Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Eric Livingston

Cities in Mexico and Brief History

Table Of Contents
  1. Cities in Mexico and Brief History

Exports and Tourism Drive Mexico’s Economy

Illicit activities aside, the main driver of México’s economy are exports and tourism. Tourism in Mexico is huge. Mexico is the second most visited country in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States according to the World Tourism Organization. Between the Aztecs and the Maya, México left a great cultural and historical legacy. Numerous cities in Mexico are filled with charm. The most visited tourist destinations are Cancún and the Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen and Tulum), Mexico City, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca and Mérida. Like all tourist destinations México took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mexico typically receives tourists that enjoy not only the beaches but the colorful, vibrant culture of the pueblos mágicos and excellent traditional Mexican food.

Mérida, Mexico Was Ranked the 2nd Safest City in the Entire Western Hemisphere but I Question the Source

You read the heading correctly. Numerous media outlets have exaggerated the dangers of Mexico for decades. It’s true that parts of Mexico are dangerous. However, much of that is gang on gang violence. Mexico is a large country with areas that have a vested interest in tourism. Any place in the world that wants to attract tourists knows that security of that area is paramount, and Mexico is no different. According to CEO Magazine, Mérida, Mexico was ranked the 2nd safest city in the Americas. It came in 21st in the world.

I Question the Validity of Mérida, Yucatán Being 21 Safest in the World in 2024 and 2nd in the Western Hemisphere

In full transparency, the aforementioned report is almost 5 years old now, and it doesn’t list its sources. Additionally, their website its littered with ads and has major formatting issues at the time I edit this page in December of 2023. The name of the site isn’t CEO World Magazine either. It’s “ceoworldbiz”. They have a “Write for Us” menu item at the top and I assume a 3rd party wrote the page back in 2019. To be clear, I’m not stating the information wasn’t correct back in 2019, but the fact that no sources are listed, is a flaw in and of itself. However, I can tell you from experience, as I live here, Mérida is generally safe from violent crime. I’ve never felt physical danger walking around. However, as I update this post, my bicycle was stolen from a gated community on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2023, in the northern “safe” part of Mérida. Also, a neighbor’s condo was broken into and robbed where I previously used to live, again in northern Mérida. So, you still have to watch your personal belongings, pretty much everywhere in Latin America. Mérida isn’t some Japanese city or town with zero crime, not even close. I go over Mérida in depth below.

Cartel Leaders Created “Safe Zone” Urban Legend or Reality?

Urban legend states that the heads of the Mexican cartels have family that lives in Mérida, and that an agreement was reached with the different factions that Mérida was not to be touched, thus creating a “safe zone” in Mérida, Yucatán.

Despite the Actions of Cartels, Guns Are Severely Restricted in Mexico

Despite what cartels do, guns are highly restricted in Mexico, unlike the United States. Sure, there are some loopholes and one can apply for a license to use at a shooting range and so forth, but firearms are extremely time consuming and difficult to obtain legally. There’s no concealed carry allowed anywhere even if you get a permit. The weapon must remain at your residence. Additionally, the .38 is the highest caliber of firearm one can legally own and there is only one (1) store in all of México that sells guns and ammunition in Mexico City. That’s it. I decided to create a blog post regarding the War on Drugs and México’s involvement and leave it out of this general overview as it’s a bit extensive and I didn’t want to bog down this piece with guns, violence and narco talk.

Mexico’s Chief Exports

Mexico’s main exports are in the automotive, beverage, cement, and textile industries. The Mexican company Cemex is the third largest cement conglomerate in the world. Foreign trade in Mexico is regulated by the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that Mexico has with more than 40 countries.

CUSMA, NAFTA and T-MEC Are All Names of the Same 3 Country Trade Alliance

The best-known trade agreement is the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada. The new agreement dubbed NAFTA 2.0 was signed by President Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on November 30, 2018, as a result of the three leaders meeting at the 2018 G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. A revision of the agreement was signed on December 10, 2019, and was ratified by all three countries, with the final ratification (Canada) on March 13, 2020.

The New “NAFTA” Has a New Name

Interestingly the new “NAFTA” has a new name. In Mexico, the agreement is called T-MEC (Spanish) “Tratado entre-México, Estados Unidos y Canada” abbreviated T-MEC by simply using the first letter of each country after the T, hyphen, and naturally putting Mexico first. In the United States it was signed into law under USMCA, amusingly not too far off from the Village People’s classic hit song YMCA or the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It stands for “United States Mexico Canada Agreement”. Again, naturally the United States places their country first in the acronym. Thirdly, Canada follows suit by officially naming the agreement CUSMA, the acronym for “Canada United States México Agreement”, with Canada putting its nation first in the abbreviation.

Brief History of Mexico

The Aztec, Maya, Mixtec, Olmec, Purépecha and Toltec Lived in Mexico

Mexico was originally inhabited by ancient cultures whose history and legacy is recognized worldwide. The first tribe recognized by most historians in Mexico are the Olmecs which means “rubber people”. They are thought to have lived around the east coast state of Veracruz and parts of Tabasco. Other civilizations followed including the Aztec, Maya, Mixtec, Purépecha and Toltec. The Aztec and Maya civilizations are the most well-known. The Maya left behind important historical sites such as Chichen Itza, Palenque, Tulum and Uxmal. Teotihuacan, meaning City of the Gods in the Aztecs’ native Nahuatl language, was their center and capital. It’s the most important and visited Aztec ruin. Current day Mexico City was basically built around Teotihuacan. It’s located very close to the heart Mexico City. The sites left behind by both the Aztec and Maya civilizations continually draw a great deal of tourists from all over the world.

Hernán Cortés Conquers the Maya and Meets La Malinche

Hernán Cortés Leaves Cuba for Mexico

In 1519, Hernán Cortés disobeyed the first Governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, and hurried his departure from Cuba to carry out his expedition to what would now be México. Cortés landed for the first time on the coast of what is now the island of Cozumel. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish arrived in Yucatán, where they met the Maya. Hernán Cortez and the Spanish royal army conquered the Maya. The Maya gave Cortés gifts, including 20 female slaves.

La Malinche aka Marina Malintzin

One of the women, named La Malinche aka Marina, Malintzin, proved to be a valuable resource since she knew how to speak both Maya and Nahuatl; Nahuatl being the language of the Aztecs. La Malinche was Cortés most faithful companion. Malinche’s linguistic abilities were discovered when the Spaniards met Nahuatl-speaking people at San Juan de Ulúa. Cortés would speak Spanish to his interpreter Gerónimo de Aguilar, who would then pass on the message to La Malinche in Maya, who would then translate to Nahuatl for Moctezuma’s Aztec Emissaries. Replies to La Malinche would reverse the chain to get the response back to Cortés. La Malinche and Cortés had a son together named Martín Cortés considered the first mestizo.

La Malinche aka Donna Marina, Illustration from 1916.
La Malinche spoke Maya and Nahuatl and had a son with Hernán Cortés

The Aztec Leader, Moctezuma II Is Killed by the Spanish

The Spaniards continued and reached the shores of Veracruz, where they founded the city of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. There they encountered the Aztecs. The Emperor of the Aztecs, Moctezuma II, believed that Cortés was the God who returned to their land. When the Spanish arrived in Tenochtitlán, Hernán Cortés met Moctezuma II. Moctezuma II received Cortés with great honor and lodged him in the Axayácatl palace. However, the Spanish took Moctezuma II hostage and killed him. The Aztec empire fell on August 13, 1521, when the successor of Moctezuma II, Cuauhtémoc, was captured.

The “Grito de Dolores” and End of Spain’s 299-Year Rule

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, image of painted leader of Mexican Independence from Spain.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was the leader of
Mexican Independence from Spain

The Beginning of the End for Spain

The Viceroyalty of New Spain existed for 299 years from 1522 to 1821. Its first Viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, who ruled New Spain for 15 years, and later died in 1552 after a brief stint as Viceroy of Peru. After 286 years of Spanish rule, on September 16, 1810, a Priest by the name of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla summoned the residents to rise up in arms and fight for the independence of Mexico. This historical act is known as the Grito de Dolores. It occurred in the city of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. After 11 years of war, Mexico became independent from Spain on September 27, 1821, although Mexico celebrates its’ Independence Day on the day of the Grito on September 16th each year.

5 Central American Countries Celebrate Independence Day on September 15th, One Day Before Mexico’s

Did you know Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate the Act of Independence of Central America on September 15th?

Mexico Loses Territory After Gaining Independence

The financial cost to fight for Mexico’s independence from Spain created a financial crisis and Mexico subsequently lost control over Central America. Furthermore, Texas gained independence from Mexico and joined the United States and United States President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico on March 13, 1846. The war ended on February 2, 1848, with the signing of the Announcement of Peace Treaty with Mexico which cites “Peace, friendship, limits, and settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic.” where both nations proclaimed peace with one another. Mexico ceded the current territories of Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. In addition, the border among the two nations between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean was delineated.

