Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Eight Ways to Enjoy Mexico When You Can’t Be in Mexico

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Reminiscing About Great Times with friends in Cosala, Sinaloa

Story and Photos by Jim Foreman

For those drawn to Mexico beyond a weeklong beach-party destination, the culture is a rich panacea for ordinary first-world life.

We travelers are drawn to subtleties as much as grand differences.  It's evident in the way we treat life, relationships, friendship, and community.

Sometimes, we find ourselves seemingly trapped and unable to return to Mexico when we want. Circumstances may be anything from an international pandemic to a personal injury or illness that keeps us immobile. Of course, sometimes, it’s merely a matter of money and the ability to travel for weeks or months on end. Regardless of the circumstances, there are many ways one can enjoy and experience the mellifluous and canorous Mexican culture near your home.

Consider these eight simple yet highly satisfying activities you can enjoy on your own or with others nearby.

1. Learn or upgrade your Spanish language skills.

Let’s face it. Unless we are native Spanish speakers, we can probably use some help with our Spanish. Language learning is available in many ways through a vast collection of formats.

On your phone, apps like Duolingo, MosaLingua, and Memrise offer real-world Spanish training that’s fun and effective.

Use your computer on sites such as +Babbel, Open Culture, and even the BBC to learn Spanish. Zoom group classes are also becoming more and more mainstream in unfurling la lingua de Dios.

MosaLingua is a proven way to learn a language quickly and effectively.

2. Find authentic Mexican recipes in a cookbook or online. Prepare a dish from one of the many different regions of Mexico at least once each week.

A delightful way to learn about a culture or region is through their food and drink. Find a cookbook with authentic Mexican dishes, or simply search online for sites with non-Gringo-fied Mexican recipes.

Sadly, what too many people know as Mexican food is bland and lacking in character.

When you follow an authentic recipe, you’ll quickly understand how diverse and delicious the food in Mexico actually is.

Sourcing the ingredients is probably easier than you realize.  It's difficult to find a community without a Mexican market.  Even most major supermarkets have a 'Hispanic Foods' section.  Do the best you can, given your circumstances.  Once the travel limitations pass, you'll be incredibly popular for your culinary creations.

Most importantly, once you've created your meal, turn up your favorite Mexican music playlist and serve up some authentic meals. If you choose ‘Banda’ style music, it’s imperative to play is so loud your speakers crack to achieve the authentic ambiance.
Markets like Gonzalez Northgate Markets are popular shopping destinations in the USA.

3. Shop a Mexican owned market to find ingredients for your meal and to practice your Spanish.

This is easy, and it coincides perfectly with the first two suggestions. Find the ingredients you need to prepare a meal and restock your household supplies while you’re at it. Supporting your local business goes much further in your community than helping your major conglomerate.

Of course, during a shut-in or semi-quarantine, most markets offer delivery.  Give the market a call and have what you need delivered to your home.

While shopping, don't forget the drinks to complement your cooking. Regional cervezas like Victoria, Pacifico, Superior, Jalisco Estrella, or Carta Blanca offer up some refreshing examples of Mexican beer.

Mexico also produces many excellent wines. The western hemisphere’s oldest winery is Casa Madera, just outside of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila. Other remarkable wine regions worth enjoying include Bernal, Queretaro, and Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California.

Of course, everyone knows of Tequila produced in its namesake region in Jalisco. There are other wonderful mezcals to enjoy throughout Mexico, including Sotol from Chihuahua, Bacanora from Sonora, and Raicilla also hailing from Jalisco.

Traditional non-alcoholic drinks are also available from these markets, including Horchata, Jamaica, and an assortment of aguas frescas.

if the opportunity presents itself, practice your Spanish with the staff. They usually appreciate it and are happy to help and share some conversation.

4. Watch at least one hour of Spanish language programming each day.

The fastest way to learn Spanish is to find a lover who only speaks Spanish. Short of that, learning children’s songs, and contemporary Latin music are highly effective.

