Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

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Mexico - Yucatan Peninsula - Playa del Carmen - r.g. photo

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Practicals

Transport

“Someone wrote on the web forum that there are so many speed bumps (tope) that you can never drive at more than 30 km/h anywhere, that they are even in the middle of the highway, and that the roads are in terrible condition. Well, we went 4,000 km by car, and while there was plenty of tope, they were only ever before, within, and after the populated areas, never simply in the middle of the road for no reason. When driving in an uninhabited area, whenever we came across a cottage or something else by the roadside that might indicate people crossing the road at that spot, we quickly learned to expect them. Plus, they don’t slow down at speed bumps nearly as much as some suggested. 70% of the 4,000km of the road we traveled was of excellent quality and so empty that often we saw no one coming the other way for half an hour or more. On the other hand, there are lots of checks. The police don't want anything from you, and if you're careful, you won’t get fall into the hands of a corrupt cop. Most military checks are a joke. They go through your suitcase while chatting to each other and don't even pay attention to what’s inside. The whole is just for show. Of course, everyone wants money for everything, and there’s nothing to be done; you have to pay. There are plenty of gas stations (Pemex) where gas is half the price it is in Europe. The gas station owner always sees himself as a real lord of the manor. From the moment he sees that you want to drive in, he starts waving you to the pump he wants you to use. Then he fills up your car and waves away the tip (they always refuse). If he washes your windscreen, however, then he expects a tip: 5 pesos is generally enough to put a grin on his face.” (2016)

"Mexicans are pretty wild drivers. You should avoid night driving in rural Mexico. That’s important, useful advice! Drunk pedestrians can be a particular danger. If a driver runs over a drunk local, he is in danger of being lynched by the villagers, and the police will turn a blind eye. In the event of a puncture, we can always find helpful people, but for longer journeys, it is more practical to join the local car club. The car rental company should clarify in advance what to do in the event of a breakdown. Seats on public transport are reserved in advance, so it’s worth booking your seat a day or two before your trip. It is also possible to book online (www.ticketbus.com.mx) and find out the timetable and the fare."

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“The Mexican car game (fun for all the family!) is all about who can get from A to B as quickly as possible, with the fewest road signs – rules which I am only slowly getting used to. One thing is for sure; you have to drive very defensively here: for instance, if a car is driving in front of you, it could turn right or left at any time, or even stop dead, and other road users are also considering the same in their minds, making for a lot of unknown equations for the daily commute. Not such a big deal – you have to keep your wits about you.” (2018)

Accomodation


Food

"In Mexico, the rate of obesity is very high in big cities. If we look at their eating habits, it is easy to understand why. There was nothing surprising to us about the spicy dishes, and indeed we positively relished them. What is harder to digest is the amount of sugar. Everything is sweet – almost everything in the supermarket, too, including bread and dairy products.

You need to find the rare kind of bread that is not sweetened among the breads, then stick to it. Even whole wheat bread has added sugar. All sliced, pre-packaged bread is sweet – and I don't mean just a little bit sweet. Likewise, among dairy products, you can only choose between sweet and sweeter. Yogurt natural sin azúcar – that is, natural yogurt without sugar – is also sweetened. You can get used to it, but it's not easy. It's best to eat tortillas instead of bread, and the wheat flour version is better still. Buttered cold cuts and cheeses are fine, but it's worth buying the international brands you find at home, even if they're more expensive.

Fruit and vegetables are available in a wide range of types and flavors – perhaps the best part of the Mexican grocery shopping experience. Meat and fish are very good, both as raw ingredients and when fried. In restaurants, two worlds collide: it's possible to eat in local establishments, taking the risk in return for that delicious, spicy, interesting food. Or you can go to the slightly higher-class Mexican restaurant visited by foreigners, where the menu is geared to the tastes of foreign visitors. Amid beautiful but rather tasteless unsalted chicken and roasts, only the garlic crabs managed to be both roasted and seasoned at the same time. Real Italian and Indian/Pakistani restaurants are reliable, and branches of American chains in Mexico are good. For anyone who wants fried meat, there is always Vips.