Aesthetic Surgeries and Medical Tourism in Mexico

Medical tourism is big business in Mexico. It’s extremely popular due to the proximity with the United States. Medical procedures and medications are provided at a much lower cost and with fewer restrictions than the US. Many Americans cross the Mexican border daily to seek medical attention. Americans find savings on medications and doctor’s services anywhere from 39% to 80% according to ProMexico. According to the Mexican Council of the Medical Tourism Industry (CMITM), medical tourism provides greater profits than traditional tourism; worth approximately 3.277 million dollars a year.

Mexican Border Towns Are Big for Cosmetic Surgeries

Patients typically visit border cities and towns such as Matamoros, Mexicali, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, with Tijuana being the most visited. Additionally, patients visit more traditional tourist destinations such as Cancun, Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Monterrey and Puerto Vallarta. Medical procedures that draw most visitors are bariatric surgery, cardiology, cosmetic-reconstructive surgery, fertility, gastro-surgery, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, orthodontics, trauma and spine surgery.

Mexico is Ranked 4th Worldwide for Aesthetic Surgery

There are 96 hospitals certified before the Consejo de Salubridad General (CSG in Spanish) and 9 accredited by the International Joint Commission. The aesthetic procedures and/or surgeries that are performed the most in order of number of procedures are: liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid lift, tummy tuck, and rhinoplasty. The most common non-surgical procedures are Botox, hyaluronic acid, nonsurgical fat removal, hair removal and photo rejuvenation. According to the International Society for Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery (ISAPS), in 2021, Mexico ranked fourth worldwide in the number of aesthetic surgical and non-surgical procedures performed after the United States, Brazil and Japan. You can read the full report on ISAPS.

In 2021, 1,270,605 Aesthetic Surgical and Non-Surgical Procedures Were Performed in Mexico

The results for 2021 are in. As could be expected there was bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. In Mexico, there were 182,529 less procedures performed in 2020 as compared to 2018. However, in 2021, people traveled again. Hence there were 227,358 more procedures done in 2021 as compared to 2018.

The Infographic Below Shows the Total Number of Cosmetic Procedures Performed in Mexico in 2021, Post-Pandemic

Infographic showing that Mexico performed 1,270,603 aesthetic surgical and non-surgical procedures in 2021.
Mexico performed 1,270,603 surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures in 2021

Pharmaceutical Tourism is Huge in Mexico

Pharmaceutical tourism in Mexico has exploded in recent years, mainly in Tijuana, where a large number of medical companies operate. Pharmacies have had a large increase in the sale of medications purchased by Americans who travel to Tijuana to buy medicine of the exact same quality at a greatly reduced price. According to The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the United States Congress conducted a study that discovered Americans pay on average almost four times more for medications than other countries. The study was conducted in 11 other wealthy countries. The Mexican government negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to control prices. The regulatory bodies of both American and Mexican pharmacies are very similar. The Mexican equivalent of the FDA is COFEPRIS, which regulates pharmacies to check quality control and safety of the drugs they sell.

Mexican Food Rules

Tacos al pastor is one of the most popular tacos to eat in Mexico.
Tacos al Pastor Yum!

Mexican cuisine was awarded the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity honor by UNESCO in 2010 due to its history, creativity, diversity and transcendence. The culinary techniques and ingredients used represent traditions that are centuries old and yet still form part of everyday life in Mexico producing some of the most delicious food in the world. There’s a great diversity of colors, flavors, textures and mastery involved. Most of the 32 states has their own specialty, whether it’s Cochinita Pibil in Yucatán, the absolute delicious moles in Oaxaca, tortas ahogadas in Jalisco, tacos al pastor in CDMX or tacos de marisco on the Mexican coast. Mexican food is based on the use of agave, amaranth, avocado, beans, cocoa, corn, nopal, tomatillo, tomatoes, squash, vanilla, and of course numerous types of chili peppers. Although purely vegetarian dishes exist and are growing in popularity, most recipes add some type of meat to the dish whether it is chicken, ground beef, pork, seafood or steak in one form or another.

Mexican Food is More than Just Tacos

Without question the taco is the king in Mexico whether it be al pastor, barbacoa, birria, canasta, carnitas, cochinita pibil, or seafood. However, Mexico offers so much more delicious food than just tacos. Burritos (mostly in northern Mexico), chilaquiles, chiles en nogada, consome de pollo, flautas, mole, pozole, sopa azteca, sopa de frijol, sopa de lima (mostly in the state of Yucatán), sopes/huaraches, tamales, are just a few that come to mind.

There Is a Great Variety of Moles

Due to the vast assortment of chili peppers, there are a wide variety of moles or sauces and spice levels to choose from in Mexico. Some moles have up to 30 ingredients in them and are quite labor intensive to prepare. The state of Oaxaca is especially known for their seven moles, and many consider Oaxaca to have the best food in Mexico. Oaxacans and other Mexicans also eat grasshoppers called Chapulines. No thanks.

Tacos Have Toppings or Fillings

Hot sauce, pico de gallo (sometimes just diced onion), cilantro, limes and pineapple (for tacos al pastor) are often seen accompanying tacos in Mexico.

Harina o Maiz?

Many places give you the option to choose corn or flour tortillas. I always opt for corn unless I find a place that sells burritos which are more common in northern Mexico.

Chiles en Nogada on a blue and white plate with creamy sauce on top.
Chiles en Nogada is popular throughout September when Mexicans celebrate their independence

Run Down of the Best Cities to Live in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico (CDMX)

Mexico City is the capital of Mexico. It’s the cultural, economic and political center of the country. It’s located at an altitude of 2,240 meters (7,349 feet) above sea level in the Valley of Mexico. It’s considered a global city as it is one of the most important cultural and financial centers in the world and has an enormous population. For decades, Mexico City was formerly abbreviated Distrito Federal or “DF” by Mexicans for 192 years but in an effort to rebrand the country; former President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a reform on January 29, 2016, to change the name to simply Mexico City along with the acronym CDMX. The full transformation wouldn’t actually take place until 2018. The rebranding was explained as a reform to delegate power from the federal government thus allowing the city’s mayor to name senior officials including the police chief. It also turned the capital’s 16 boroughs into entities similar to municipalities, with their own mayors and councils.

Mexico City, Mexico, Mexico?

Some people ponder the confusion it created, given that Mexico City is the official name of the capital city of a country called Mexico, located within the State of Mexico, sort of like Mexico City, Mexico, Mexico on an address on an envelope or traditional letter. Who uses those anymore anyway? In any event, many Chilangos or people from Mexico City will still refer to it as DF while others simply refer to it as “Mexico” or Mexico City to foreigners.

Climate in Mexico City

Mexico City is surrounded by mountains, volcanoes and small hills like Tepeyac. The center of Mexico City is situated in the Valley of Mexico at 2,240 meters (7,349 feet) above sea level. It has a rainy temperate climate. Places with higher elevations, such as La Sierra de Ajusco, with an elevation of 3,937 meters (12,916 feet) have a temperate to cold and damp climate which produces hail at times. Mexico City’s average temperature is 16 ° C (60 ° F). From December to February the temperatures are pleasant during the day with an average temperature of 20 ° C (68 ° F) and quite cold at night dropping to 0°C (32° F). The temperature starts to warm up in March, where the maximum temperature can reach 34 ° C (93 ° F). The hottest months are April and May. The rainy season is typically from June to September with some rain starting as early as May.

Mexico City is 5th Most Populated in the World

According to Wikipedia, a population estimate conducted by the United Nations in 2018, indicates that Mexico City has a population of 21,581,000 ranking it just under São Paulo, Brazil at 21,650,000 ranking it the 5th most populated city in the world and 2nd most populated in the Western Hemisphere. Depending upon what chart one refers to, Mexico City and São Paulo may often flip flop their ranking depending upon which organization ranks city populations and given the fact that each cities’ population numbers are so close to one another.

Mexico City is Ranked “Alpha” by Globalization and World Cities Research Network “GaWC”

Globalization and World Cities Research Network “GaWC” carried out a study in 2018 by a group of experts that categorizes the importance of world cities into the following global scales with economics weighed more heavily than political or cultural factors:

The following classifications fall under Alpha

Alpha ++
Alpha +
Alpha –

The following classifications fall under Beta

Beta +
Beta –

The following classifications fall under Gamma

Gamma +
Gamma –

Mexico City was categorized as Alpha. It was accompanied by the following cities: Bangkok, Belgium, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Istanbul, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Miami, Milan, Moscow, Mumbai, São Paulo, Seoul, Taipei, Toronto, Warsaw and Zürich. Only eight cities were recognized as Alpha + while only 2 were listed as Alpha ++, London, England and New York City, United States. GaWC cited them as “cities most integrated with the global economy.”

Tourism in Mexico City

Tourism in Mexico City is a great source of revenue for Mexico. Approximately 11 million domestic and foreign tourists visit CDMX each year with roughly 2 million of them being foreigners. Mexico City is the number one tourist destination for foreigners in Latin America generating approximately $600 per visitor. Mexico City has charming neighborhoods and lots of parks and green spaces. There are handicraft and street food vendors all throughout the city. There are approximately 150 museums in Mexico City ranking it second in the world after London.

