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Set Yourself Apart When You Travel to Mexico: 10 Things You May Not Know About Mexico

With all the bad news coming from Mexico these days, it’s easy to forget that if you choose your destinations with a bit of care, it’s still a beautiful and welcoming place to travel.

Travel to Mexico : Oaxaca Church

Oaxaca Church

When you travel to Mexico you can find spectacular scenery, mind-blowing pre-Colombian ruins, and beautiful colonial cities and towns. Mexico has 32 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List scattered throughout the country. It’s a country full of warm, friendly people who love to laugh, and there’s lots of great food to be had. And of course, there’s tequila. For those who would like to travel to Mexico armed with some knowledge that will set them apart from other turistas (knowing a little of the Spanish language goes a long way too), I’ve compiled a list, in no particular order, of facts and places of interest.

Get ready to travel to Mexico!

  1. We’re not the only United States. Mexico’s official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States). The country has 32 States. Unfortunately, 16 of them are currently under U.S. State Department travel advisories, but that still leaves many options for safe travel to Mexico. The list of states that our government recommends avoiding can be found here.
  2. Mexico formally abolished slavery in 1820, 53 years before the U.S.
  3. You can see the oldest olive trees in the Western Hemisphere. The town of Tzintzuntzan, in the state of Michoacán, in addition to having a really cool name, is home to the monastery of San Francisco, where you’ll find olive trees said to have been planted by Vasco de Quiroga in the 1500’s. There’s also a glass coffin housing a wax figure of Christ whose arms and legs, according to the locals, are continually growing – an extension was added to the coffin to accommodate them.
  4. View a volcano that ate two towns (slowly). On February 20, 1943, a farmer and his wife in Michoacán saw ash and stones erupting from a fissure in their field. The eruptions soon grew into a full-blown volcano, which slowly engulfed the villages of Paricutín and San Juan Parangaricutiro.
    Travel to Mexico: Paricutín volcano

    Paricutín volcano

    The residents of the two villages safely relocated to land nearby. The Paricutín volcano continued to erupt until 1952; it was the first time the entire life cycle of a volcano was witnessed by scientists. Today, when you travel to Mexico, you can hike to San Juan Parangaricutiro to see the remains of the town, including the church bell tower and altar, which were left exposed.

  5. There’s no worm in tequila, though sometimes you’ll find one in mezcal, which is made from a different variety of agave. “Tequila” is a controlled appellation: in order to bear that name, the spirit has to be produced in the state of Jalisco or in certain areas of 4 other states: Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas, the area surrounding the town of – that’s right: Tequila! Travelers in Mexico interested in learning about tequila’s production and history can take a trip on the José Cuervo Express, a train from Guadalajara to Tequila that allows visitors to tour distilleries, sample and purchase tequilas and other spirits, and return to Guadalajara without having to drive.
  6. Travel through Canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. The Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) is a group of canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental in southwestern Chihuahua. The more remote areas are home to the Rarámuri, or Tarahumara, Indians, renowned for their endurance running. A popular train takes visitors from the city of Chihuahua through the canyons to the West Coast at Los Mochis.
  7. See amazing murals. From the 1920s to the 70s, a large number of murals were painted on public buildings in several cities. The most famous muralists of the era, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros, painted many masterpieces filled with social and political messages, which can be seen at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, the Hospicio Cabañas and the Jalisco Governmental Palace, both in Guadalajara, as well as many other sites.
  8. Great reefs for snorkeling & scuba diving can be found on both coasts, including areas in Veracruz and Quintana Roo on the Gulf Coast and Baja California Sur on the West Coast.
  9. Visit beautiful colonial cities. Visitors who find Mexico City a bit overwhelming can enjoy a number of charming smaller cities. San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, Mérida, and San Cristóbal de las Casas are a few fine examples.
  10. Indulge in the food, from simple to sophisticated. One of the perks when you travel to Mexico is that you can find great meals for all budgets, from small tacos made with double tortillas to hold their bulging contents, to complex and picturesque dishes such as chiles en nogada and an infinite variety of moles. The adventurous can also try different types of larvae, crickets, and other crawly things! Like many things in Mexico, there’s something for all tastes.
  11. And remember, if you choose to travel to Mexico or anywhere abroad, Travel insurance is one of the most important things to buy for your trip. A site like Consumers Advocate can help you navigate the best Travel Insurance choices.

Learn Spanish and Discover a Culture

The United States of America has a population of 317 million as of 2013. The total population 5 years and over for 2011 was 291 million. Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau for this segment showed that 231 million people spoke only English at home and 37.5 million spoke Spanish at home. While 80% of Americans speak English as their primary language, the second most common language spoken in the country is Spanish.

learn-spanish-discover-culture-pimsleurAn impressive 12.8% of Americans speak Spanish, over 37 million people, and that number is only going to grow. As Spanish culture is incorporated in the U.S., the necessity to learn Spanish cannot be denied.

The United States is home to a myriad of dialects hailing from all over the Spanish-speaking world. More and more immigrants arrive in this country every year, with more of them speaking Spanish than any other language. As the melting pot of nations grows, English and Spanish speakers alike are discovering the benefits of being able to communicate, both to improve their lives and to grow culturally.

Where to Learn Spanish

The demands for Spanish classes are at an all-time high. According to the New York Times, institutions such as the New York Public Library have had a long tradition of providing free English classes. But it was not until recently that some branches started offering foreign language classes. Libraries all over the country are now following suit and offering complimentary language courses. However, libraries are only able to offer courses based on community needs and available resources. Space is very limited in most library courses.

A great way to learn Spanish is through the use of self-instructional language courses. Simon and Schuster offers the highly-effective Pimsleur Program, a comprehensive language course that gets the student off and running with the most useful phrases through an intuitive learning process. Offered in different media, MP3’s, audio CDs, and computer software, the digital language courses allow the students to choose their method of learning, whether it’s taking the lessons to the gym on their mobile devices as MP3s, or making the most of traffic while learning a new language in the car on CD. The option to take these lessons with you allows you to easily integrate learning Spanish into any free time you find.

The Benefits of Learning Spanish

Learning Spanish is not just personally rewarding, it is also an opportunity to broaden your cultural horizons. With so many books, movies, and music options being released in Spanish, this is an easy way to tap into the growing market. Taking time to learn Spanish can help open up your mind to exciting new sights and sounds.

New culinary experiences also await those who are inclined to learn Spanish. Spanish cuisine is a perennial favorite across the country. An amazing adventure awaits you if you have the ability to walk into an authentic Mexican restaurant and understand the menu, trying new foods you never would have tasted otherwise because you can now interpret the ingredients.

There are a plethora of reasons to take the time to learn Spanish besides the simple joy of learning a new language. No matter the reason, whether practical, sentimental, or perhaps gastronomic, learning Spanish will be a beneficial skill you can use daily. The Spanish-speaking population is growing in the United States every year and embracing the relationship between English and Spanish speakers will enrich your day-to-day interaction and cultural understanding.