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Hey, I went to Mexico and I didn’t meet one “bad hombre”!

A lot has been said about Mexico and Mexicans in U.S. news lately, and very little of the rhetoric  has been positive. Unfortunately, there’s been a broad and sweeping perpetuation of negative stereotypes that paint the country and its people as a mass exporter of drug dealers, rapists, and savage murderers. Sure, every country has some rotten eggs in the bunch (mine, and this one included), but guess what? I just got back from a trip to Playa del Carmen, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t meet one “bad hombre”.

Mexican sombreros

Trying on colorful sombreros on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen

Well, to be 100% percent honest, I am deliberately not counting the crusty heeled and dusty feet guy standing outside one of the Yucatan’s most famous ruins who approached women telling them in halting English, “In America, people would call me a gigolo.” Oh, and get this, he listed the cost of his “services”  as 500 pesos a day. In my mind, I was like, dude, please. You better go wash those unpleasant looking feet! LOL. (No, I am not kidding.)

But seriously, in dire contrast to the ugly caricature being portrayed about an entire nation, I met some great people and had a fantastic time on my mini vacation.

So, what exactly did I do and see?

I shimmied my hips with friendly and gregarious men dressed in tribal costume while they chanted to a hypnotic drum beat.

I gobbled up freshly made tapas, delicious tasting tacos, and drank refreshing sangria  whenever I could.

Mayan woman making tapas in a traditional hut.

I wandered happily and aimlessly through the streets surrounding the popular Avenida Quinta (Fifth Avenue) area looking for souvenirs, admiring the facades of buildings, and observing the interactions between the locals and tourists.

Shopping in Avenida Quinta, Mexico

Browsing the stalls on the busy Avenida Quinta (5th Avenue).

I checked out the trendiest beach clubs, where sun-worshippers and beach goers have access to lively music, drinks, food, and even massages for a fee.

Trendy beach club

Zenzi Beach Club, Playa del Carmen

I had interesting conversations with hard-working people like hotel front desk agent Belén, whose name is the Spanish version of Bethlehem (the place in Judah where King David and Jesus were born). Plus, I listened keenly to our day trip driver, Sergio, as he told me about his family, and their plans for expanding his small transportation business with help from his multi-lingual daughter who is scheduled to graduate from college very soon.

Tour driver in Mexico

Meet Sergio Ramirez, proud owner of his own transfer and tour company.

I also visited underwater and above-ground swimming pools (cenotes) that were all naturally formed when limestone bedrock collapsed to expose the groundwater underneath.

Many cenotes are in underground caves, but quite a few can be accessed above ground as well.

Due to the constant exposure to the sun, the water in the open-air sink holes are believed to have blue green algae that is rich in nutrients, making it an excellent source of minerals that nourish and protect the skin.

Zacil-Ha cenote

Admiring the crystal, light blue waters of the Zacil-Ha cenote

The water in the underground caves? Nah, that’s just COLD. (Men, extra long dips have been known to result in shriveled body parts. My female counterparts, local folklore declares that we look five years younger after a swim).

Mutl-Tun-Ha cenote

Inside the Mul-Tun-Ha cenote

And.. I wandered spell-bound through the ancient ruins of Coba, Tulum and Chichén Itzá, three cities that were at the center of the Mayan empire at different times. I’ll write a more detailed post on those ruins soon (with tips included).

Cona Ruins, Mexico

One section of Coba’s impressive ruins

El Castillo at Tulum

The remains of El Castillo at Tulum

Main pyramid in the Chichen Itza complex.

What was I reminded of with this trip? Sometimes things are not what others make them seem. It’s always best to explore for yourself so that you gain experiences and form impressions of your own.

Have you been to Mexico?  If so, tell me which part, and what you thought about it.

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