Historic Center of Mexico City

The center of Mexico City was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the ancient Aztec capital. There are 1,500 buildings including cultural centers, galleries, hotels, museums, shops, temples, and theaters. A few points of interest are, Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento (Spanish), Catedral Metropolitana, El Castillo de Chapultepec, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Palacio Nacional and the Templo Mayor de Mexico Tenochtitlan. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City is the largest cathedral in Latin America. One can admire the architectural beauty of CDMX by taking a stroll around the Plaza de la Constitución better known colloquially as the Zócalo. Did you see the James Bond movie Spectre? The incredible opening seen was shot in and around the Zócalo during a Día de Los Muertos festival with thousands of revelers dressed in catrin and catrina outfits, including Bond. As always Bond miraculously escapes the perils of evil, albeit on a chopper whizzing around the Zócalo. The center of Mexico City was named a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO.

Eric at El Castillo de Chapultepec in Mexico City.
Me at El Castillo de Chapultepec in CDMX

Castillo de Chapultepec

The National Museum of History, Castillo de Chapultepec, is located at the top of the Bosque de Chapultepec. The name Chapultepec comes from the Nahuatl language chapul (in) = grasshopper; tepe (tl) = hill or mountain. In 1325, after the founding of Tenochtitlan, Chapultepec was considered sacred and strategic. It supplied the capital of the Aztec empire with drinking water.

Castle to House Spanish Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg was Built

Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez ordered construction of the palace between 1785 and 1787. It housed Spanish viceroys and Emperor Ferdinand Maximilian Josef Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen aka Maximilian I who was ultimately shot by a firing squad in Santiago de Querétaro at age 34. Chapultepec was later used as the Presidential House until 1940. The inauguration of the National Museum of History, Castillo de Chapultepec, occurred on September 27, 1944.

Tour Castillo de Chapultepec

Definitely make it a point to tour the Castillo de Chapultepec. It’s a great museum and the view of Mexico City from a top of the hill is very nice. You’ll be able to visit 40 areas that show the history of Mexico including murals, sculptures and various objects. Visiting hours of Chapultepec Castle are from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost of admission is $85 pesos.

Gringo Go Home: There is a Gentrification Problem in the Condessa/Roma Neighborhoods

Many US citizens have been the target of hate from Mexicans who are fed up with them paying “whatever” rent to live in these neighborhoods. Granted it’s unfortunate but this happens all over the world. It’s called capitalism. Blame should be put on the Mexican landlords, or the government should put rent control in place if that’s what it takes. However no “American” deserves hate from people from a nation that has migrated more than 2/3 of all Latinos currently living in the US. News of the US “migration” to Mexico City made the rounds on major news outlets. A horrible sign stating something to the effect of “Remote work? Need an apartment? Get the fuck out you’re a fucking plague. Go home.” How lovely. I laugh when I hear other Expats say how nice Mexicans are. If you think Mexicans are “so nice” you’re delusional. They are the same as “Americans” or “Europeans” or whatever. Sure, the waiter or woman you pay to clean your house will be nice to you. Go try and make friends with middle, upper class, and wealthy Mexicans and see how you fare.

Condesa and Roma Norte

Condesa and Roma Norte are two old chic neighborhoods in Mexico City not too far from the historic center. These neighborhoods are full of bars, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, shops, and streets that you can easily walk. They have a bohemian vibe to them. People love walking Avenida Amsterdam. Condesa and Roma Norte both have parks and green spaces. People stroll along these neighborhoods and parks, many with their dogs in tow. They’re considered safe and upscale. Roma Norte is known for its night life. They’re not far from Polanco which is the wealthiest neighborhood in Mexico City.

Parque Mexico

Parque Mexico is an art deco style park located in Condesa where you’ll find people exercising, practicing yoga, skating, walking (many with dogs) and riding small, rented, electric scooters. Its nine hectares are laid out in an oval shape. People visit the Lindbergh Forum, which has an emblematic water fountain, as well as a pond and a traditional clock at the center of the site.

Condesa, CDMX is in a Gentrification “war” in 2023

Xochimilco, Mexico

Creepy bloody-eyed doll in Xochimilco, Mexico.

Xochimilco is located about 24 kilometers or roughly 15 miles south of Mexico City. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mexico has 35 UNESCO Heritage sites in total ranking it 7th in the world. Mexico is ranked number 1 in the new world or Western Hemisphere. Xochimilco is well known for its canals, the man-made settlements called chinampas that surround the canals, the beautiful, colorful boats that traverse the canals called trajineras and the infamous Isla de las Muñecas.

Eric and his daughter are pretending to navigate a trajinera in the canals of Xochimilco, Mexico.
Me and my daughter pretending to navigate
the canal in Xochimilco, Mexico

Navigate the Canals of Xochimilco in a Colorful Trajinera

The canals of Xochimilco are quite shallow and the captains use a bamboo stick to navigate. It’s a tough job. The trajineras all have different names. Xochimilco is a blue-collar type of place that is popular with locals as well as tourists. There are a couple of stands that sell drinks and simple food items but that’s about it. It’s a place where friends meet up to go out and party and get their buzz on, but also a place where you’ll see family with their children enjoying the day. Overall, it’s a great people watching experience. People wave at each other as the trajineras pass one another while music is playing. There are numerous birds, like white herons, or garzas blancas in Spanish, and other fauna.

The Island of the Dolls is a Must See in Xochimilco

The Island of the Dolls is a must see in Xochimilco, México, especially for people that are intrigued by creepy, haunted, scary things such as clowns, dolls, ghosts and so forth. La Isla de la Muñecas has been featured on Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel, the Amazon Prime show Lore and other television shows.

My Trip to Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Xochimilco and La Isla de las Muñecas. I was disappointed with the lack of 4K focus on my Canon EOS M50. It was the first time I shot in 4K and the first time I used a Zhiyun Weebil gimbal or any gimbal for that matter. I didn’t realize that this particular Canon model loses dual pixel auto focus when one records in 4K and instead uses contrast focus which sucks in my opinion. In any event, on the positive side, I was able to capture some stills in post by clicking “next frame, next frame, next frame” until some of the dolls were in focus.

The Island of the dolls is a must see when visiting Mexico City

The Legend of the Island of the Dolls “La Isla de las Muñecas”

The legend of La Isla de las Muñecas dates back to the 1950’s where a man by the name of Don Julian Santana Barrera, who lived on one of the chinampas in the Asuncion neighborhood found a young girl that had drown in the shallow canals of Xochimilco. There was a doll floating next to the girl when he found her. He was so demonized or freaked out by this experience that he decided to take the doll and hang it on a tree on his property out of respect for the girl. Since that encounter he dedicated his life or a good portion of his life to finding and hanging more dolls around his property. They were hung up mostly on trees and in no particular order. There is also a hut at the end of the property where dolls are located inside.

Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco is a Tourist Attraction

Today, there is more than one Island of the Dolls and I’m guessing it’s simply to attract tourists. One of them charges a small fee to enter and doesn’t allow “professional” camera equipment. The other is free and the visitor is able to roam about as they choose. I went to the island that was free, not because of the cost, but because I wanted to shoot video of the dolls with the gear I brought.

Island of the Dolls Urban Legend May Be Exaggerated but That’s OK

Don Julian died back in 2001 but Isla de las Muñecas continues to be a tourist attraction in Xochimilco, Mexico. Urban legend claims that his body was discovered in the canal in the same spot the girl was found some 70 years ago. I did some research and learned that simply isn’t true. It sounds better and creates more mystery, right? In any event, it doesn’t make the place any less amazing. Obviously much of the “blood” and “dirt” has been purposely added to the dolls. It adds a creepier, scary effect to the dolls to keep tourists coming. It very well may be haunted but I’m personally not scared of clowns, dolls and those things.

Creepy, dirty blue-eyed blonde doll in Xochimilco, Mexico on the Island of the Dolls.
La Isla de las muñecas is a must see in Xochimilco, Mexico

Make a Point to Visit Island of the Dolls if You’re in Mexico City

I highly recommend that anyone visiting Mexico City, take a trip down to Xochimilco and visit one of the Island of the Dolls. The trip only takes about an hour or so, depending on traffic. If you intend on shooting video, I recommend using a gimbal.

Santa Fe, Mexico City

Santa Fe is one of the main business districts of Mexico City. Santa Fe is located west of Mexico City in the districts of Álvaro Obregón and Cuajimalpa. Santa Fe is mainly composed of high-rise buildings. It has a shopping center called Centro Santa Fe, which is one of the largest shopping centers in Latin America. Santa Fe is home to numerous corporate offices, restaurants, shopping malls, and university campuses. The Avenida Constituyentes and the Avenida Paseo de la Reforma are the main thoroughfares to Santa Fe from downtown Mexico City.

Parque La Mexicana in Santa Fe

Santa Fe is home to the well-known Parque La Mexicana (Spanish). People from all over the city travel to Parque la Mexicana to enjoy a picnic perhaps with their children, jog, play sports, take a stroll with their pets, and walk. The park includes a track for running. The Terraza Gourmet is situated above the park. It has several wonderful restaurants and a clear view of the park below.

