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Mexico

Monday we move on again to another town, Guanajuato. A World Heritage site. Should be good.

We are now four weeks into our Mexico expedition and I feel a little more qualified to make some generalizations about our experience in Mexico so far. Firstly, of all the countries we are going to visit in the Americas with the exception of the States, Mexico is the one I knew most about before we arrived. I had some idea of the food, landscape, architecture, art history - even that they like soaps (TV variety). I had anticipated that Mexico's proximity to the US would mean that there were McDonalds everywhere, WalMarts replacing traditional markets and Britney echoing around plazas instead of mariachi bands. Well, this has not been the case. Mexico has lived up to all my expectations and has generally been delightfully "Mexican."



Let me start with the food. The food that is sold here is mexican. True, there are a few hot dog stands, but they have their own 'Mexican' flavour with jalapeños. Every town we visit seems to have their own variety of tacos. For example Puebla had large spits like a turkish kebab shop and served platters of meat that you would wrap in a soft tortilla with a generous squeeze of lime juice. In Zacatecas the tacos would be cooked baked in an oven with chicken, salsa and cheese a bit like a quesadilla. In fact, tacos have been almost universally excellent. The major disappointment has been nachos. The nachos I make at home have delicious toppings - sour cream, cheese, beans, mince, guacamole, onions and salsa. Here they often have processed yellow cheese sauce, corn kernels, and salsa often served cold! But mexican food is much more than tacos and nachos, there have also been many other very delicious foods that I knew nothing about. 'Pollo con mole' - roast chicken in a dark chocolate, mildly spicy sauce. Sounds a little weird, but this is mixing 2 of Ange's favourite foods and is surprisingly good.

TV soaps are huge here. In some towns almost every restaurant has soaps playing and patrons sit and eat watching the latest drama as some star lies on their death bed with tearful (and extremely pretty) actresses look on mournfully. Selma Heyak was a former Mexican soap star and many look similar. I don't understand a word yet it makes interesting viewing! Local music is also huge. You hardly ever hear international non-latino acts and mariachi bands serenade diners in many restaurants - not just the ones with gringos.

Since our last email we have continued to travel South from Zacatecas to Guanajuato (Guanawhato), Taxco (tuss-co) and then Puebla. Guanajuato is a World Heritage Site and as such receives a lot of tourists. It was a bit strange being around foreigners after a few weeks of only seeing Mexicans. We spent just the day there as a result. It was very pretty, but a bit too designed for tourism and much of the "real" Mexico we had been enjoying was hidden.

Mexican flag flying patriotism

From Guanajuato we caught a bus to Mexico City, currently ranked about 3rd in the World in terms of population at around 20,000,000 and right up there in the Top 10 Worst Air Pollution. For at least 100 kms from the city the otherwise perfect blue sky becomes grey and once you are on the outskirts visibility is reduced to a less than 5 kms. Almost all Mexican cities have a large statue of Jesus on a hill overlooking the town, his arms stretched in the familiar cross formation. Mexico City has the largest statue we have seen yet, only this time Jesus has his arms by his side, forearms and hands reaching out from his waist. I couldn't help but read this as Jesus saying "Why?" as he looked over the city.



We traversed the city from the Northern Bus Terminal to the Southern via 3 changes on the Metro. At the Southern Bus Terminal we caught a bus to Taxco. By that stage it was fairly late at night and one of the dangers here is bus-jacking. To get on the bus we had to be frisked thoroughly (I was going to ask him to check for tumors, but my Spanish let me down), bags searched and video taped individually. The police here, and the bus terminal was no different, plan on out-gunning the opposition. They all have kevlar vests, many have military-style helmets. On their waists they have a belt fitted with all the toys - a pistol, extra ammunition, mace, hand-cuffs, a baton and often an M4 assault rifle or shotgun at the ready.