The drinks and juices are delicious, but you can't help wondering what kind of water and ice they mixed them with. Local cafes, including the most famous international chains, have a strongly American conception of coffee. Lots and lots of water. They add extra water to the double coffee, and it's difficult to persuade them not to, even in Starbucks. Still, I did manage to persuade them to give me a regular double espresso several times, so it's worth a try."
In January 2020, a meal, a drink, and a coffee will usually come to about 300 pesos in an average, acceptable place.
It is mandatory to try Mole sauce, which is a very spicy, delicious condiment. Chocolate Mole is interesting because it is not sweet, just spicy and chocolatey."
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"In Mexico, restaurants are generally the most expensive and perhaps the least authentic places to eat. Of course, there are restaurants in more secluded, small streets and squares, where the locals go, but they are harder to find and farther from the city center.
I should have put 'expensive' in inverted commas since even by my Hungarian standards, meals here are cheap. Restaurant prices range from 200 Mexican pesos (for two people) up to… well, the sky is the limit; it depends on the place.
You also need to be prepared for menus that may only be in Spanish. If not, it's likely that you've come to a place that specializes in feeding tourists, where only the names of the dishes have anything to do with Mexico.
I mentioned the admonitions we received before we left. However, we agreed that if we were going to Mexico, we would at least try the authentic local eateries and try to mingle a bit with the local people. After all, a Hungarian stomach hardened by years of brandy drinking isn't so easy to upset!
Most of the time, we bought our daily meals from street vendors, but we also visited cafeterias in the market. I love the atmosphere and the fact that you can really be among the local people, eating the food they eat almost every day.
Another big benefit is that this is one of the cheapest ways to eat: Lunch for two people can be bought for approx. One hundred pesos and that includes beer or soft drinks!
If you can summon the nerve to visit one of these establishments, believe me, they'll be delighted to see you. Firstly, because as tourists, you chose their place, and secondly, it is imperative to bear in mind that most Mexicans are very poor, so every peso counts, and their goal is to make it to the next day. Not to mention that they are very nice people anyway, and, last but not least, the food is delicious!
I remember going into a market cafeteria for dinner and ending up with what was probably the most delicious meal I ate during my whole stay. At least it tasted great to me, even though the food was quite simple: pancakes stuffed with cheese, chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables." (2017)

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"Mexico is not a country for people looking to lose weight! Excellent food, and lots of fruit. The staples are corn and beans. Instead of bread, corn tacos are typical. The street vendor fills one with chicken, onions, and corn, then pours some bean sauce over it and it's ready. This is available everywhere, though because of the cornmeal, it has a particular, warm kind of smell that I never completely got used to. In terms of meat, chicken is the most common, but by the sea, fresh seafood is a must.
The Mexicans have an admirable custom: immediately after you order, they bring you some crunchy snacks and dips. If you don't like spicy food, be careful! Spicy here means really spicy, and when they call something muy picante, it's sure to burn your mouth out. This, in turn, can be cooled by the local beer, which is served with lemon or lime." (2019)


Mexico - blessed good appetite - b.a. photo

Mexico - Isla Mujeres - lobster - d.p. photo

Mexico - shrimp&onion salad - d.p. photo

Shopping

When shopping in the market, you can bargain a bit on the price, but don’t overdo,  because it may offend the vendors.

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“Everything is delicious, and food and drinks have a rich, full taste. I find it unnecessary to go all-inclusive in a place like Mexico… Burrito, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas… and divine guacamole. You’ve got to try it all! Besides the rich taste of the food, each restaurant, buffet, and bar has a unique, inimitable style. There are plenty of good juicers along the way, as most of the fruit and vegetables ripen locally, so it’s all fantastic. Restaurant prices correspond approximately to prices back home in Budapest, but it depends on the popularity of the place. In the evenings (and for some people during the day as well) refreshing cocktails such as margaritas are unmissable. Of course, for those who are not curious about the natural and cultural richness of Mexico, an all-inclusive package is worth it if you just want to lie on the beach all day. However, it is a pity to travel so far and buy an expensive ticket… but each to their own.
Tip: Buy a souvenir at Walmart because everything is available there, even in small strip stores. Chili sauce, tequila, mezcal, souvenirs, possibly a suntan lotion, breakfast croissants, and maybe aspirin. I got everything cheaply and from a wide range of options.”