Air Pollution in Mexico City

Mexico City, being one of the most populated cities in the world, suffers greatly from air pollution. According to a study carried out by the IMECA (Metropolitan Air Quality Index) air pollution in Mexico CityI (Spanish) can cause serious health problems for the residents of the city. INEGI statistics report that there are 4.7 million vehicles, 80% of which are for private use. Gas powered cars, motorcycles and other vehicles are a great contributor to the pollution. The government of Mexico City implemented a program called the air pollution index. Conditions are updated so citizens can see the conditions of the air quality before venturing outside.

Hoy No Circula and Vehicle Verification in Mexico City

Like Colombia (Bogotá and Medellín) and Quito, Ecuador, Mexico City has similar program. It is called Hoy no Circula (No Driving Today). Hoy no Circula was implemented in an effort to reduce air pollution and congestion in Mexico City. Additionally, The Vehicle Verification Requirement of Mexico City (Spanish), verifies the emissions of cars registered. Vehicles must pass the emissions test in order to be allowed to drive. Hoy No Circula limits driving in the city on established days determined by the vehicle’s registration number (Spanish). “Tourist Pass” is obtained electronically and free of charge, which permits a foreigner to travel with his or her vehicle without restriction for 14 days per semester or for two periods of 7 days per semester (Spanish).

The Best Places to Live in Mexico City

The best areas to live in Mexico City are Condesa, Coyoacán, Interlomas, Juarez, Narvarte, Polanco, Roma (Norte y Sur), San Ángel and Santa Fe. These neighborhoods are considered safe. In addition to cafes, restaurants and shops they have parks and green spaces. Polanco has long been known as a sophisticated neighborhood where only the very wealthy live. If you’re out looking for Carolina Herrera, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vouitton, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Tiffany etc.… you’ll find it in or around Avenida Masaryk in Polanco. Polanco is also home to the beautiful Soumaya Museum (Spanish).

Use Common Sense Security Precautions While in Mexico City

Mexico City is a huge metropolis and undoubtedly has security issues. Take precautions and use common sense. Don’t walk alone in sketchy areas, especially at night. Don’t show off your bling or any other valuables. Try not to carry too much cash. Most vendors accept credit and debit card payments, although it’s wise to have a little cash if you want to eat a street taco or get a drink at a small store or something. Most small street vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards.

Don’t Get to Wasted and Always Watch Your Drink

The more discreet you are the less chance you’ll become a target. Drinking too much and becoming inebriated makes for any easy target. A drunk person stumbling down the street alone with their cell phone out or wearing nice jewelry is an easy mark. Let your friends or family know where you’ll be but not strangers. Always try and use a means of transport with a reputation for safety such as cell phone applications like Cabify, Lyft or Uber or at the very least, recognizable certified city taxis.

Ensenada, Baja California

Ensenada, Baja California Mexico at night with Mexican flag shown.

Ensenada is located in the state of Baja California, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Ensenada has 443,807 residents according to data from INEGI (2020). The city is located 103 kilometers (64 miles) south of Tijuana. Many Americans have made Ensenada their retirement home or perhaps their second home due to Ensenada’s proximity to the United States.

Climate in Ensenada, Baja California

Ensenada has a temperate semi-arid climate. Ensenada’s climate is affected by the cold California current. The average annual temperature in Ensenada is 18 ° C (64 ° F). The coldest months are from November to February, on par with most cities in the United States. During these months rain is scarce and temperatures average around 13 ° C (55 ° F). June through September are the warmest months in Ensenada with temperatures averaging around 21 ° C (70 ° F).

Ensenada, First Mexican City on UNESCO’S Creative Cities of Gastronomy

In 2015, Ensenada was the first Mexican city to be part of the UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Gastronomy. As of 2019 there were 37 cities listed worldwide. The Wine Route is quite popular in Ensenada. It passes through Calafia, San Antonio de las Minas, Valle de Guadalupe, and Valle de las Palmas. The route continues south to the valleys of Ojos Negros, Santo Tomás, and San Vicente. Ensenada produces 90% of Mexican wine and is known as the Capital of Mexican Wine. Ensenada has around 65 winemakers, several of which have won awards in various international competitions.

The Best Places to Live in Ensenada, Mexico

I haven’t personally been to Ensenada yet. The best areas to live in Ensenada according to the research I’ve done are Baja Country Club, Colonia Chapultepec, Cíbolas de la Mar, Fraccionamiento Las Rosas, Playa Ensenada, and Real San Marino. Overall, however, Ensenada isn’t one of the best cities to live in Mexico. Many report it being dirty, not so safe and full of vendors harassing visitors or expats to buy their wares.

Guadalajara, Jalisco

Guadalajara, Mexico at night.

Guadalajara is the capital and the largest city located in the Atemajac Valley in the center of the state of Jalisco. Guadalajara is the business and economic center of the El Bajío region. The Guadalajara metropolitan area, along with eight other municipalities, is the second most populous urban area in Mexico after Mexico City. Guadalajara has a population of 1,385,629, according to Data Mexico (2020) (Spanish).

Climate in Guadalajara, Jalisco

The climate in Guadalajara is temperate sub-humid. The annual average temperature is 20 ° C (68 ° C). The dry season in Guadalajara is from November to April. The rainy season is from mid-June to October. May and June are the hottest months.

Guadalajara is Known for…

Guadalajara is known as the birthplace of the world-famous mariachi, tequila and charrería or charreada. It is also known for its famous tortas ahogadas. Guadalajara is host to various artistic and cultural events such as the Guadalajara Film Festival (Spanish).

Guadalajara Considered “The Mexican Silicon Valley”

Guadalajara is the industrial capital of western Mexico. Guadalajara’s economy varies from commerce, manufacturing and tourism. Livestock trade of cattle, horses, pigs, poultry, goats and sheep are big business in Guadalajara. The manufacturing industry produces food, footwear, textiles and mechanical items and parts. Information technology has developed rapidly in Guadalajara in recent years with some even dubbing it The Mexican Silicon Valley. Guadalajara is the largest manufacturer of electronic and digital components and the main software developer in Mexico. Guadalajara houses companies such as BlackBerry, Dell, Flextronics, Foxconn, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Kodak, Sanmina-SCI, Siemens, Solectron and General Electric.

Guadalajara’s Places of Interest for Tourists

Guadalajara Historic Center

Guadalajara is known as The Pearl of the West. The historic center is comprised of impressive buildings, numerous squares, monuments, and temples that transmit the cultural wealth and history of Guadalajara. The Metropolitan Cathedral combines baroque, gothic and neoclassical architecture. Plaza de Armas, Plaza de los Mariachis, and the Plaza Tapatia are located in the heart of Guadalajara. These are great places to tour, get a bit to eat and take some Instagram worthy photos.

Tlaquepaque, Jalisco

Tlaquepaque is a pueblo mágico located 25 minutes from Guadalajara International Airport. Tlaquepaque features a beautiful historic center where one can enjoy the great food, dance and music of Jalisco in the Plaza el Parián. The largest artisan centers in Mexico are in Tlaquepaque and Tonalá. They are home to the best crafts and artwork in Mexico.

Zapopan, Jalisco

Zapopan is the second most populated municipality in the state of Jalisco after Guadalajara. Zapopan is the most modern area of Guadalajara. It has a number of historical and modern attractions, along with a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and shopping centers. The Historic Center of Zapopan is made up of various baroque-style buildings such as The Zapopan Basilica and the Parish of San Pedro Apóstol. Other points of interest include the Arco de Ingreso and Plaza Andares, which offers the most exclusive shopping in the city.

The Tequila Route in Guadalajara, Jalisco Another UNESCO Site

The Tequila Route covers 8 towns (Ahualulco de Mercado, Amatitán, El Arenal, Etzatlán, San Juanito de Escobedo, Tequila and Teuchitlán) around the Tequila Volcano where one can experience the traditions of the tequila production process. The 34,658 hectares of blue agave crops that can be seen on the route were declared a World Heritage Site in 2006 by UNESCO in 2006.

See How and Where Tequila is Made

The Tequila Route takes people to the distilleries where tequila is made. Visitors can witness the process of how tequila is made and taste the flavor of the different varieties of tequila. Galleries, haciendas, hotels and museums can be seen along the route and of course delicious Mexican food is everywhere! The two trains that provide the transportation along the Tequila Route are the José Cuervo Express and La Herradura. Even teetotalers can appreciate the joy of riding the Tequila Route. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Best Areas to Live in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Guadalajara is a very large city, with different options depending upon one’s lifestyle. The following neighborhoods are considered the best to live in the Guadalajara area based on comfort and security. Price was not factored in. Naturally, some areas are more expensive than others. The area with the greatest development is Zapopan. Some of the neighborhoods include Bugambilias, Camino Real, Chapalita, Providencia, Puerta de Hierro, Santa Ana, Zona Real and Valle Real. Colonia Americana and Chapultepec are located near the center of Guadalajara. Colonia Americana in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico was named the coolest neighborhood in the world by Timeout in October of 2022! Although there are safety concerns, I think Guadalajara is one of the best cities to live in Mexico, especially for younger people. It has a tech scene, a food scene and overall vibrant buzz about it.

