When I was a kid, Croatian tv programs were screening lots of Mexican soaps and that’s why most of people my age can understand or speak Spanish. Everybody knows at least little something about Mexico and its people, food and culture. It is always funny when somebody asks me how I learned Spanish (at least that little I know) and we always laugh when I tell them that’s mainly because of telenovelas and not the language course I recently took. Some people didn’t believe me until they met my friends who also speak Spanish like me. 🙂
Anyways, my Mexican boyfriend always has a lot of fun when I start to speak about Mexico and he cannot believe what I think about his country. So, here it goes the generalized list full of clichés describing what I have known about Mexico before I met Jaime and how he changed my perception (or at least he tried to).
Mexican soap operas
There is no Croatian who did not see at least one episode of some telenovela! When I was a kid, they were everywhere and we all watched it. By some time, we picked up some language and got some opinion about Mexican people and culture (not necessarily good). From telenovelas you can easily start to think that most of people in Mexico are rich and live very comfortable and that they are all mutually blood related or romantically involved, or both. 🙂 Also, people in Mexico are extremely loud and dramatic (mostly women). The truth is only 10% people live like those in the soaps and most of “regular” Mexican people have pretty hard life earning around US $300-500 per month. But I’m still convinced they are all extremely loud! And man, they speak fast!
Drug cartels and trafficking
Unfortunately, everything we hear about Mexico in Croatian media is about drug cartels, drug trafficking, murders and kidnappings. I started to notice it more lately and not even one article I could find was written in positive context. Reading the news it seems like the whole Mexico is dangerous place filled with criminals and drug dealers, where you are going to get murdered or kidnapped in a moment. In a reality, none of this will happen if you act wisely and don’t go to the parts of the country and cities that are known by drugs. Also, most of the “bad people” are not going to be interested in you if you don’t plan to mess up with their trade. The level of safety is far from European, but it is not even close to that they are trying to display in the media. But from the other side, Jaime told me numerous times to be very careful when I will be there so I’m not completely sure what to think now…
We all tried tequila, but we don’t know almost anything about it (my mom thought it’s made from corn :D). I talked something about it with Jaime and I started to read something more about that drink. So, tequila is one of national drinks which is made from blue agava plant and originates from city named Tequila in Mexican state Jalisco, near Guadalajara. The production started in 16th century, while mass production began during the 17th century. Only in Mexico, there is more than 1300 brands of tequila and the law states that all Mexican tequilas need to be bottled before exporting!
Besides tequila, there is one drink that some Mexicans like better than tequila – mezcal. Mezcal is also made from one type of agava and produced mostly in state of Oaxaca. Some bottles may contain a worm. Some people says it makes mezcal taste better, some that it indicates mezcal is ready to drink, when some people think that is only marketing ploy. I asked to Jaime does he know how much liters of alcohol can I take with me to Europe and he was very happy when he heard I plan to bring mezcal and not tequila (of course, if I’m going to like it).
I love mariachi! I thought you can see them playing everywhere, in places like bars or squares, but it seems you can’t. I recently find out that you need to pay them if you want them to play for you if you see them for example at some square because they are there for the tourists. Paying tourists. Not to make people happy like I thought! Also, if you want to hire mariachi band, one hour of that pleasure will cost you around 120€. I must say I’m little bit disappointed and that I will consider the idea of paying them to play just for me (not on this trip though).
Mexican beaches and touristic cities
Beaches, beaches, beaches! Kilometers of sandy beaches (which we don’t really like, but still) with big hotels and clubs located in the perfect bays. Whenever I thought about beach in Mexico, I thought about Acapulco or Cancun. In my mind Acapulco was a paradise, in reality – everybody hates Acapulco. Too much (poor) people, dirty beach and rising amount of drug-related violence and murders. Ironically, the most of danger for an average tourist in Acapulco comes from the local police because there is lots of bribery and extortion.
Basically, all of that big and famous resort cities are too commercialized and americanized. I would like to see cities like Acapulco and Cancun because of my education, but now I know that Mexico has much more to offer in smaller and not so internationally popular touristic places (like Isla Mujeres).
For me, Mexican food were tortillas, chili and spicy sauces (salsas). I have been to a Mexican restaurant in Croatia, but the food they are serving here has no much connection with real Mexican food. They eat things so spicy that not much Europeans could eat it so the restaurants here are adapted to our cultures. Also, the tortillas are only the base for hundreds of various meals. Depending what you do with the tortilla, you can get tacos, burritos, flautas, tostadas, enchiladas, chips… with hot salsa! I recently tried my first tacos and I loved them. Also, I got a Mexican cookbook as a Christmas present and I’m looking forward to making something (or at least trying to make…). Even more, I’m looking forward to trying the original food in Mexico this spring. I just hope they are not going to kill me with the spices. 😀
When I think about typical Mexican man, I picture the little man with mustaches, funny colorful clothes and huge sombrero (and because of that Jaime told me I’m a racist). In my mind all the Mexican wear sombreros (or at least some smaller hats) all the time. Why? Because of sun, doh! In reality, they don’t wear it at all. I cannot say how disappointed I was when I found out that. The only people who wear big hats are mariachi and tourists (so I have an excuse hehe and I’m pretty sure I will come back home with at least one of them), but Jaime promised he will wear it one day for me. In the other way he will never be the real Mexican for me!
As a geographist, I know much about pre-columbian cultures in Mexico and rest of Americas. I’m not sure how much average person knows about exact location of Mayans, Aztecs or Zapotecs ruins, but I was happy like a baby when Jaime told me we will have enough time to visit Teotihuacán (ruins with the pyramids close to Mexico City which once were the most famous city in the Aztec’s empire) AND Monte Albán (archeological site near Oaxaca where lived Zapotecs). Mayan riviera will need to wait until the next visit.
That’s basically it what I have known about Mexico. Now I know much more about the country and it will be interesting to see how my opinions will change after my visit to Mexico in May.
And what do you know about Mexico?
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