in Cuautla and Yautepec we always venture off the beaten path to the places where locals go and I have never felt threatened nor has anything bad ever happened to us on any of our trips. Mexicans are very friendly people and I find that they really appreciate when you speak or try to speak Spanish with them. Because I am a foodie and coffee fanatic I must mention a beautiful restaurant my sister-in-law introduced us to if you venture not far over to Cuautla. Cuautla is not my favorite city at all, but there is this place called “El Arrocero” and it is a great spot for food, coffee and dessert. Excellent service also as I typically find is the norm in Mex.

    • Mexico is so convenient and affordable as a travel destination. I think Americans would let go of some of their media-generated apprehensions about Mexico and Mexicans if they allowed themselves to see some of the beauty and friendliness that they are missing. I believe that is what travel does for you – you have to be a little humble to be a guest in another country.
      Thank you for all the great information.

  7. I just left Israel, where I spent quite a bit of time with a friend of my daughter, who was from Cuernavaca, I believe. I’ll have to share this with him. Love reading about your adventures Mike. They make me feel much better about exploring Mexico… you make it very intriguing, after being bashed by the constant bad press. Love the photos too!

    • Perhaps one of the reasons the Mexicans are so warm and friendly is that they are aware they and their country get a bad rap in the American media. They counter that negative image with hospitality, and they are rewarded in that most of the Americans that come here to live are good neighbors. If only our two countries could attain that level of mutual respect on a national level. I wish for that day.

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