Cuernavaca (Guanabanana)

We did a weekend trip to Cuernavaca and Taxco, both of which were really beautiful.

Cuernavaca was colourful and such a green city with parts where the birds were just as loud as the traffic.

This is from the botanic garden in Cuernavaca

P.S. Guanabanana is just what we called Cuernavaca when we couldn’t remember its name.

Cuernavaca also has a rich Aztecan history and is known for being a place that people from Mexico go to relax or take holidays.

It was a really nice and calm city.

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A Guide to Mexican Body Language and Gestures

This post just has a few pointers for people planning to travel to Mexico.

> If someone curls their pointer finger and extends it a few times, often whilst nodding – this means de acuerdo.

> People kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting. However generally this is among young people or people of the same age.

> Guys often fist pump, high five and shoulder bump as a greeting (sometimes all three).

> Gals tend to stick with a kiss on the cheek and/or hug.

> A person waving their hand in a circular motion often means ven o vente!

There are obviously many more but the most important is the kiss on the cheek, you will find that it’s considered polite and no matter whether you run into someone for 30 seconds or meet up for 3 hours, it’s a kiss hello and a kiss goodbye.

Chignahaupan

Chignahaupan – a name we struggled with but eventually mastered. It has to be the most Christmas orientated town in Mexico. It’s one of the pueblos mágicos and boasts a large statue of the Virgin Mary within its Church. It has a giant Christmas tree in the zócalo and is famous for selling Christmas baubles, called esferas (spheres) in spanish.

We spent half a day there browsing the shops all filled with Christmas decorations which are artisanal and beautiful, if a tad early. Apparently, everyone in Mexico goes there to buy their decorations because our bus was filled with people’s giant containers of baubles (as pictured below).

N.b. Something odd about any type of shopping in Mexico is that all the same types of stores that would usually compete are clumped together. I have walked streets with zapatería after zapatería in Puebla. Then streets dedicated entirely to wedding dresses.

As the town is a bit rural – located outside central Puebla – people were a little strange towards us. On the bus we got “Como una muñeca” (like a doll), also “gringas” in the street…

Apparently it didn’t matter that it was October!

Pesitos

If there is something I have learnt here, it’s that it’s a pay first – learn what the service was afterwards type of economy.

Once in an uber in Cuernavaca, Morelos – the uber driver stopped with the traffic and some cleaners threw a bucket of soapy water over the windscreen. The uber driver exclaimed in frustration and ended up paying them even though he hadn’t asked for the service. Later he told us it was the third time it had happened at that spot that same day.

Other roadside services include people, sometimes even young kids, standing in the middle of the road juggling or doing tricks for money or people in high vis vests standing at the road tolls selling food, lighters, cigarettes, you name it. 

People also like to jump on buses and trains when they stop and sell you things, mostly food, although I have witnessed some shows involving a microphone and a miracle product. They pass you one and you give it back at the end if you don’t want to buy it. 

People beg for pesos, children not excluded, and sometimes they see you are foreign and ask you in broken English.

For me, one of the largest cultural shocks here was having to be suspicious when someone offered me a “favour”, knowing that the word, whilst spelt the same in American English and Spanish, has a very different meaning here.

Clare

Why I love Mexican Art

For its bright colour

intricacy and splendour,

Ode to México. 

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Mexican Folk art, it’s in every corner and each town specialises in something. Puebla, its pottery. Taxco, silver. Yucatán, hammocks. Oaxaca, textiles. I am sure I will do a second post about the art here, or at least update this one with some more images. Below are a couple from the Museo Regional de Cholula.

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The handicrafts are like nothing I have ever seen. The pottery in Cholula and Puebla is really impressive and you can tell that much of it is handmade. There are also amazing hand-woven bracelets of lively colours. Another of my favourites here have been the figurines of Day of the Dead which are often represented in black and white, in stark contrast to the usual colourful pieces. 

More on the art here soon, 

Clare

Tummy Turmoil

So, there are lots of good bits about my trip and very few bad bits. However, unfortunately, I’ve had some health issues since arriving here with some not-very-fun symptoms.

Although I can’t know the cause of my condition, I have some general hygiene advice for travellers in México:

  • Don’t drink the tap water – seriously, don’t think ‘I’ll be fine’ or ‘My body will adjust’ because it won’t (and Mexicans don’t drink it either)!
  • Watch out for ice in drinks you buy.
  • Wash, peel, soak or disinfect vegetables and fruit, especially when purchased from outdoor markets.
  • If you are going to eat meat here, buy good quality meat! It’s not that expensive.
  • Beware of the street food, hygiene can be pretty poor.
  • Avoid processed foods in Mexico – they are full of sugar! The bread is full of sugar, yoghurt… it’s incredible.
  • Avoid too much spice, sometimes this causes actual stomach pain.

 

For Spanish speakers: Mexican Spanish

I think I have been here long enough now to have a decent list of Mexican slang for those planning to travel here with their Spanish. I think the Mexican Spanish is really quite fun and whilst I am no linguistic expert, I can comment on some unique words and phrases I have learnt here. 

Grammar Basics

Something to know before you come to México is that neither Vosotros nor Vos exist. This is a blessing! When addressing “you all” you use Ustedes, for both formal and informal situations.

