|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Lands of Enchantment
Let us give you a taste of what life in Mexico is like and maybe you will find that this is the country for you.
Mexico is bordered by the United States to the north, Belize and Guatemala to the southeast and covers 761 thousand sq miles. Mexico is comprised of thirty one states and is surrounded by four coasts, the Sea of Cortes, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Baja California in the west is an 800-mile peninsula and forms the Gulf of California. In the east are the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Campeche, which is formed by Mexico's other peninsula, the Yucatan.
The center of Mexico is a great, high plateau, open to the north, with mountain chains on the east and west and with ocean-front lowlands lying outside them. A number of mountain peaks are of volcanic origin, a volcanic area crosses Mexico from the Atlantic to the Pacific and there is still some volcanic activity and earthquakes are common especially along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
The climate varies depending upon the height of the land above sea-level. The lowlands are hot and the plateau is cool, with frosts in some areas. Huge differences in climate means that Mexico has a wide variety of flora and valuable hardwoods such as mahogany, ebony, walnut and rosewood grow, as well as oak, pine, fir and the cacao tree whose nuts provide the base for chocolate. Wildlife is also varied with lynx, wolves, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, bears, monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas and snakes.
On the whole Mexico is laid back with a slower pace of life than the USA and Britain with the exception of Mexico City and Monterrey. The language is Spanish although English is widely understood especially in the tourist areas. Mexico is a big place and you will need to decide where you want to live. There is a huge choice from coastal regions, colonial cities, big cities, small towns and quaint inland villages. It would be advantageous to learn some Spanish so that you can integrate with the local people and enjoy their way of life.
Mexico's culture has a rich history and is solidly based around family, religion, people and tradition. The people are warm and friendly and in the smaller communities especially they will make you feel very welcome. Football is Mexico's most popular sport and bullfighting takes place in all Mexican cities with rodeos also being popular. Folk dance and music is important to Mexican culture and traditional Amerindian folk dances have been incorporated into Christian festivities.
Ancient architecture has left its legacy in the country and the remains of Toltec art can be seen in Tula where they had their city of Tollan. They were a warlike people who lived in Mexico around the turn of the first millennium. Chichen Itza was built around cenotes, limestone sinkholes into which sacrifices and gold offerings were thrown. It was one of the greatest Mayan centres of the Yucatan peninsula. Mexico's past is very colourful and there cannot be many people who have not heard of the legendary bandit Pancho Villa.
Mexico City, the capital, is a city of contrasts and is the highest city in North America. The surrounding area is an important manufacturing region and there is a domestic motor vehicle industry as well as iron, steel, chemicals and textiles industry. The sheer size of the city is staggering, it is the world's largest population concentration and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere. Located at 7,400 feet above sea level the city suffers traffic nightmares and parts of this teeming, pulsating metropolis are home to desperate poverty. On top of all this, the city is susceptible to earthquakes.
So why would anyone want to buy in Mexico City? Despite its numerous problems, Mexico City is a diverse, fascinating and cosmopolitan city with a place in history that few other world capitals can match. The Aztec civilisation flourished here in the 16th century, and modern Mexico City sits atop the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, once home to 200,000 people and the centre of an empire that stretched from Honduras to Texas.
In 1519, Cortez and a band of 400 Spanish soldiers met and later conquered the Aztec here. Pockets of wonderfully preserved reminders of the once-thriving Aztec civilisation and its Colonial-era conquerors are found throughout this modern city. In 2007 archaeologists discovered an Aztec pyramid estimated to have been built between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
The Zocalo in the centre of downtown is the world's second largest public gathering place and has been witness to political and religious ceremonies since the fourteenth century. The city boasts many museums, theatres, stadiums, ecological parks, archaeological sites, hotels of all sorts and sizes, every shopping opportunity imaginable and an expansive assortment of restaurants. This is a city of spectacle and grandeur and despite its enormous problems, it should not be missed.
Mexico's second largest city, Guadalajara, the City of Roses, is a tourist and retirement centre offering stately architecture, colonial plazas, outstanding weather and a charm not found in many large cities. Parks, fountains and wide boulevards dot the city and the city is a centre for education, the arts and native crafts. There is always something to do, from attending the Folkloric Ballet to dining in dozens of elegant restaurants that represent a variety of international cuisines.