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“It’s worth knowing that in Mexico, fixed prices are shown only in supermarkets, pharmacies, and upmarket boutique stores. You’ll have to haggle almost everywhere else, which is both challenging and fun. Vendors, of course, see the tourist as a cash cow, especially when they look like suckers. Mexicans love to get the better of Americans (gringos) because most Americans are pretty naive. Hungarians like me are expected to be more vigilant. If you’re not an American and therefore not a real gringo, it’s worth emphasizing that fact because in bargaining, it is advantageous for the seller to be well disposed towards the buyer. However, it is difficult for an American to achieve this. So try to be friendly and funny with locals, which gives you the best chance of a bargain. Look on bargaining as a kind of game or sport – it’s not worth getting tense or excited. Of course, if you want to buy something more expensive, you may need to look in several stores to find a bargain.”
One ground rule: If you offer a price, it’s a weasel move to back out of it later!

Fun

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Mexico - Guanajuato - San Miguel de Allende - Sign says: Working hours: We open when we arrive, close when we leave. If you come when we are not here, then we have avoided each other - m.d. photo

Public safety

“We soon traveled from the state of Quintana Roo to the state of Chiapas, and we first realized we had reached the state border when we saw the half-dozen armed police officers who were waiting for us with loaded rifles from behind high piles of sandbags on either side of the road. It was a shocking experience to face the rifles, and it never occurred to us not to stop. I’m almost certain that if we hadn’t slowed down and stopped, they would have opened fire. When they saw that we were tourists, they waved us on. We met quite a few more similar police checks that day, but on only one occasion did they look into the trunk and glove compartment of the car, and they were always polite. It later turned out that there are now more or less constant checks on this road, as a result of drug smuggling by Guatemalan gangs, since the road here runs pretty much parallel to the border.” (2016)

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“If you’re not a drug dealer, don’t run girls, and don’t get in trouble, you’ve no reason to worry. Wherever scuba-diving is available during the day, everything is available at night – drugs, a companion for the evening, etc. You can do as you please, of course, but there’s no question that avoiding such situations can protect you from more trouble. Also, everyone wears their branded clothes and watches, despite the good advice on the net, and no one is dragged into a van because of it. This is not Brazil. There are cops on the street, but not in oppressive numbers, and mostly only in the evenings. There are motorized patrols on the beach for a while, but that's it. Playa del Carmen is full of parties and there is an ATM on every corner. However, it is advisable to withdraw a larger amount during the day and at a regular bank, so that we don’t find ourselves forced to withdraw a larger amount at night, when someone may cheerfully run off with the amount corresponding to our daily limit.”



Mexico - buckle - b.a. photo

Mexico - Auxiliary police, also called special police - g.e. photo

Health

“Mexican food is fantastic, with a really unique range of cooking spices, but (!) don’t eat the street food, however tempting it smells. We didn’t even eat tortillas, which were being made in front of us on the street. Not only should you refrain from tap water, but it is better to avoid ice cubes, no matter how convinced you are that they have not been made from tap water. If possible, choose fruit that can be peeled and washed. Many problems can be avoided by following these rules!”

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“Sooner or later, the time will come for us to visit the little girls’ or boys’ room to relieve our spirits, or at least our insides. At first, everything is good and beautiful, until a) we notice the inscriptions b) they say that – I hope you’re ready for this – it’s forbidden to throw toilet paper into the toilet bowl! A plastic bucket/trash can is provided for this purpose. This is due to the inadequate sewage system, though it’s true that in some hotels and cities you may find a place where things work according to the usual system. What can I say? This means, of course, that there’s nothing better on a scorching summer day than to wander into, say, a public toilet in a park!”

