I’ve seen some amazing things in my two decades of heavy travel, but when you live like a local you get to a whole new level altogether. At this point I’ve been a temporary resident of Guanajuato, Mexico for more than seven months. Here are my ten most memorable slow travel moments so far, with some images that are stuck in my mind. Enjoy!
1) Stumbling upon strange performances. The great thing about living somewhere for a while is you get more chances to discover interesting things by pure accident. I am not really sure what this performance was about, but women in traditional costumes were dancing with things on their heads while this big-headed couple busted a move in front of them. What’s not to like? Photo above, but you can check out a short video at this link.
2) Day of the Dead in Mexico is an iconic celebration that brings crowds by the busload to places like Oaxaca City and Patzcuaro. We got to see it from all angles over more than a week, however. The various aspects included special events at my daughter’s school, the making of special colored sugar candies at our language school, sugar skulls for sale in the park, and a Catrina fashion show by local government workers. Of course we topped it off with a spooky visit to the local cemetery.
3) V-day, Mexican style. It’s always fun seeing how another culture celebrates a holiday like Valentine’s Day. In Mexico, it’s not about chocolates and flowers: you’ve got to get your honey a red mylar balloon. Every bar, restaurant, and park bench was filled with couples and their assorted balloons. This shot is from in front of a bar…
4) Presents in shoes. Christmas in Mexico is not as big of a deal as in the U.S. The real celebration comes during Three Kings Day, the 12th day of Christmas. The day before we went to a mall where three dressed-up kings rode through on fake camels then a band played in the parking lot as kids received balloons they were supposed to tie wishes to before releasing. Then there was a big parade in the center on the actual day, complete with candy tossed to the crowd. At night, children leave their shoes by the door and the kings leave a present for them. It helps if you leave them a snack and a note…
5) Lots of people come to Guanajuato for the annual Cervantino Festival, catching whatever shows are going on that particular weekend. We were here for the whole five weeks, however, so we saw amazing show after amazing show. Tickets that were well worth it included an Argentine Tango show (Tangokinesis) in historic Teatro Juarez and a Manuel Barrueco classical guitar performance in a gilded gold 400-year-old church. Plus Señor Coconut and Flamenco star Vicente Amigo performed on an outdoor stage that had surprisingly good sound. Some of the free shows were just as impressive, like the bizarre Trans Express acrobat and percussion troupe from France. One thing I learned? Mexicans love clowns and mimes.
6) Every day’s a party! One morning we awoke to the sound of a blaring drum and bugle band right outside our apartment, at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. The music and noise kept increasing, so we got dressed and ventured outside to see what was going on. It turned out to be a celebration for the patron saint of our neighborhood—every barrio has its own saint—and the kids were dancing while decked out in costumes and masks. Check out this video to see them in action.
7) Front row at a Mexican Rodeo. We were pretty psyched to find out that there was a regular weekend rodeo one town over from where we were living. But then we got even more excited when we found out it was one from women! This led to a Perceptive Travel story I wrote: Sidesaddle Girls at a Mexican Rodeo. If you go to the end of that story, there’s a link to a video of the riders in action.
8) Great meals and bizarre snacks. Mexican food is one of the world’s most distinctive and varied cuisines, so I’ve had more great meals than I can count. The Mexican palate leaves something to be desired though when it comes to snack food. Candy with the taste and consistency of paper, Doritos piled with salsa and pork fat, and…green Cheetoes?
9) Lucha libre! Mexican professional wrestling is as silly and fake as it is anywhere else. But nowhere else do they have such cool masks.
10) Happy Birthday Mexico! We picked a great year to go rent an apartment in an historic city of Mexico. In 1810 the independence movement started in Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende and the first big battle against the Spaniards happened in…Guanajuato, where I am right now. So as you can imagine, the Independence Day celebration was huge. Here’s more on the day leading up to it, then at night it was fireworks aplenty!