Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mexico Remembered

Mexico was the first really foreign country I ever visited. (I was in Ontario briefly, but it didn't seem sufficiently different from my Ohio home to count as foreign.)

I had heard about the country all my life, since my parents both liked it. My  mother had visited Mexico a couple of times before she married, and my dad made frequent business trips there. He admired the business men he met there, and became quite friendly with one industrialist, Anwar Canavati, who lived in Monterey. A Mexican of Arabic descent, Canavati was a bit of a cowboy when it came to driving, my dad said, sometimes forcing oncoming cars off the road while piloting his big Cadillac.

Canavati had been a member of Mexic's equestrian team, and loved all sports. He died as a result of injuries suffered during a polo match in Texas. His death was untimely, but it always struck me as a rather elegant way to go.  I still have some of the gifts he sent my mother and me, and I sometimes wear the sequin-decorated, Aztec motif skirt to costume parties.

My frist visit to Mexico was with my parents. It was a great introduction to the country, partly because there were photographers to meet us at the plane in Mexico City. My dad was in town with a big convention, and so we got royal treatment, including a large suite at the Maria Isabel Hotel on the Reforma. Our balcony was almost at eye level with the gold angel monument, and we ate breakfasts of delicious local fruits and breads there, along with fragrant cafe con leche.

I remember visiting Sanborn's House of Tiles, where I especially enjoyed the lime sherbert. We toured the sights including the zocalo and the massive Cathedral, the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan, and the shrine at Guadalupe. My mother spoke of having visited the floating gardens of Xochimilco earlier, but we didn't do that on this trip, perhaps because it was no loonger possible. We also explored Chapultepec Park and the stunningly modern National Archeological Museum.

In later years I explored other parts of Mexico on my own, or on press trips. The ancient monuments were my special interest, so I travelled to the Yucatan peninsula and the region of Oaxaco. I also visited some of the wonderful colonial cities, such as San Cristobal de las Casas and San Miguel Allende. The only Mexican resort I visited was Puerto Vallarts on the west coast. Unlike my mother, I have never seen the cliff divers in Acapulco--perhaps one day. I also saw Guaymas before it became a tourist destination, and Ciudad Obregon in the northwest of Mexico.

Most of my travel in Mexico was before certain parts of the country became dangerous. I never had a bad experience, and always found the locals helpful despite my very poor Spanish. .It is a destination I would recommend highly, so long as you heed travel warnings about difficult areas.

If you are interested in reading about a time when Mexico was more dangerous than it is now, Graham Greene's book "The Lawless Roads" tells a most interesting story of his adventures there in the 1930s.


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