Mexico - warning - Forbidden to fulfill your physiological urge in this place - Krista photo

Mexico - OREO - warning of the health authority: an excess of calories, sugar, saturated fat, and sodium - Krista photo

Others

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Mexico - Message on the wall by the local community - Forbidden to consume alcoholic drinks and drugs in this tourist area - we'll report any offense to the authorities

Background

Mexico flag - in the middle of the flag an eagle sits on a prickly pear cactus and enjoys a rattlesnake meat

Destination in brief

Mexico in brief

It is a widespread, but mistakenly held belief that Mexico is a Central American country. In strict geographical terms, Mexico is actually a North American country, and only its southern part can be considered Central American.

Mexico’s neighbors: USA (north, with a 3,145 km/1,954 mi long common border), Guatemala and Belize (south). Mexico has long coastlines both on the Pacific Ocean (on its western side) and on the Gulf of Mexico (on its eastern side).

Size: 1,973,000 km² (761,600 mi²) – Mexico is the 5th largest country of the Americas (Canada is the largest).

Population (in 2020): 128.4 million – Genetically, there's no such thing as a Mexican. The population of Mexico shows such extreme diversity that someone from the dry north is genetically as different from someone from the Yucatan as a European is from an East Asian.
About 53-61% can be identified as mestizo (to put it simply: mixed race of European, Amerindian and even some African heritage), about 30% Amerindian (native Indian), about 9% whites (of European descent).

Most common surname: Hernández

Capital city: Mexico City – The city has a population of 12.3 million, and its metropolitan area is home to 21.7 million people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere.

Language: Spanish - Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.

After Brazil, Mexico has the highest number of Catholics: 84.2 million people.

Official currency: Mexican peso (MXN)

Average net monthly salary: about 490 USD (2020)

Optimal timing for a tourist visit: it really depends on which part of this huge country you plan to visit. It is in general best to go there sometime between November and April, as this is the dry season.
July-September: very rainy
The peak tourist seasons, with their higher hotel prices and airfares, are in December, January, March and April (Easter holiday).

Although Mexico is usually portrayed in the media as plagued by drug-related violence and kidnappings, this is far from the picture you get as a tourist and it is indeed very rare for visitors to witness or fall victim to any of that. The Yucatan, the touristy colonial cities (like Puebla, San Cristobal de las Casas, Puerta Vallarta), the Aztec and Maya ruin sites, and even Mexico City are surprisingly safe for visitors.   


 


Geography

Mexico’s highest mountain is Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano: 5,636 meters (18,490 Ft) high.

The 3,145 km (1,954 mi)  border betwen Mexico and the United States is the second-longest border in the world (the first being the U.S.-Canada).

Mexico - Popocatépetl, an active stratovolcano on the border of the states of México and Puebla, in central Mexico. - h.a. photo

Climate

The climate is tropical, with dry (October-May) and rainy seasons (May-October) on and near the two oceans' shores, except for the Pacific Northwest coast, which is a semi-desert area. On the Caribbean coast, the hurricane season roughly coincides with the rainy season.


History

In Mexico, the Olmecs created the first civilization between 1400 and 300 BC. Several cities emerged on the east coast of Mexico. The Olmecs idolized a mystical, unnamed, partly human, partly jaguar God.

When the Spanish led by Herman Cortés started to conquer Mexican lands in 1519, the Aztecs believed that he is the returning God, Quetzalcoatl. They offered him the drink of Gods, hot chocolate, to improve his potency. Cortés had a native concubine, a talented interpreter, Marina. She gave birth to the first son of Cortés, who was probably the first Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white).

Mexico was under Spanish rule for nearly 300 years. In the early 19th century, under the leadership of a priest named Hidalgo, a struggle for independence began, and in 1810 that led to independence.


Nowadays


“While racial equality is an important principle in Mexico, at least superficially, anyone visiting for even a short time will soon notice that skin color and social class matter, both in terms of both getting ahead in life and for social prestige. In politics, economic life, and the media, white people are definitely overrepresented. Just take a look at the soaps, shows and news on local TV, then take a look at the leaders of the country, and you’ll soon see how much pale skin matters. In the elegant quarters, of course, the owners are whites and mestizos, while the Amerindians are mostly maids. The current head of state is a handsome guy who looks completely Spanish (which, in fact, is exactly what he is...). Mexicans don’t even like to talk to foreigners about the divisions of society based on skin color, or in other words about racism. This is almost a taboo subject. Maybe Mexico City is the exception because everything is more casual there than in other parts of the country.”