Guadalajara has at least six championship-quality golf courses and five professional soccer teams. The Mexican rodeo (Charreadas) performs every Sunday at noon, and not to be missed is the Mercado Libertad, a sprawling covered market where vendors sell just about everything imaginable.
Guadalajara has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and it struggles with traffic jams and air pollution, although not on the scale of Mexico City. The best day to visit is on Sunday when fewer automobiles are on the road. Take a calandrias, a horse-drawn carriage ride from downtown which will take you on a tour of some of Guadalajara's prettiest neighbourhoods.
Located in the rugged state of Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico is Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city and the industrial powerhouse. Now an important site for manufacturing and industry the city was founded in 1596 and boasts colonial-era attractions, elegant hotels and an active cultural scene.
Cozumel is definitely a place to consider and is actually the largest inhabited island in Mexico. This stunningly beautiful jewel shaped, flat island lies a mere 19 km off the Yucatan coast and the interior features lush jungle vegetation, while the shore line boasts white sand beaches surrounded by the bluest, clearest water any place on earth. Cozumel has come a long way since the days when marauding bands of pirates used its sheltered coves as hideouts.
Cozumel remains a serene, quiet and undiscovered piece of paradise and a premier spot for serious divers. The waters surrounding the island feature some of the most beautiful and delicate coral formations anywhere in the world and sea creatures that call those coral reefs home are some of the most fascinating and beautiful to be found anywhere.
The twin resorts of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are two of the largest resorts in Mexico. San Jose del Cabo is a beautiful city full of lush tropical palm groves and quaint meandering streets. The town has retained the look and feel of a colonial village. Cabo San Lucas is a quaint town with wonderful restaurants, some of the finest shopping anywhere, a beautiful 300 slip marina and features an active nightlife.
t is also a top spot for divers and fishermen with the waters teeming with marine life where you can hook that prize blue marlin or explore the beautiful coral formations. There is something for everyone here in Cabo San Lucas.
From ancient ruins to beautiful beaches, Cancun has something for every visitor or new inhabitant. Indeed, it would be hard to design a destination with better natural beauty, archaeological riches and man-made attractions. No matter what you are seeking chances are you will find it in Cancun. The area, also known as the Mexican Riviera, stretches from Mazatlan to Acapulco and for many years was virtually the only region of the country with attractions and facilities to tempt visitors from abroad.
The entire Cancun region is a treasure trove of Mayan influence. Stone temples uncovered during the construction of the areas resorts tell a tale dating back to the 12th century. As you move further inland, you find magnificent ancient cities and ceremonial centres of Mayan life. In all, there are more than 200 archaeological sites, all within a few hours drive from Cancun, some are wonderfully restored while others are still surrounded and obscured by the tangled jungle of the region.
Acapulco is a magnificent natural harbour framed by a scenic mountain range. The city has a long and storied history when, as far back as 1530, laden ships would leave full of Mexican silver and other luxury items bound for the Philippines where traders from around the world would meet to trade their goods. Spanish ships would return with Chinese silks, ivory, pearls and other precious stones.
Today people from around the world flock to Acapulco in search of sun, fun and surf, and Acapulco Bay rivals the best places in the world for natural scenic beauty, beautiful beaches and crystal blue waters of the deepest azure. Some of the finest and most authentic Mexican food is to be found in Acapulco and owing to the nearby sea, wonderful fresh seafood abounds. Imagine having a romantic special dinner by candlelight as the sun sets over Acapulco Bay, something you will never forget.
The Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo region nestles among the lush green of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains less than 250 km from Acapulco. The area consists of rolling hills and tropical coastline dotted with wonderful hidden coves, white sandy beaches and some of the bluest waters you will see anywhere. The entire area enjoys a beautiful, temperate climate year round and cool ocean breezes help keep the temperature just right throughout the year. The area combines a luxury resort with quaint charm of a Mexican village. These twin towns are located seven km apart and are one of the most popular areas of Mexico.
In contrast to the modernity and excitement of Ixtapa, the village of Zihuatenejo is a true Mexican pueblo in every sense of the word. This magnificent village combines a relaxed and unpretentious attitude with unparalleled tropical beauty. The town of Zihuatenejo is centered around a sheltered harbor, backed by hills of dense jungle vegetation. The slow pace of life in Zihuatenejo is a welcome contrast to the modern feel and glittery style of nearby Ixtapa. The quaint village has some lovely seaside cafes, native markets selling a variety of local crafts, as well as a beautiful promenade by the sea. This village has retained its small town charm even as the area around it has grown into one of Mexico's most popular tourist destinations.