Sometimes though, singing out loud isn’t appropriate, such as when others are around. For those times, watch Latin-market television shows on Univision, Telemundo, Azteca, and Estrella TV.

Discover a great list of the Seven Best TV Shows to Learn Spanish.

Try reruns of popular comedy shows like the beloved ‘Chespirito,’ or the news (las noticias).  The news is a great way to learn CDMX business tones and inflections rather than a local dialect.
Yes, men do stop whatever they are doing, and women do get angry when Yanet Garcia reports the weather.

Other great options include one of the many fun variety shows or a spicy telenovela.


Immerse yourself in the joys and activities many Mexicans enjoy regularly.  It'll be fun, interesting, and will certainly 'up' your conversational skills and proper use of idioms.

Hint: Turning on closed captioning subtitles can help distinguish the words when spoken quickly.

Taquitos being prepared on the fire at Cielito Lindo; Credit: Jared Cowan

5. Patronize a locally owned Mexican restaurant in your hometown and ask for their specialties.

So long as there’s not a general ‘Stay At Home’ or quarantine order, this makes for a delightful way to indulge in some culture.  One can certainly order take-away or delivery if one is bound to the house.

If it doesn’t look too busy, ask your server if you can practice your Spanish when ordering. Most people are delighted to help you learn the phrasing, pronunciations, and if you’re lucky, many of the standard idioms used in Mexico.

It's often surprising to many to find authentic regional Mexican food in the United States.


6. Get a map of Mexico and mark the Pueblos Magicos on it.

Plan a route for your next visit to discover as many Pueblos Magicos as you can.  2020 added 12 new Pueblos Magicos bringing the current total to 121.

The fun begins when you experience why they are magical. True, some are more 'magical' than others.  Still, each one is worth a visit.

Next time, don't rush to your intended destination.  That is one of the biggest mistakes part-time residents make with driving through Mexico.  Plan your next trip to include some of these towns, even if they're a little out of the way.


7. Watch a movie by one of the many talented Mexican filmmakers.

Indeed, Netflix’s 2018’s Academy Award winner, ‘Roma’ directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is a great film. Fortunately, there are a plethora of brilliant Mexican films worth watching.

This IMDB list of the 30 most popular Mexican-directed movies is a fabulous start into Mexican moviemaking.

Besides Spanish and its mannerisms, one can learn many of the subtleties of Mexican culture from the cinema.  The balance between art and life is rarely more evident than in Mexican movies.

Hint: When you watch, watch to learn, not to be entertained.

8. Stay in contact with friends in Mexico.

Apps like Whatsapp and Facebook make it easy and fun to enjoy your friends living in Mexico and get in insider’s perspective on what’s happening in the country.  Even a short text can help transport your heart and soul to Mexico.


Hopefully, this list will inspire and prepare you to have your best-ever experience next time you are back in the country.

Without question, nothing beats the genuine experience of actually being in Mexico.  Sometimes our situation simply doesn't allow it, at the moment.

Until a return is possible, these suggestions, in part or in whole, offer genuine ways to experience the warmth and sophistication of Mexican culture, close to home.

Of course, there are many more ways one can grasp a taste of Mexico.  These 8 activities will immerse you in the activities and mindset of many Mexicans on a daily basis.  Try any combination of these suggestions, or try them all.

The next time you find yourself on the warm side of the border, you’ll be able to see, experience, and appreciate Mexico like never before.  New opportunities for love, friendship, understanding, and camaraderie will unfold before you, and the best part is that you’ll be a better person for it.

Jim Foreman in Copper Canyon

Jim Foreman is the owner and operator of Authentic Moto Travels. Each year, Jim leads dozens of travelers to Mexico to travel beyond the beaches and other popular tourist spots.

This story is sponsored by Mexican Insurance Store. When shopping for quality Mexican Insurance for your car, truck, RV, or Motorcycle, go to Mexican Insurance Store to shop, buy and print your policy.
©2020 Jim Foreman

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