The present perfect (pretérito perfecto compuesto) tense is less common than present simple. Or at least, this is what I have noticed. E.g. It is more likely someone will ask you “¿Ya comiste?” than “¿Ya has comido?”

Other than this major difference and all the slang, the grammar is pretty textbook. 

Only in México 

(and maybe some other Latin American countries but these are very typical here)

güey/wey = dude, mate and sometimes idiot or just a filler word (used amongst friends and informal settings). Someone who is very mexican might use this as every second word to call attention to the person they are speaking to. 

¿Qué onda? = What’s up?

buena onda = nice, cool, excellent (can be used to describe people too)

no mames/manches = no way, no fucking way, holy shit, you’ve got to be kidding, bloody hell

¿Qué pedo? = What’s up?

pinche = stupid/fucking (adjective used to express annoyance)

crudo = suffering a hangover (literal meaning is raw)

¿Mande? = Pardon me?/What did you say? (polite)

fresa = snob or stuck-up person that is often rich (literal meaning is strawberry)

¡Órale! = statement of encouragement (closest english phrase is probably: Go on!), also can mean alright, come on or okay

chido/a = cool (people also use the word cool)

¡Qué padre! = How cool!

carnal = brother (who is actually a pal that you are very close with)

sale = okay (the mexican version of vale but you can use both, have even heard “sale vale” – also the name of a supermarket here)

Bye/Chao = Very common to use these to say farewell

Things I have heard a lot in Mexican Spanish

Creo que – I believe that (often when you would usually use pienso que, Mexicans use creo que)

Gracias a tí ! – Thank YOU (used after you thank someone, usually by shopkeepers but also friends if they believe they should be the one thanking you)

 ¿De qué?   used after someone thanks you, english equivalent of “for what?”, “don’t mention it” or “no need to thank me”

Vocab Differences

These are just some random ones. 

English Spanish (México) Spanish (Spain)
mobile phone celular móvil
peach durazno melocotón
pen pluma bolígrafo
lollies dulces caramelos
handbag bolsa bolso
ticket boleto billete
lighter encendedor mechero

Beware the dreaded DOBLE SENTIDO

Yes that’s right, everything appears to have a double meaning in México. Often my roommates have been innocently discussing a fruit or vegetable and next minute the closest Mexican is in fits of giggles. 

Also avoid using coger – in México this verb also means ‘to have intercourse with’

But most importantly, if you make mistakes, laugh at them and don’t take it too seriously because you will pick up the Mexican Spanish in no time.

(Soon to come – A Guide to Body Language and Gestures in México.)

Clare

La Lucha Libre

Hey guys,

This is just a short post about La Lucha Libre I attended on a Monday night in October.

Who said Monday nights had to be boring?

La Luche Libre is a fake, theatrical fight which is quite comical. There’s a lot of slapping each other’s chests (men and women both) and people flying or jumping off the stage.

It was actually surprisingly fun and I have never heard so many people shouting obscene and hilarious things with my personal favourite being “¡Mi abuelita pega mejor!” (My grandma hits better!).

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La Lucha Libre on a Monday night in Puebla

The Day of Independence (Guanajuato)

On the 16th of September – the Day of Independence in México – I was in the beautiful city of Guanajuato. The Day of Independence celebrates the anniversary of the Mexican revolt against the Spaniards in 1810, during which el grito (the cry/shout) was performed by a Mexican priest and leader named Hidalgo. El grito was more or less a battle cry including the still popular phrase: ¡Viva México!

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The first night was crazy as we had welcome drinks (ahem – many bottles of tequila) with the agency before heading to the zocalo (town square) to listen to the mariachi bands. We were then led through the streets and eventually men and women were instructed to separate for a traditional rose giving ceremony. The males came into the crowds to gift roses to girlfriends or wives and the parade continued. 

The following morning included a visit to the beautiful Teatro Juarez which resembles Greek architecture and of which the inside reminded me of the Great Gatsby. 

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One of the exclusive salons in the Theatre Juarez for smoking and discussing social and political life

We then began walking to a coffee shop on a bridge which to me looked very much like Italy. I later found out the place was featured in the film ‘El Estudiante’ (The Student) which is filmed in Guanajuato.

Something quite amazing happened after that morning. We walked into a shop with a mix of skiing and athletic gear, as well as other knick-knacks and my roommate, bought a little monkey figurine. The shopkeepers were very interested in talking to us and ended up closing the shop and inviting us upstairs to their house. 

We had a very special lunch with them and talked for many hours. It was very difficult to say no to all the food and alcohol that was offered (and by this I mean, “no thank you” was not an acceptable answer). We have since sent a letter and the photo back to the beautiful family that took us in for the day. Afterwards, the real fiesta began and we spent the night in the square with Mexican flags, face paint and dancing.

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Update: Blogging Blues

Hola a todos,

This is a quick update to let you know there could be about 10 blog posts coming through in the next few days. I have been having technical difficulties which resulted in everything I typed being deleted once I inserted images into my posts but it seems to be fixed now.

To those of you who are subscribed by email, apologies for the influx over the next few days!

Clare