We went to Mexico for 9 days. It’s hard to write about because of the brief time we spent there, yet we did see a lot. I’ve decided to write just one post about our whole time in categories: Art, Culture, Sites, and the beach.
Art of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
These two were married artists and are two of the most iconic figures from Mexico, who lived and worked in the early half of the 20th century. Kahlo is one of my favourite artists of all time. I was very excited to come to Mexico, her native land, and see her home and studio, which is now a museum for the public to view. The Museo Frida Kahlo was very expensive to get in and the line was significant at 9:45am before the 10am open, but we are so glad we did it. The house was owned by Kahlo’s parents, her father working as a professional photographer. When money was tight late in his career, he had to get a loan against the house. Rivera came to the rescue, paid the debts and took ownership of the house, to save it for the Kahlo family. He and Frida lived in it together when they were married and upon Frida’s death, Diego decided to donate it to the city as a museum.
Diego Rivera is a renowned muralist and painted something like 2km worth of murals in his life. His murals are normally stories and have been political, about revolutions, communism and socialism (a topic both he and Frida were passionate about). The murals we had time to see were at the National Palace in Mexico City which depicts Mexico’s history from Aztec time to the socialist movement and beyond. I was very impressed with the sheer size of his multiple murals, how accurate the light and perspective were, and how unique his style of painting. I wish I could paint like Rivera. I was inspired to focus on creating my own unique style.
Now for Frida Kahlo. She is one of my favourites for a few reasons. I think she had an interesting and at times tragic life. She was confined to a bed for a large portion of her life due to two terrible things that happened as a child. First, she was struck with polio as a child which came with its own complications including a deformed leg. Second, she was involved with a bus accident where she was actually impaled through her pelvis and had to undergo several surgeries throughout the rest of her life. This accident also rendered her barren which devastated her as she always wanted children. She was bedridden and therefore alone much of the time, so it makes sense that her greatest inspiration for her own artwork was herself. She painted mostly self-portraits, all depicting a different side to herself than what she portrayed in real life to others. She never complained of her many ailments because she didn’t want to alienate and bore people so she was always jolly and entertaining for her friends, saving her inner demons for her artwork.
I like her as well because she is a woman and I am always interested in learning about successful women in general but especially in art. Finally, I love her surrealist style of painting. It was such an honour to see where she lived and worked and eventually died. We didn’t see many of her most famous artworks but there were several pieces that I’d never seen before on display through parts of the house. It really is a must-see, even if you don’t care that much about art. The audio/visual guide they have on offer is totally worth it as well, and enhanced the experience a lot.
Besides the enormous markets that we found souvenirs at, we visited the National Museum of Anthropology as well while in Mexico City. It is an immense museum outlining ancient civilizations as well as how life began. We saw a mammoth skeleton! It was one of the best museums we’ve ever seen because of how professional and thorough it was. I don’t really like museums that aren’t devoted to art, and even I was impressed. We saw the La Piedra del Sol (sun stone) which is a large stone sculpture. It is an important Aztec sculpture.
We also saw a show at the Palacia de Belles Artes. It was a folk ballet with traditional Mexican music and dance and was the greatest thing we’ve been entertained with this whole trip so far. Callum mentioned that he would never have done something like that if it was just him travelling—mostly because he wouldn’t think to even go to a ballet. But he enjoyed it immensely. I always feel more connected to a culture if I watch something to do with their music or dance. The two-hour show was well worth the money and I would highly recommend going to see a performance there. The building itself is also very beautiful.
We saw a couple of important pyramids. One about an hour northeast of Mexico City called Teotihaucan and another called Chichen Itza which is inbetween Merida and Cancun in the Yucatan province. These ancient cities are roughly 800 years apart in terms of when they were built and occupied. Teotihaucan is the older one built approximately between 100-300 AD, which the Aztecs discovered and were amazed at, several centuries later. They couldn’t believe this ancient city had been built by man. The name Teotihaucan was actually given by the Aztecs and translates into “birthplace of the gods”. It is said to be where the gods came together to create the world. It’s so interesting to us that everywhere we go in the world, there is an ancient civilization that thinks the world began there, in their homeland. Anyway, Callum finds ancient cities fascinating while I get bored easily. We climbed the 250 steps or so to the top of the sun pyramid and got a great view of the adjacent moon pyramid. The sun and moon seem to play a significant role in all of these ancient civilizations.
Chichen Itza is located 1400 kms to the east of Teotihaucan and is a Mayan ruin that is dated somewhere between 600-900 AD. It was an important city because of its prime location to import different goods from various locations (such as gold from South America and obsidian from central Mexico) and because it is one of the largest Mayan cities. It also happens to be on the list of Seven World Wonders and so that’s another one checked off our list! The day was very hot and the line up to get in was sweaty and long. I almost didn’t care about seeing the grounds because it was so incredibly hot and humid. However, we forced ourselves to walk around and take pictures and tried to sneak up on tourist groups to get a free explanation of what we were looking at.
Playa del Carmen and Cozumel
After all of our site-seeing and culture intake we decided to just chill in the touristy town of Playa del Carmen. We rented an apartment and enjoyed the privacy and space while just relaxing. Unfortunately, it was overcast most of our time there but we still enjoyed the comforts of a place that basically looked and felt like America. Seriously. After the South American adventures we’ve had, Playa del Carmen may as well be America with Mexican souvenirs. Even the prices of things were quoted in American dollars and stores accepted American cash. We didn’t mind so much because it was easy there because everyone spoke English, souvenirs had set prices (I hate bartering) and there was a huge array of cuisine available. A nice way to spend a few days for sure.
We spent one day taking a ferry to Cozumel, a Caribbean island only a fast 30 minute boat ride away and proceeded to get a little bit ripped off and a lot sun burnt while snorkeling. We saw the reefs off of Cozumel but the water was very choppy so swimming was fairly difficult. The waves kept pushing water into my snorkel so I had to raise my head above the surface several times to clean it out and start again. We did see some lovely fish, a group of barracudas, and Callum spotted some lion fish as well. One terrible thing happened to me. I lost my shorts. So, on the boat ride over to the reefs, my shorts which were part of my green travel zip-off pants from Mountain Designs got completely soaked. I thought I was being really smart by putting them up on the roof behind some rope netting where you could store things like your backpack and stuff. Unfortunately, the wind must have blown them away because after one snorkeling session, I looked up and they were gone. Our camera bag was still up there thank goodness, but my shorts were gone! Besides the inconvenience of not having a full outfit of clothes to wear after the snorkeling (which was really embarrassing by the way—I had to wear my shirt as a skirt and just wear my bikini top while I shopped for a new dress to cover up) the cost of these wonderful green pants were somewhere around the $80-$100 AUD mark! Darn it! AND I found it really hard to find pants that I liked and that FIT ME PROPERLY before our trip. I was so happy with those pants. I’m hoping all this Mountain Designs endorsement will get me a new free pair of pants. We’ll see, haha.
We only made it to one cenote (the more popular one, Ik Kil) and want to see many more than just this touristy one. When we went though we were only with about 20 other people at first. We got there early and by the time we felt done swimming there were probably 100 people or more. The trick is to do the cenote first and then see Chichen Itza.
All in all Mexico was really good though only a tiny little taste-tester. We need to go back again to explore more. Also, the food was phenomenal, but who doesn’t like Mexican food?
Our fourth country done! On to Canada.