Mexican Warning

Back from Mexico and our landlady asked if we’d had a “nice, safe, time”.  Americans have a strange attititude to Mexico. Before we left we told many friends and colleagues we were off to Mexico. Nine out of ten said either “Why ?” or “Oh !! do be careful, its very dangerous.” One time out of ten, however, a strange gleam would appear in someone’s eye. These folks requested that an important message be passed onto other Americans :

“You may have heard rumours that Mexico is a pleasant and interesting place to visit. This is dangerous propaganda. It simply isn’t true that people are cheerful, friendly and helpful. Statements you may have heard about almost all the drug related violence occuring near the US border, and so being irrelevant to visiting 98% of Mexico are unhelpful, as is the claim that crime is rarer in most Mexican towns than in the US. The idea that Mexican food is tasty, nutritious and interesting is particularly bizarre. There is really hardly any scenery of note, especially considering the samey dullness of volcanoes, deserts, mountain forests, and steamy jungles. Somewhere in the distant past, there were apparently some exotic ancient civilisations in Mexico, but almost all traces of these have vanished. There are very few historical monuments worth visiting.  It has even been suggested that the network of buses is cleaner, faster, more reliable, and more extensive than any public transportation in the USA. Absurd. Some have even suggested that Mexicans like visitors because the ones who visit are those who have believed these bizarre rumours, whereas those who know the awful truth about Mexico do not of course go there. Lets keep it that way.”

21 Responses to Mexican Warning

  1. Steve W says:

    I can agree with you on everything except the food. Tasty? Nutritious? Interesting?I’ll give you that the names are interesting, but they can’t hide the fact that the choice between fajita, burrito, enchilada, chimichanga is the choice between different things wrapped inside a tasteless tortilla, accompanied by refried beans and guacamole. the last two resembling food after it has been eaten, not before.

    • Luis F. Areán says:

      You don’t have a clue, do you. Mexican food has been declared Patrimony of Mankind by UNESCO. Typical American food, THAT is what is tasteless: a choice between hamburgers and hot dogs. And you invented neither.

      • andyxl says:

        To be fair, I am pretty sure Steve wouldn’t vote for Hamburgers and hot dogs. He is pretty much a Sushi man. And it sounds like you better try Gumbo.

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      You should broaden your Mexican food horizons, Steve. Personally, I cannot resist mole poblano de pollo — who would have thought that chicken and chocolate went together!

  2. MikeW says:

    Steve: are you describing TexMex or food in Mexico? If the latter I think I disagree.
    Andy: it’s not April 1st yet …

  3. Iain Steele says:

    I remember great disapproval from the US customs people that we had brought some souvenirs in Mexico when they had very good “Mexican souvenirs” here in San Diego airport – you could tell they thought we were mad and possibly dangerous for even going there.

  4. andyxl says:

    Steve – the things you mention are basically Mexican snack food, which you buy on the street in Mexico, but somehow in US and Europe got elevated to restaurant food. You can get those things in real Mexican restaurants, but they also have a wider variety of things most of which don’t have a tortilla in sight. If we ever get to IANOE together, I will take you out for Pollo con Mole Poblano.

    • Luis F. Areán says:

      Even snack food is good. Tacos de carnitas. BTW, fajitas and burritos ARE Tex-Mex. You won’t get them in a real Mexican restaurant.

      Oh, and my former brother-in-law is currently INAOES’ director, Alberto Carramiñana. I guess you know him. Great chap.

      • andyxl says:

        The snack food was great. Wjen we were there, people on the street were selling mango on a stick splashed with lime and chilli powder. That was wonderful.

        So which sort of beans is best for making refried beans ?

  5. Nick Cross says:

    Just got back last night. The metro in Mexico City was excellent – very comprehensive and cheap (~10p to anywhere). Even in small villages there were loads of buses. Very easy to get around. A couple of minor disappointments: went to Teotihuacan on the equinox and it was full of bloody New Agers – couldn’t go up the Pyramid of the Sun as the queue was very long. I also don’t recommend Cancun: stopped there for a couple of days after visiting the Maya ruins. It is very expensive compared to everywhere else and didn’t seem so friendly. Puebla on the other hand was an excellent place to go and has some good, but less visited archeological sites like Cacaxtla nearby.

  6. andyxl says:

    Nick, Cacaxtala was amazing, but the Terleviches tell me it was much better seventeen years ago – the murals have faded.

    We had no problem going up the Sun Pyramid, and didn’t particularly notice new agers .. was it something about the day you went ????

  7. Nick Cross says:

    We went on 21st March. It was the equinox. There weren’t any special patterns such as the shaddow in a snake pattern created at Chichen Itza. I was at Chichen Itza on March 25th – it should have still been visable then, but it was a cloudy day.

    Anyway.I had a great time in Mexico. Didn’t go to the North, although the Copper Canyon railway sounds like a good trip and I would like to visit parts of the Pacific coast near Colima. If I had more time I would go up one of the less active volcanoes too.

  8. andyxl says:

    Oh well, no wonder. As you may have noted from an earlier post, we were in Cholulua for the equinox. This had a nice festival, next to the biggest pyramid in the world; but the pyramid is a ruin, and very few people seem to know about Cholula. As a result, there was only a handful of non-Mexicans there.

    One of the most amazing things we saw was actually the church at Tonantzintla. Tonanantzintla is a tiny scruffy village, with precisely two things of note : a major research institute (INAOE) and one of the weirdest churches anywhere. The inside is so profusely packed with colourful carvings that it makes European baroque churches look like exercises in Zen modernism. A favourite sport is trying to spot images of Tlaloc hidden amongst the saints.

  9. Paul Crowther says:

    Hold on, Andy, on an excursion this week to Giza, during a NS/GRB meeting in Cairo, I was led to believe that the Great Pyramid was the biggest (well, tallest) pyramid in the world. Even wikipedia agrees, so it must be true.

  10. andyxl says:

    Ah, well, the guidebooks carefully say that Cholula has the largest volume, but indeed Giza is steeper and higher.

  11. Nick Cross says:

    I was in Cholula on 29th. It is a lovely place. The base is certainly very wide. It had been a ruin for a long time before the Spanish arrived and so they didn’t know there was a pyramid at first and built a pyramid on top.

  12. Nick Cross says:

    Sorry that should be church on top. And quite lovely one too.

  13. Nick Cross says:

    Seems that Mexico may be more dangerous than we thought. Still, I haven’t come down with anything yet. If I had gone a few weeks later it could have been difficult travelling. I hope this turns out to be a relatively minor outbreak.

  14. Luis F. Areán says:


    Black beans are the best. You put them in cold water 24 hours. Then you cook them in a pressure cooker. Then you mash the beans with a fork or a potato masher and fry them in lard with a bit of oregano and finely chopped onion, and possibly a green chili like jalapeño.

  15. Luis F. Areán says:

    Sorry, my SO corrects me. It’s 12 hours, not 24.

  16. Luis F. Areán says:

    The actual name is Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO. Mexican food is one.

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