Ajijic, Chapala, Lake Chapala, Jalisco

Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico. It’s located 48 kilometers (29.8 miles) from Guadalajara and contributes 60% of the drinking water for the metropolitan area of Guadalajara. Lake Chapala is situated on the beautiful towns of Ajijic and Chapala. Approximately 20,000 foreigners live in the picturesque towns of Ajijic and Chapala. The vast majority of them are retirees or seniors from the United States and Canada and a smaller number come from the UK. The town of Chapala is considered a pueblo mágico. It’s made up of quaint cobblestone streets and colonial houses. It’s not uncommon to see people ride a horse or donkey through the middle of town.

Climate in Lake Chapala, Jalisco

Lake Chapala and Ajijic sit at an elevation of just about 5,000 feet, just a couple hundred feet less than Denver, Colorado to give some perspective, although it doesn’t snow in Lake Chapala. The climate is considered excellent by most, hardly ever getting too cold or too hot. Lake Chapala was nominated by National Geographic as the 2nd best climate in the world in 2017 (Spanish). The climate of Lake Chapala and the surrounding area is semi-temperate with summer rains. Rain mostly occurs from June through October. The coldest periods are from December to February, reaching a temperature as low as 0°C (32°F). Its average temperature is 19°C to 23°C (60°F to 75°F). April and May are the hottest months where temperatures can reach as high as 35°C (90°F).

Lots of English-Speaking Expat Retirees and Seniors Live in Lake Chapala

English is widely spoken in and around Lake Chapala due to the great number of expatriates from the United States, Canada and a few from the UK. There are many services that cater to them including nursing and senior housing facilities. There are several hobbies, interests and social clubs on the lake to keep the residents active. As one may expect there are several restaurants that cater to these expats that offer more than just Mexican food. If one craves a delicious cheeseburger like they’re used to in the US, they’ll find it in Chapala. Affordable clinics and pharmacies are available for basic health needs such as filling prescriptions or treatment of minor medical issues. Most of the staff speaks English. They’re accustomed to US insurance forms. For more serious medical needs Guadalajara hospitals are about a 30-minute drive from Lake Chapala.

I Regret Not Knowing About Places Like Chapala for My Mom

My mother struggled financially in her later years after my dad passed. Lake Chapala or Ajijic would’ve been perfect for her. She wasn’t about to “pick up Spanish” at her age. She would’ve loved a community of her peers in a comfortable place she could afford. I recall her speaking English to everyone when she and my dad went to Guayaquil, Ecuador to attend my wedding. It was quite comical but, in all seriousness, if anyone has an aging parent and they’re struggling to live a comfortable life, the Chapala area is definitely a place to consider.

La Paz, Baja California Sur

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico bay on a sunny day.

La Paz is the capital and most populated city in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The city had a 2020 census population of 250,141. La Paz boasts a rich blend of natural beauty and Mexican culture. It attracts a lot of tourists and Expats. It lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. La Paz is well-known for its beaches, most famously Balandra Beach. It’s a must see. The calm waters of the Sea of Cortez (Mar de Cortés) aka California Gulf (Golfo de California) are a draw for many including marine life and people into water sports. The water can get a bit chilly at times but that’s OK!

Climate in La Paz, Baja California Sur

La Paz has a hot desert climate (BWh) according to the Köppen climate classification. This climate is characterized by hot, arid conditions with minimal precipitation. La Paz receives very little rainfall throughout the year, with most of it occurring during the late summer months, particularly in September. Humidity levels in the region tend to be relatively low, contributing to the dry and comfortable atmosphere. On average, La Paz maintains a comfortable temperature of around 25°C (77°F) throughout the year, although summer can be a bit brutal reaching upwards of 35°C (95°F) during the day. Winters are mild and pleasant, attracting those seeking to escape colder climates. The city’s arid climate and limited rainfall are defining features of the weather in La Paz.

Walk Along the Malecon in La Paz

The Malecón in La Paz is a hub of local activity, lined with restaurants, shops, and street art. The city also hosts the Anthropology and History Museum, providing insights into the region’s cultural and historical heritage.

Seafood Tacos!

Food in La Paz is a delight for seafood enthusiasts. The city on the coast doesn’t disappoint with a steady supply of fresh catches daily. Fresh seafood is plentiful. People indulge in mouthwatering seafood tacos, ceviche, and other culinary delights prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The fusion of flavors, influenced by traditional Mexican cuisine and fresh seafood, makes dining in La Paz a treat. Naturally, La Paz offers more than just seafood.

Visit Espiritu Santo Island

Just off the shore lies Espiritu Santo Island, an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. It’s renowned for its diverse marine life including dolphins, humpback whales, manta rays, mobula rays, sea lions and whale sharks. As you can imagine, snorkeling is very popular in the Sea of Cortez (Mar de Cortés).

Espiritu Island in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico on a sunny day with calm waters in the Sea of Cortez aka the Gulf of California.
Espiritu Island in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico in the Sea of Cortez (Mar de Cortés)

Cost of Living in La Paz

The cost of living in La Paz is a bit more expensive than other parts of Mexico. You can compare the cost of living with expatistan or numbeo although I found some conflicting numbers. In any event, for many, the slight increase in cost is worth it due to the weather, scenery, lifestyle and overall security. I mean just check out some of these activities in La Paz on Trip Advisor!

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

The Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Anyone old enough to remember the television show The Love Boat? Its main ports of call were Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean 336 kilometers (209 miles) from Guadalajara. Puerto Vallarta together with Banderas Bay and Nayarit make up the Metropolitan Area of Puerto Vallarta. Banderas Bay is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful bays in the world. This great bay has a large number of places and tourist attractions worth visiting from Puerto Vallarta to Punta Mita. One such place is the Marietas Islands, which are volcanic islands located near Punta Mita.

Climate in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Puerto Vallarta has a subtropical climate. Puerto Vallarta sits at the same latitude as Hawaii and their climates are somewhat similar. The average annual temperature in Puerto Vallarta is 28 ° C (82 ° F). In the summer it can reach up to 32 ° C (90 ° F), and humidity can be intense. The rainy season in Puerto Vallarta starts in June and extends through October. The dry season is from November to May with cooler temperatures reaching a minimum of 18 ° C (64 ° F).

Puerto Vallarta is 3rd Most Important City in Mexico for Tourism

Puerto Vallarta is the third most important tourist destination in Mexico according to SECTUR. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco is recognized worldwide as tourist destination that mixes a beach lifestyle along with plenty of entertainment options. In general, residents of Puerto Vallarta feel safe. Still, one should take proper safety precautions like anywhere else.

Best Places to Live in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

According to my research, the best areas to live are the Conchas Chinas, Downtown Zone, Marina Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and the Romantic Zone. Puerto Vallarta the Ajijic/Lake Chapala region are two places in the state of Jalisco with a great number of United States, Canadian and even European expats.

Mazatlán, Sinaloa

Mazatlán, whose name derives from the Nahuatl term “Masatlan,” meaning “place of deer,” is the former capital of the state of Sinaloa. It had a large German immigration back at the end of the 19th century. It serves as the administrative center of the municipality bearing the same name and is commonly known as “The Pearl of the Pacific.” I’m not sure why but many cities claim to be “the pearl of the pacific”. What’s up with that? Anyway, according to the 2020 Population and Housing Census, the population in Mazatlán was 441,975, ranking it the second most populous in Sinaloa, following Culiacán. Mazatlán’s airport is called General Rafael Buelna International Airport.

What’s Up with “Pearl of the Pacific”?

Acapulco and Manzanillo in Mexico have also been referred to as the Pearl of the Pacific. La Serena (Chile), Buenaventura (Colombia), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Callao (Peru) and San Diego (United States) have all been referred to as the Pearl of the Pacific. I know for a fact that Buenaventura and Guayaquil are not pearls by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway…

Mazatlán, Sinaloa is a Tourist Destination Along the Pacific

The port of Mazatlán is a prominent position coastal tourist destination along the Pacific Ocean. It lies about 21 kilometers to the south of the Tropic of Cancer. Similar to trips between Cancún and Cozumel, a ferry crosses the Gulf of California, from Mazatlán to La Paz, Baja California Sur. Mazatlan has an extensive stretch of beach spanning 17 kilometers along the coast.

The Best Places to Live in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico

Zona Dorada (Golden Zone): Zona Dorada is a popular tourist area that stretches along the city’s coastline. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. While it can be more touristy, some expats enjoy living here due to its proximity to the beach and many conveniences.
Centro Histórico (Historic Center): Mazatlán’s historic center is a charming and vibrant area with colorful colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, and a lively atmosphere. It offers a mix of cultural experiences and is home to many expats who appreciate its authentic Mexican feel.
Nuevo Mazatlán: This area is on the northern end of the city and offers modern amenities, including shopping centers, golf courses, and gated communities. It’s a quieter and more residential area, making it attractive to expats seeking a tranquil lifestyle.
Marina Mazatlán: The Marina area is popular among expats who enjoy boating and water-related activities. It features a beautiful marina, upscale housing options, and proximity to golf courses and shopping.
Sábalo Country: Sábalo Country is a residential neighborhood situated near the Zona Dorada. It’s known for its quiet streets, upscale homes, and proximity to the beach, making it a desirable option for expats seeking a peaceful yet convenient location.
Cerritos: Located to the north of the city, Cerritos is a tranquil and residential area with beautiful beaches. It’s less crowded than some other parts of Mazatlán, making it appealing to those who value peace and relaxation.

