Sunday, August 12, 2012

It is a Matter of Taste

     I read an article the other day about the ten best places to visit in Mexico. When I finished, I had this question floating about in my mind, "Whose ten best places?" If I were a beach goer or wanted to stay in the most secure and popular locations in the country, the article would have been informative. But the suggestions were hardly the ten most interesting or informative or entertaining places in that fascinating country. What stood out for me immediately was the omission of Mexico City, one of the richest and most varied travel destinations in the world. Yes, in the world! And it did not make that list. Just to note a few things that are located within easy reach of the center of Mexico City we begin with the Zocalo itself, a central square that is the most impressive in the New World. It is encircled by the Metropolitan cathedral, the array of colonial government buildings including the National Palace which houses Rivera's famous murals of the history of the country, and the Templo Mayor, one of the finest digs in pre-Colombian times where the  city of Tenochlitan once stood before its destruction by the conquistadors. Add to these the nearby Palace of Art, the Museum of Anthropology which is my favorite museum in the world, and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe where Indians come on pilgrimage from the distant hills in full regalia to dance and to celebrate the saint they revere, and more. This was not on the list. I had to wonder if the author was ever there. One can also take the short drive from the center of Mexico City to view one of the great archaeological sites of the world, the ancient, mysterious city of Teotihuacan. The pyramids uncovered there are are almost as grand as those in Egypt. It is strange to me that anyone could leave this historical landmark off any travel list.

      Of course the most spectacular features of the Mexican landscape are the Mayan religious centers some built a thousand or 1500 years ago. The one small and relatively insignificant mention of these was Tulum, perhaps because it was near Cancun and more easily available. But one of the ten best choices- hardly. It is a minor site and not worth going out of the way to see. Omitted were the spectacular ruins of Palenque, Chichen Itza (the Castillo) and Uxmal (the Palace of Magicians), as well as many places in the Yucutan which are far more interesting than Tulum. The great underground series of wells or cenotes used by the Mayans for their sustenance makes for many beautiful visits in the countryside. If one tries to travel through Mexico without seeing the great pyramids at those sites, the most important destinations in the country have been missed. The vast variety of architecture from Mayan times and from the Olmecs, Totenacs, Mixtecs and other Indian cultures make a trip to Mexico worthwhile in itself. That notion did not make the list either nor did the beautiful museums Mexicans have built to highlight the sculpture and arts of those cultures get mentioned. I consider the archaeological museums of Mexico to be the finest in the world.

     Another important and fascinating site is Oaxaca where colorful handicraft villages fill the surrounding area and a variety of interesting architectural sites are located. The central square or Zocalo of this town is lovely. The Copper Canyon with its beautiful vistas, its thrilling train ride and the cave dwelling Tarahumara Indians should not be missed either. The city of Puebla features a multitude of fine colonial buildings and a gigantic local market one can get lost inside of. I could go on but I should mention the beaches. Many of those are familiar to Americans. These are relatively accessible and are rather inexpensive and more attractive for the most part than those along the American coastline. While these get and deserve mention, they are not among the most interesting or productive destinations in Latin America. Puerto Escondido at the top of the list in the article is a simple, moderately attractive and partially developed resort. It is better thought of as a side trip from Oaxaca. Mexico is a great place to visit but be careful whose best locations list you follow

The Coastline, Mazatlan, Mexico

1 comment:

The Local Traveler NS said...

They really need to start labeling those articles better. Thank you for providing alternative information for those looking for something more than a beach.