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“The oppressive heat has certain effects on city life. After sunset, the streets and squares – which may seem a bit deserted during the day – suddenly fill up with local people, and the city starts to really come alive. This is completely independent of what day of the week it is; from Monday to Sunday, the choreography takes place in the same way, just as if a vinyl record had been stuck and played the same melody indefinitely. It was interesting to experience this. What was a little weird was that despite the great heat, we didn’t see people or shops observing the siesta, unlike, say, the cities of the south of France, or even Rome. What was also fun to notice was the way the street vendors and the goods they offered also changed according to the time of day: cooling drinks, ice cream and lighter meals were available during the day, while florists came out after dark.”

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Economy: Mexico is a world leader in lemon and avocado cultivation.

People

The word mexico comes from the name of an indigenous ethnic group: mexica. These people settled in the central areas of present-day Mexico in the early 14th century. The better-known name of the Mexicans is the Aztecs

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"They work a lot for not much money. They have strong family ties. They treat their parents with great respect. They are devout Catholics. They have good mechanical skills, and are good at repairing and renovating old gadgets. They have a strong sense of duty. They are good at throwing together cheap food. If you insult a Mexican’s mother he will fight you. Even in childhood, they have a sense of duty when it comes to helping with family chores. They can be very good friends. "
 
“It is very important for Mexican women to be pretty, to highlight their beauty with a thick layer of makeup, and to cover up their flaws. They are short, and often have curvaceous, typically feminine shapes. They smile a lot and are warm-hearted and receptive. They love to (and can) cook and eat – always with chili, of course. They are particularly family-centric, and this is typical not only of the nuclear family, but the whole extended family, too. They love to shop, especially for everything that is sparkly, kitschy, Jesus, or a cuddly toy. "

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“Overall, the people in Yucatan are very kind, helpful, and friendly. A couple of hours of conversation on a bus can end in a hug. Everyone asks politely and says thank you. And, if you’re a European, you’re often treated differently. You can complain about the broken diving mask and get your money back. You get the fresh ham, and if you make the detector beep on your way out of the shop, they don’t look through your bag to see if you’ve squirreled a plasma TV in there somewhere. You are a tourist, you bring your money with you, and you return home to spread the word about their friendliness and hospitality. Other than that, they’re under no obligation to make a connection, but they do. They offer you a biscuit, or to give you a map, even if you don’t need it. If you only have two weeks, try to focus on the positives – at the end of their day, their political and economic situation is none of our business, and a few reciprocal words of kindness cost neither money nor effort, but can sweeten our vacation and our memories.”
 
“Loud Mexicans. In Latin America, it’s always a bit like living inside a live soap opera. Most people here are not at all self-conscious. If they’re in a good mood they party, and might even call a mariachi band home, so that everyone in the neighborhood can hear it until dawn. If they’re in a bad mood and quarreling with their partner on the street at night, they make no effort to hide it. It is a land of great quarrels and greater reconciliations. But thanks to this, we can also live the way we want – the pot doesn’t call the kettle black.
In Mexico, then, if the shop cashier is in a good mood, you’ll see it on his face, but if he’s having a bad day, that will be equally obvious. No fake smiles here.”

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"In retrospect, it seems to me that we were a bit foolhardy about the trip – not because of the public safety situation, but because, speaking no Spanish, we took on an adventurous journey without a guide. We knew that outside of the popular tourist centers, if it is possible, it’s best not to speak English, because Mexicans do not like American tourist "gringos", so to speak, and in fact often detest them. There are both historical and contemporary reasons for this, as the exploitation of Mexican labor in the United States is a well-known fact, while American tourists treat locals in resorts along the Caribbean coast with something close to contempt. It is best to clarify at the outset, if you’re European, that you are not a real ‘gringo’, and diligently repeat the phrase "no soy Americano" (I am not American). I never thought that this phrase learned from the Internet would be so useful in Campeche!” (2016)

Mexico - read on the bib: I love my daddy - Krista photo

Tourist etiquette

1. Drinking alcoholic beverages on the street is illegal all over in Mexico, so do not walk on the street with a beer can in your hand. People won’t mind, but the police will.