The proximity of the two destinations allows visitors to split their time between Ixtapa and Zihuatenejo. A typical day may find the visitor enjoying a leisurely breakfast in Zihuatenejo, followed by a tennis lesson with the local tennis pro in Ixtapa, all topped off with a lovely dinner at sunset in Zihuatenejo. The Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo is truly all things to all people.
Travel to the inland villages will be sheer pleasure and the delightful hillside town of Taxco, often known as Mexico's silver city, has silver mines worked as early as 1521 and they made Taxco prosperous. Today the towns winding streets are crowded with shops selling fine jewellery and silverware and Taxco has been declared a National Monument.
Oaxaca is surrounded by the peaks of the Sierra Madre and Indians flock into the colonial city on Saturdays to sell their tooled leather, embroidered blouses, woollen ponchos and other goods. San Cristobal de las Casas in the Chiapas region is well worth a visit. This quiet colonial town has a charming atmosphere and is surrounded by indigenous villages and is near the impressive Sumidero Canyon where you can take a boat on the Rio Grijalva.
Deep in the virgin forest on the foothills of the Usumacinta mountains in Chispas province lies the city of Palenque one of the most important and spectacular Mayan cities of ancient Mexico. Explore further inland and you will come across many more villages where time seems to have stood still and the 21st century seems a million miles away, maybe that is where you should be living.
Mexican food is known for its wealth of spices and intense, deep flavouring with corn being the staple grain and rice equally important. The tortilla is made by curing maize in lime water, then kneading the mixture into a dough and cooking the thin patties on a flat grill. Chillies are another staple of traditional Mexican cuisine adding colour and dimension to any authentic dishes and bell peppers, Tabasco peppers and paprika peppers add the colour, flavor and kick that Mexican food is renown for.
The cuisine varies depending on the region. Northern-style Mexican food normally consists of a lot of beef, while southern-style consists more of chicken and vegetables. Veracruz is also another common style of Mexican food hailing from the coastal areas in Mexico. It was named after the state in Mexico and its largest city and consists of seafood like fish and shrimp.
In villages there are also more exotic dishes cooked in Aztec or Mayan style with ingredients ranging from iguanas, rattlesnake, deer, spider monkey, grasshoppers and ant eggs. Burritos, enchiladas and tacos are great favourites and Mexico is famous for ice-sherbets and prickly cactus fruit drink, excellent beer, a thriving wine industry and of course Tequila, the famous drink made from distilled cactus juice.
One of the most famous traditions in Mexico is the Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Throughout Mexico there is a plethora of intriguing customs that vary according to the ethnic roots of each region. Common to all however are colourful adornments and lively reunions at family burial plots, the preparation of special foods, offerings laid out for the departed at commemorative altars and religious rites that are likely to include noisy fireworks.
In most localities November 1st is set aside for the remembrance of deceased infants and children, often referred to as angelitos (little angels), whilst the 2nd is the day the adults are honoured. In the cemeteries at Janitzio Island and Mixquic all-night candlelight vigils are held. Mixquic was once a farming island of the Aztec empire and is now a district of Mexico City that has retained something of its rural village ambience and its ancient indigenous roots.
Whether it is marvelling at a 1300-year-old Maya palace at Palenque as parrots screech and howler monkeys growl in the sweaty emerald jungle around you, sliding from a palm-fringed sandy beach into the warm turquoise waters of the Pacific, dining on salmon enchiladas and chrysanthemum salad at a Mexican City fusion restaurant, dancing through the night at a high-energy Guadalajara night club, kayaking at dawn past a colony of Baja California sea lions, all these are unique Mexican experiences.
The opportunities for getting out to Mexico's spectacular wild places and interacting with local communities are greater than ever from world-class canyoning near Monterrey or cooking lessons in the Veracruz countryside to hiking the Oaxaca cloud forests and snorkelling the coral reefs of the Yucatan.
This is just a taste of what your new life in Mexico could be like. There are so many lovely places to choose from all different according to their traditions, so come, visit, stay a while and make Mexico your new home. Every visitor goes home with their own unforgettable images of this fascinating country. Mexico is what you make it so how about making it your new home.