Mérida, Yucatán

Mérida is the capital of the state of Yucatán, Mexico and was formerly named T’Ho’ by the Maya

Mérida is the most populous city and the capital of the state of Yucatán. According to Data Mexico, Mérida has a population of 995,129 (2020) (Spanish). It has grown 19.8% since 2010. It’s one of four cities or towns named Mérida in the world. The other three are located in the Philippines, Spain and Venezuela. Mérida is located on the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s 309 kilometers (192 miles) from Cancún, 124 kilometers (77 miles) from the world-famous Maya Ruins of Chichen Itza, and 32 kilometers (19 miles) from the beach side town of Progreso. Mérida’s economy is based on the agriculture, commerce, construction, livestock, and textile industries. Always overshadowed by Cancún and Playa del Carmen in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo, known for its great beaches and party life, Mérida has slowly turned into its own tourist destination albeit attracting a different type of tourist perhaps. The majority of Yucatan’s residents are of Maya descent.

Use “Maya” Not “Mayan”

The word “Maya” used as a noun or adjective (whether singular or plural) stays the same, similar to “Deer”, “Dust”, “Fish”, “Information” and “Wealth”, in English. This is called Singulare Tantum, meaning the word is treated as singular or plural based on context. Similarly, other indigenous tribes such as the Cherokee, Inuit, Iroquois aka Haudenosaunee and Seminole are also not pluralized. In the fictional movie Avatar, the indigenous tribe is called Na’vi and is never pluralized. The same holds true with the Maya.

“She is Maya”
“She is Mayan.”
“Mérida, has a beautiful Maya Museum called El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.”
“Mérida has a beautiful Mayan called Museum El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.”

The word “Mayan” should only refer to the language spoken. Even then, in most parts of Yucatán, the Maya would still use just “Maya” as in “She speaks Maya”. However, it’s deemed acceptable to use “Mayan” only when referring to the Maya language in parts of Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Climate in Mérida, Yucatán

Mérida, Yucatán is one of the hottest cities in Mexico. If one doesn’t like extreme heat and humidity, then they will find Mérida’s weather to be quite unpleasant. Air conditioning is a must in Mérida. The predominant climate is semi-warm, with an average temperature of 30 ° C (86 ° F). The cool and dry season is November to February with temperatures starting to rise in March. Although the temperatures begin to increase in March and continue on through October the rains typically hold off until Mid-May. The rainy season is long, stretching from mid-May to November with rains generally occurring in the afternoon. The hottest months are from April to August with extreme temperatures being recorded as high as 42 ° C (107 ° F) in April and May.

The Humidity Made Me Leave Mérida

I lived in Mérida for 2 and a half years. I bought a property and everything. It’s a special city close to my heart. I like most things about Mérida except for the weather. It’s the most humid place I’ve ever been. Cockroaches love it. It was slightly worse than Florida, at least for me. However, I returned in 2023, and despite the humidity have made it my home, at least for now. I really like Mérida. Why can’t it be cooler? 😉

Expats Need to Stop Saying How Safe Mérida, Yucatán Is

While Mérida, Yucatán is generally safe from violence, it’s not immune to theft. My bicycle was stolen from a gated community in the northern “safe” part of Mérida on November 23, 2023, Thanksgiving Day. I mean these thieves somehow broke into the privada and stole my bike. I should’ve kept it inside my condo. I feel awful. I know it’s just a bike and possessions can be replaced, but still, I think people feel violated when stuff like this happens. I’m so tired of hearing how “safe” Mérida is based on a random report with zero sources listed. The report came from a seriously flawed website littered with advertisements called yet their company is called CEO World Magazine. I live in Mérida, and I’ll tell you that it’s not immune to theft whatsoever. A neighbor’s condo where I previously lived in northern Mérida was broken into and robbed.

Expats are Flocking to Mérida in Droves

Expats are flocking to Mérida, which was rated the second safest city in the entire Western Hemisphere after Quebec City, Canada. Mérida was ranked 21st safest city worldwide. To put into some perspective the first city in the United States to make it on the list was Salt Lake City, Utah which ranked 53rd worldwide. It seems hard to believe, seeing as how Mérida is located in Mexico, but the crime and narcotrafficking that is portrayed by the media simply doesn’t happen here. It’s very safe; however, that is only part of its allure. Honestly, most foreigners have probably never heard of it.

Mérida is Full of Maya Culture

Roughly Sixty percent of Mérida’s population are of Maya decent. In 2017, Mérida was considered the American Capital of Culture (Spanish). There are several events throughout any given month showcasing the Maya culture.

Mérida Wasn’t Always Unheard Of, Henequen, the Green Gold

A farmer attends to a henequen plant in Yucatán, Mexico.
A farmer attends to a henequen plant in Yucatán, Mexico

The Henequen/Sisal Plant

Mérida flourished from the production of plants, local to the Yucatán, called henequen, sometimes referred to as sisal, a name derived from the original Yucatán port that exported the henequen products. The main port of Mérida later moved east to Progreso, but many still refer to the plant as sisal. Henequen was known in Mexico as oro verde or green gold and was used to produce cords, fiber, hammocks, nets, ropes, sacks, string, twine and yarn.

Henequen Was Exported to The United States and Europe

From 1850 to 1920 Yucatán cultivated henequen and exported its fiber and products used by companies around the world. The main export destinations were Boston, Malibu, New Orleans and New York in the United States. In Europe henequen fiber and products were exported to Antwerp, Bremen, Bordeaux, Falmouth, Hamburg, Havre, Liverpool and Marseille. Mérida had huge henequen haciendas dedicated to the production of rope. By the end of 1900 it’s been said that Mérida had more millionaires than any other city in the world. By the 1950’s, synthetic methods to produce rope related products displaced the henequen industry.

The Old Mansions Around Paseo de Montejo

The riches of Mérida’s golden era can still be seen today. Several large, historic and unparalleled houses decorate the lovely main avenue called Paseo de Montejo. Today, few of these grand buildings are used as residences by individual families. The majority of them have been renovated and are now used as office buildings for banks and other businesses.

There is a Renewed Interest in Henequen

Lately there’s been a renewed interest in this type of natural fiber. The industry is somewhat being re-born. It’s become attractive for textile designers looking to design with sustainable materials as everything sustainable is all the rage. There are projects exporting the fiber to Asia and Europe. One can still visit hacienda Sotuta de Peon, a tourist attraction close to Mérida, that shows visitors how henequen was used to produce rope. They demonstrate the entire process. It’s very interesting to see how rope was made back in the 1900’s!

The Cathedral of San Ildefonso of Mérida

The historic center of Mérida is known by Yucatecans as simply Plaza Grande. There are churches, craft stores, food stands as well as more upscale dining options, markets, museums, theaters and a university called Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (UADY) nearby. One of the most iconic symbols of downtown Mérida and Plaza Grande is the Catedral de San Ildefonso. The Cathedral of San Ildefonso is the oldest cathedral in all of Mexico and second oldest in the Americas after Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Encarnación o Anunciación in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic which was finished in 1541. It’s more commonly known as simply La Catedral de Santo Domingo. The Cathedral of San Ildefonso was built between built between 1562 and 1598, on the site of a Maya temple and was constructed using the same stones of the dismantled ancient Maya city of T’hó.

Paseo de Montejo is a Lovely Avenue

Just a short distance from Plaza Grande lies the beautiful Paseo de Montejo. As previously mentioned, the avenue features beautiful colonial architecture and monuments. The most iconic monument of Paseo de Montejo is El Monumento a la Patria that was sculpted by Colombian born artist Rómulo Rozo Peña. Along the Paseo de Montejo one can enjoy Yucatecan food, ice cream and stay at a posh boutique hotel or just enjoy a leisurely stroll down one of the cleanest and prettiest avenues in the world. Unfortunately, like many places, that cleanliness doesn’t extend to the rest of the city.

The Best Places to Live in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Mérida has positioned itself as one of the best cities to live in Mexico. Its fastest growing areas are in northern Mérida, which includes the colonies of Colonia Mexico, Santa Gertrudis de Copo, Sodzil Norte, Temozón Norte, and Montes de Ame. Mérida continues to grow north close to highway 261 or Carretera Mérida-Progreso which takes Mérida residents to the beachside town and port of Progreso for a weekend or even a day’s getaway.

Developments Outside the Periferico or “Loop” are Growing Like Crazy

There are numerous developments being built outside the loop of Mérida. However, many expats prefer to stay away from housing developments similar to what they’ve experienced in their home country and choose to buy historic colonial homes in the heart of Mérida and restore them to their liking. Most people would agree that the best places to live in Mérida would be el centro and northern Mérida. I lived in Sodzil Norte and Montes de Ame in northern Mérida.

Valladolid, Yucatán

Centerpiece fountain at Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado in Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico.

Valladolid is a pueblo mágico in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. It’s located 42 kilometers (26 miles) from the renowned ancient Maya pyramid of Chichén Itzá. There is also an equally impressive, yet lesser-known Maya ruin, called Ek Balam. Valladolid is 162 kilometers (100 miles) from Mérida, the capital city of the state of Yucatán and 157 kilometers (97 miles) from the renowned resort city of Cancún. The climate in Valladolid is virtually identical to that of Mérida.