2. Mexicans are not known for working very fast and being efficient, so don’t make a scene if your order takes five more minutes than it should. If it takes 20–30 min, then do mention it cooly to the waiter.

3. Don’t take photos of indigenous people on the street without asking for their permission. These Mexican Indians live in extreme poverty, but they are not animals in a zoo. They are human beings with a rich and beautiful cultural background. Instead of taking pictures, buy what they’re selling (if they are).

4. As for the ways of greetings, the Mexicans are quite polite, loving formalities a lot, almost in a ceremonial way. Foreign visitors should adapt to these.

5. In the restaurants or bars, the Mexicans call the waiter Joven, which means young, but so are called the elderly too. The waitress is called señorita or señora.
 Foreign tourists may use these words.

6. In the restaurants, we have to ask for the bill (la cuenta por favor) because the Mexican waiters find it impolite to bring the bill before the customer has it requested.  

Gastronomy

Chocolate, corn, and chili originate from Mexico.

The world-famous Caesar salad was named after a Mexican chef, Caesar Cardini.

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"Mexican means spicy!" - this is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the homeland of tortillas. But anyone who has tasted the real thing recalls the wonderful richness and depth of flavor of the spices, the varied vegetables, and the fresh ingredients. The basics of Mexican cuisine go back to Aztec times. Back then, the dominant spices for the Aztecs were cocoa, chili, honey and vanilla. For meat they consumed wild turkey, and the already domesticated duck. In Mexico, beans and corn are considered staples. They use the corn kernels, of course, but the stripped core is also an ingredient in several dishes, while corn flour is also an important element in many Mexican recipes. And eating beans and corn together is a very healthy habit, as the amino acids in each complement those in the other.

What makes it so special? The greatness of Mexican appetizers lies in their simplicity. Tortillas, nachos, burritos, tacos, made primarily from corn cakes, are staples on any Mexican dining table. All kinds of fillings (meat, beans, corn, cheese, peppers, tomatoes) are added to it. Guacamole (a spread made from avocado, with chili and lime also playing a role in seasoning) is just as popular. Chimichanga is also frequently featured at the table: this is a burrito which is fried in oil. Their dishes are accompanied by salsa sauce - a sauce made from tomatoes and onions, which is usually flavored with coriander, jalapeno, and a little lime juice.
The soul of the food: In addition to the ingredients, the special taste of the food is given by correct seasoning. The main spices in today’s Mexican cuisine are chili, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cocoa, oregano, and epazote, a green spice similar to coriander. Our favorite soups were Guadalajara (bean and beef in a single bowl), that classic Mexican soup, Menudo (with tripe, chili peppers, and lots of coriander), and corn cream soup.

As a main course, they most often consume the real classic one-pot dish, Chili con Carne, enriched with chili-boiled "beef stew" beans, and Fajita (grilled meats, served in this case with fresh tortillas, guacamole, rice, and a bean puree, all on one plate). Salads and cheese are often offered alongside. In addition, national dishes include quesadillas (stuffed between two tortillas made from wheat or corn flour, baked and then served cut into quarters), enchiladas (tortillas stuffed and rolled up like pancakes and sprinkled thoroughly with chili sauce), and burritos (grilled meat in a tortilla made from wheat flour, steamed vegetables, rice and bean puree). Mexican desserts are more spicy than sweet. Their favorite spices are clove and cinnamon. Desserts are often fruity, and in most cases their dough is made from cornmeal.”

Attractions

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Mexico - Taxco - d.p. photo

Mexico - Balancán Tabasco - Tila - Iglesia del Señor de Tila - a spectacular expression of religious syncretism in Mexico - l.t. photo

Indigenous peoples of Mexico

Indigenous peoples of Mexico ( gente indígena de México), Native Mexicans ( nativos mexicanos), or Mexican Native Americans ( mexicanos nativos americanos), are those who are part of communities that trace their roots back to populations and communities that existed in teh mexican territories....

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