Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here they are, as promised, twenty-five random facts (and random impressions) about Mexico, and about my love affair with Mexico - with a bow to the meme and with the intention of exorcising the ghost of Tampico:

1.Mexico has cowboys – real ones, on horses, wearing boots and five-gallon hats, twirling lassoes, herding cattle near - or on - the highway.
2.From the northwestern corner to the southeastern tip, Mexico is approximately 4,000 kilometers long.
3.In Sayulita, there is a sanctuary for the protection of sea turtles. I am told that if you kill a sea turtle, you can be sent to prison for seven years. I don't know if it's true.
4.Stray dogs starve in the streets of Mexico. People are reluctant to have their pets spayed or neutered. Male puppies are preferred; females are often abandoned or killed.
5.A very popular snack in Mexico is the taco de cabeza, which means head taco, but I'm told it is a brain taco. I ate one, in a village near Veracruz. It was very tasty. So far, I have suffered no ill effects. It was beef brain, by the way.
6.As you drive along the highway, you see donkeys tethered nearby, sometimes wearing saddles, grazing the long grass. Sometimes there are horses or goats, though with goats, there is more likely to be a herd, untethered, perhaps tended by a child.
7.The traditional Mexican work outfit is made of white cotton. It is still worn in parts of Mexico, and I have never figured out how Mexicans manage to keep those brilliantly white pants and shirts clean in such a dusty country.
8.Speed limit signs are common and apparently whimsical. An 80 kilometer zone will suddenly become a 60 zone, or 40, or even 20, for no discernible reason. Sometimes there will be two signs within a car's length of one another. Or there will be a long, long time between signs, so that you're not entirely sure how fast you are allowed to go. Watching the cars around you will not help, because of #18.
9.According to a Mexican friend, Mexicans are not actually required to have licences in order to drive. They can get them, if they desire, but a licence is not required, and getting one involves filling out forms and paying a fee. There is no driving test. This rule (or lack thereof) does not apply to foreigners.
10.Most of the water in Mexico is now potable. We nevertheless buy purified drinking water there (and everywhere we travel) in carboys, just because you never know.
11.There are thirty-one (31) states in Mexico.
12.Most of the Mexicans I have encountered in six years of visits (so far) were kind, friendly, honest people, but
13.There are still corrupt policemen and politicians in Mexico. I met one of the former, just a couple of days ago.
14.A cactus in bloom is a beacon of hope and a cry of victory. I suppose that applies to cactus everywhere, but I thought of it while gazing at a Mexican cactus, so it counts.
15.In Zihuatanejo, there are houses painted truly beautiful and extraordinary colours.
16.Mexicans eat their breakfast (el desayuno) fairly late in the morning; they have their main meal (la comida) at around two or two-thirty in the afternoon. The evening meal (la cena) is lighter, like our lunch.
17.Almost everything happens slowly in Mexico: check-out at the supermarket, arrival of the electrician you're waiting for, real estate deals – pretty well everything, except #18.
18.Normally easy-going Mexicans become monsters when they get behind the wheel. They drive at breakneck speed, overtake on either side, even on curves and street corners, turn two-lane roads into four, five, or six-lane gridlocks, and lean almost constantly on their horns. Hence,
19.Mexico is a very noisy place. If it isn't the horns, it's the radios, or the mariachi bands, or the cars equipped with huge loudspeakers on their roofs roaming the streets, drivers with microphones in hand shouting out the price of shrimp or the virtues of a presidential candidate.
20.In San Carlos, Sonora, at the Totonaka RV Park, Silvano, the office manager, greets me after nearly a year with “Sandra! It's so good to see you!” which is a large part of why I regard San Carlos as my second home.
21.Not all Mexican tacos are tacos de cabeza. There are tacos made with ground beef, hunks of achiote-seasoned pork, hunks of pork fat (truly disgusting. I tasted one once, by mistake), chicken, fish (yum), and no doubt other fillings. What they have in common is that they are made with corn tortillas, and the tortillas are not fried. They are always served warm and soft. Tortillas are fried crisp when they're too stale to use any other way, and then they are totopos – tortilla chips.
22.Many Mexicans are ingenious people, no doubt out of necessity. I'm sure there's somebody in Mexico who really could make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
23.There are signs all along the highways advising motorists to respect the signs, not to damage the signs, not to destroy the signs. In fact, most of the signs appear to be in good shape, unless they've been run into by bad drivers.
24.Some of the signs admonish people not to litter. Those signs are generally surrounded by mountains of garbage. When you do find a litter barrel along the road, it is usually full to overflowing and sitting in the middle of a sea of garbage. This is despite the many signs pointing out that a clean highway is a safe highway.
25.Contrary to rumour, and notwithstanding #s 4, 13, 18, 19,and 24, traveling in Mexico is generally safe and enjoyable, as long as you follow Robin and Sandra's rule: Expect the unexpected.


Debbie said...

Thank God I did not eat a brain taco when I was there. Sometimes people around here eat fried brains. Just typing this makes me sick!

John Hayes said...

Really enjoyed the list-- love houses painted unusual colors; something you see a bit in the southern part of the US, but not much elsewhere. & watching real cowboys is fun-- around here, many of the cowboy drive their herds with atvs.

Sandra Leigh said...

Debbie, I feel pretty much as you do. If I had known what I was being given to eat, I would have found an excuse not to - but by the time I knew, I was committed, and couldn't think of a polite way to back out. At least nobody offered me bugs. ;>)

John, you would love the Playa Ropa area of Zihuatanejo. It's one of those places that begs to be painted. The village of El Quelite was nearly as good that way, except that it didn't have the backdrop of water to set it off.

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