The Vaquería and Jarana in Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado

La Vaquería Yucateca is a popular festival that originated after the Spanish conquest (Spanish). It’s a celebration of the land and the amount of cattle the haciendas had. The festival included counting and branding the number of cows. The women were called vaqueras or cowgirls because they wore the same hats as the boys, or vaqueros. The party is called a vaquería. The celebration includes old Maya sounds influenced by Spanish music.

History of the Vaquería

The vaquería’s history is closely tied to the emergence of cattle product exports and the social progress of the Mestizo community in the mid 18th century in Yucatán. During this period, a blend of Spanish and Maya cultures, created unique Mestizo musical expressions. During the vaquería, “vaqueras,” wore the same hats as their male counterparts, the “vaqueros”. After the cattle were branded, vaqueras hosted guests and participated in lively dances with the vaqueros set to ancient Maya tunes influenced by Spanish music.

The Vaqueras and Vaqueros Let Loose – Work Hard Play Hard

Under the guidance of a master of ceremonies, participants formed two lines – one for men and the other for women. When signaled by a handkerchief, the jarana dance began. The Spanish residents of the hacienda fully engaged with the maya in the festivities, setting aside all other activities for the duration of the vaquería.

La Jarana Dance

The jarana is the name of the dance performed during the vaquería. The jarana was originally a contest for couples to see which pair could last the longest. Toward the end when there were 2 couples hanging on, vying for first place, the crowd would get rowdy and divide into two camps each encouraging one of the two couples.

Performers Dance with Bottles on Their Head

The dance consists of toe tapping and the dancer’s postures are erect. They turn with their arms raised at a right angle and snap their fingers representing Spanish castanets. This upright position allows the performers to dance with liquid-filled bottles or even a tray with multiple bottles on top of their head during the dance while trying not to spill the contents or let the bottles fall. Today the jarana has become the emblematic dance of the Yucatán and is performed in city and town squares or zócalos throughout the Yucatán. If you’re able to visit Valladolid, you’re likely to catch a performance at the Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado which is the main square of the city. This dance is also performed in Mérida, the capital of Yucatán and elsewhere throughout the state.

Beautiful Outfits of La Jarana Female Dancers

The typical dress for Yucatecan women is known as a terno which is always white with the exception of the colorful embroidered flowers. It consists of three pieces: a jubón, a hipil and a fustán. The ladies’ footwear is also always white. They wear a closed shoe with a strap and straight heel, practical for dancing. The women may wear rosaries around their necks, gold necklaces with medallions, gold earrings and/or other precious stones. The women put their hair up and decorate it with a ribbon and a headdress of flowers.

The Jarana Male Dancers Wear Hats, Guayaberas, Red Scarfs, White Pants and Sandals

The men wear a white long-sleeved cotton shirt called a guayabera which originated in Cuba and was later brought to México. They wear white straight-cut pants with front and back pockets. A sombrero, called a jipi and a red scarf called a paliacate is worn in the waistband of the pants and hangs down to about the knee. The men’s shoes are called chillonas and are a type of cowhide leather sandal. They have a thick high heel that emits a small squeal when dancing, thus receiving its name chillona.

La Jarana in Valladolid, Yucatán was a treat to watch

Valladolid, Yucatán and its Surrounding Cenotes

Valladolid is surrounded by numerous cenotes, which are natural pools created by the Chicxulub crater which is the result of an asteroid or comet 11 to 81 kilometers (6.8 to 50.3 miles) in diameter that collided with the earth roughly 66 million years ago. It is 150 kilometers (93 miles) in diameter and 20 kilometers (12 miles) in depth. It’s named after the Yucatecan town that lies near the precise center of the crater. It’s widely considered among scientific experts to be the cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, a mass extinction in which 75% of plant and animal species on Earth became extinct, including all non-avian dinosaurs.

Cenotes and Grutas

Cenotes are a natural pit, or sinkhole, with water resulting from the disintegration of the underlying limestone which exposes the groundwater. Grutas are basically caves like cenotes but are dry with no water.

A Few Cenotes in and Around Valladolid Are:

Ik Kil (often overcrowded with tourists)
Oxman (My favorite, located in Hacienda San Lorenzo with a rope swing!)
Suytun (famous for its amazing Instragrammable photos on its man-made platform)
Saamal (located in Hacienda Selva Maya where you can jump off a platform!)
Samulá and X’keken (both good, both at the same location, also known as “Dzitnup”)
Zací (Not the greatest cenote but located in the very heart of Valladolid)

Uxmal, Yucatán

Maya, Adivino pyramid in Uxmal, Yucatán Mexico.

Uxmal, Yucatán, an Important Maya Site

Uxmal gets overlooked by Chichen Itza. I can tell you I had a much better time and personally found Uxmal to be more interesting. The Pucc Region ranges from northern Campeche to western Quintana Roo. Ironically, the word Pucc means hill in Maya and the entire state of Yucatán is flat with the highest point found in a small town called Muna which is only 40 meters (131 feet) above sea level. Pucc is an area of several Maya archaeological sites that share a similar architectural style. Uxmal is the most well-known town in the Pucc Region. Incidentally, the world-famous Maya site of Chichen Itza isn’t part of the Pucc region.

Uxmal, Yucatán, an Upgrade in Architecture Yet Oddly Built in a Location Lacking Water

Facades in Uxmal and other locations in the Pucc region were built with precisely cut veneer stones set into a concrete core. This architectural style was an upgrade to the previous Maya method of setting large stones above one another using lime mud as mortar. Uxmal is located 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán. Uxmal is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, along with, Chichen Itza, Calakmul and Palenque in Chiapas, Caracol and Xunantunich in Belize, and Tikal in Guatemala. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why the Maya built a settlement in a place that has no rivers or sources of water. This location explains the Maya faith to Chaac, the rain god, which is symbolized in several of Uxmal’s structures.

Uxmal, Yucatán is Just One of Mexico’s 35 UNESCO World Heritage Inscriptions

Uxmal was inscribed as a World UNESCO Heritage site in 1996. According to UNESCO, the Maya town of Uxmal, in Yucatán, was founded 700 AD and had some 25,000 inhabitants. If you get a chance, you should definitely visit Uxmal one day.

Uxmal is Definitely Worth Visiting

I found Uxmal to be way less touristy and more interesting than Chichén Itzá. I had a such a good time. Uxmal is open 7 days a week from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Visitors may want to go in the early morning or a bit later in the afternoon as Uxmal and the Yucatán in general can reach extremely hot temperatures with suffocating humidity. As of the date of writing this, foreign visitors can pay $338.00 MXN ($15 USD), while Mexican citizens or residents will pay $101 MXN ($4.50 USD) to experience the historical Maya site. After paying the entrance fee, one will walk a short distance and first lay their eyes upon the beautiful Adivino (aka, the Pyramid of the Magician or Pyramid of the Dwarf). This pyramid is stunning and unusual in that it was constructed in an elliptical; almost egg type shape, instead of the more common block style structures the Maya built. It’s also extremely well preserved.

Uxmal Has a “Pok ta Pok” Ball Court aka Pitz, Pelota Maya

Not far from the Adivino is a Mesoamerican ball court with an alley and slanted walls on each side that was used to play a game that many refer to as pok ta pok (or pok-a-tok), which according to Wikipedia was the name given by Danish archaeologist Frans Blom, who adapted it from the Yucatec Maya word pokolpok in a 1932 article. The Classical Maya originally called the game pitz. In Spanish it’s commonly referred to as juego de pelota Maya or simply pelota Maya. It was originally played with a very hard and heavy rubber ball and was a ritual of the Maya. It was also played in one version or another by the Aztecs, which they called ōllamaliztli and currently refer to as ulama, and the Toltecs.

Pok ta pok Maya ballcourt in Uxmal Yucatán Mexico on a sunny day.
Pok ta pok Maya ballcourt in Uxmal, Yucatán Mexico

Indigenous Groups Play Various Versions of Pok ta Pok

Today the game is still played by indigenous cultures. It’s believed that the object of the original game was to keep the ball in play, in the boundaries of the court, similar to volleyball without a net and players would use the slanted walls to pass the ball to the opponent on the other side of the court. Some versions only allowed the hip to strike the ball, while other versions included some type of bat, racquet or stick and/or allowed the use of the forearm.

Hoops Anyone?

In the Postclassic period (900–1521 AD) the Maya began playing the game with stone hoops on each side of the court with the objective being to pass the ball through the ring, somewhat similar to basketball. This innovation to the game spread to the Toltec and Aztec cultures. The game was played mostly for recreation although the serious games included human sacrifice. This particular court in Uxmal is quite deteriorated.

Templo Mayor Rises Out of the Lush Jungle

A stroll away from the ball court stands the Grand Pyramid or Templo Mayor. This impressive 30-meter (100 foot) structure is popular among tourists because, unlike Chichen Itza, visitors are allowed to climb the pyramid. Once on top the pyramid there is a great view of the 91.44 meter (300 foot) long Governer’s Palace or Palacio del Gobernador, some other structures off in the distance and the surrounding, seemingly untouched jungle.

Cuadrángulo de las Monjas

Another popular structure is the Nuns’ Quadrangle or Cuadrángulo de las Monjas. It’s comprised of four buildings; South Building, North Building, East Building and West Building, that are located on a platform. It’s believed by many that The Quadrangle of the Nuns was utilized by the Maya for administrative government meetings and decisions.

Eric taking pictures of tourists at Templo Mayor in Uxmal, Yucatán Mexico.
Eric taking pictures of tourists at El Templo Mayor
in Uxmal, Yucatán Mexico

Querétaro, Mexico

The Aqueducts in Santiago de Querétaro, Querétaro, Mexico.

Santiago de Querétaro

Santiago de Querétaro commonly known only as Querétaro is the capital of the state of Querétaro. It lies 221 kilometers (137 miles) northwest of Mexico City in the center of Mexico in the Bajío region. Querétaro sits at an elevation of 1,820 meters (5,970 feet). The Querétaro Metropolitan Area is the tenth most populated in Mexico with 1,049,777‬ residents according to Data Mexico (2020) (Spanish).

Querétaro is Growing Rapidly

Querétaro has experienced high growth and development in recent years. It’s an attractive area for developers and investors due to Querétaro’s proximity to Mexico City. Querétaro’s economy is tied to manufacturing, especially machinery for the aerospace and automotive industry. Although cars are not assembled in Querétaro, the fabrication of auto parts is big. Querétaro also makes chemicals such as adhesives, paint and rubber products. I stayed there for over 3 months and saw quite a few foreigners. I met a couple from Russia and met a Korean guy in the elevator. There are lots of Asians in Querétaro for work.

Climate in Querétaro

Querétaro has a temperate climate with distinct seasons. Winter tends to see frequent frosts at night and little rain. Spring tends to be dry with stable temperatures. Summer can be hot with some humidity, while autumn is quite windy. The rainy season lasts from April to September. The annual average temperature in Querétaro is 19 ° C (66 ° F). Many people, like me, that dislike extreme heat and humidity, believe that Querétaro has near perfect weather. I stayed in the Los Alamos and Juriquilla neighborhoods for 3 months and had an awesome time. I really like the weather and the city overall. I also made a quick day trip to San Miguel de Allende.

Architecture and Historic Places in Querétaro

Querétaro is not internationally recognized as a tourist destination like other destinations in Mexico, such as Cancún (the Riviera Maya in general), Mexico City or Puerto Vallarta. However, many nationals and foreigners alike have chosen Querétaro to live. They love the moderate climate. People can be seen walking the streets of The Historic Center of Querétaro (Spanish) admiring Querétaro’s architectural beauty and of course enjoying wonderful Mexican food. Although, Querétaro has a reputation for having quite “unremarkable” food. I had some tacos at a food truck and they were amazing. I think a lot of Chilangos (People from Mexico City) wind up moving there and setting up shop.

The Aqueduct is the Symbol of Querétaro

In 1996 UNESCO declared The Querétaro Historic Monuments Zone a World Cultural Heritage Site. Querétaro is blessed with numerous magnificent buildings, from the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the most impressive well-known symbols of Querétaro is the Aqueduct. It’s hundreds of years old. It stretches 1.78 kilometers (1.11 miles) along what is now Avenida Zaragoza. One end of the structure lies in one of the hills surrounding the center of Querétaro. The Aqueduct has an average height of 28.5 meters (94 feet) in height and is made of stone. The structure has 74 semicircular arches. The Aqueduct is still used today to flow water to the dozens of fountains that are found throughout Querétaro. Nowadays cafes and trendy restaurants can be found at its base.

Best Places to Live in Querétaro

Querétaro has started to see growth in the real estate industry in the last few years. Querétaro has established itself as a safe investment place with a dynamic economy and good quality of life (Spanish). For this reason, many Mexicans have decided to move to Querétaro. You can find safe neighborhoods that provide easy access to the main avenues, commercial and industrial areas, schools, and universities. Some of the best neighborhoods are Alamos, Centro, Cimatorio, Cumbres del Lago, Jurica, Juriquilla, Loma Dorada, Milenio III, Zakia and Zibatá.

Tequisquiapan, Querétaro

Tequisquiapan, locally known as Tequis, is a charming, colorful pueblo mágico located 64 kilometers (39 miles) east of Querétaro. It’s also part of the Bajío region. Tequisquiapan is known for its tranquility and good weather throughout the year. There are several hot springs and spas in and around Tequisquiapan; great for a weekend getaway. Tequisquiapan is a great place for wine and cheese lovers. Tequisquiapan is considered to have the best cheese in Querétaro. Tequisquiapan holds the Cheese and Wine Fair (Spanish) that takes place in October.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Riviera Maya is a region located in southeastern Mexico along the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo. Cancún isn’t considered part of Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya begins about 36.2 kilometers (22.5 miles) south of Cancún in Puerto Morelos, although there is talk about including Cancún and perhaps even Isla Mujeres in the Riviera Maya zone. Traditionally, the towns that make up the Riviera Maya from north to south are:

Puerto Morelos
Tres Ríos
Playa del Carmen
Xcaret (Popular man-made theme park)
Puerto Aventuras
Xpu Há
Xel-Há (Popular man-made theme park)
Bahía de Punta
Boca Paila
Punta Allen
Turquoise ocean water along the shoreline in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
Riviera Maya, Mexico is known for its turquoise water

Riviera Maya’s Crystal-Clear Turquoise Waters Are the Best Mexico Has to Offer

Riviera Maya’s beaches and fine white sand make it an attractive place for tourists and residents alike. Most people agree that the best beaches in Mexico are on the Riviera Maya, me included. However, places like Cancún and Playa del Carmen lack authentic Mexican culture and are more geared toward short stay tourists that like to party which isn’t my thing. The walking “Hey my friend” salesmen can wear on you pretty quick. The Riviera Maya receives around 13.3 million tourists based on the number of tourists staying in hotels. Cancún international airport serves as the gateway to the Riviera Maya. According to Forbes Mexico, the Riviera Maya receives the same number of international tourists as Brazil and Argentina (Spanish).

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

The main attraction of the Riviera Maya is its beautiful beaches that are enclosed with the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the fourth largest on earth after The Great Barrier Reef, Red Sea Coral Reef and New Caledonia Barrier Reef. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is listed on other sites as the second largest in the world. That information seems to be incorrect. Regardless, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and stretches from Isla Contoy at the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula south through Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Climate in the Riviera Maya

The days are typically hot and humid as is the entire Yucatán Peninsula, although you can catch an ocean breeze if you’re in the right spot. The average annual temperature is 25° C (77° F). In the months of December to March, temperatures remain warm with a maximum of 35 ° C (77 ° F) and 15° C (60° F) at night. The rainy season starts at the beginning of May to November. The dry season is from December to April.

Cancún, Quintana Roo

Colorful sign of Cancún, Mexico in front of beach with turquoise water.

La Zona Hotelera is Where It’s At

The Hotel Zone or Zona Hotelera is 26 kilometers (16.1 miles) long. Its chock full of bars, clubs, resort hotels, restaurants and shopping. The Hotel Zone even offers residential properties with all the luxury amenities. Many foreigners choose to live part time or full time in Cancún. Nightlife can be found in the heart of the Hotel Zone in an area known as Punta Cancún, home to the famous red and white striped lighthouse with a spiral staircase located behind the luxurious all-inclusive beachfront resort, Hyatt Ziva. I was lucky enough to stay there for a couple days with my daughter and man, what a hotel.

The Famous Coco Bongo Night Club

The most well-known club in Cancún is Coco Bongo. Coco Bongo is known as “Where Las Vegas Meets Mexico”. Its acrobatic themed club puts on quite a show. The club’s history is interesting. The 1994 film, The Mask, featured a club located in Cancún called Coco Bongo. However, the club didn’t exist at that time. Roberto Noble, however, did indeed open a club in Cancún and named it after the club in the movie. Hence, the real Coco Bongo opened 3 years after the movie in 1997. It’s quite impressive for any club to be open for more than 20 years and even more impressive that they’ve expanded to other locations since then. They currently have clubs in Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos on the west coast of Mexico and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Cozumel, Quintana Roo

3 cruise ships seen in the shallow waters at the port in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico on a sunny day with a few clouds.

Cozumel is an island located in the Mexican Caribbean. At 19.3 kilometers (11.99 miles) from the Playa del Carmen pier, approximately an hour by ferry will reach Cozumel. Cozumel also has its own international airport and receives flights from different parts of the world and from Mexico. Cozumel is the third largest island in Mexico after Isla del Tiburón in the state of Sonora and Isla Ángel de la Guarda in Baja California, the distance from north to south is 48 kilometers (29 miles) and from east to west it is 14.8 kilometers (9.3 miles). Cozumel has a population of 88,626 according to Data Mexico (2020).

Cozumel Has Been a Popular Port of Call for Years

The picturesque island off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, has long been a favored port of call for cruise ships. Renowned for its coral reefs and crystal-clear waters, Cozumel is a gem for snorkeling enthusiasts. The island’s vibrant marine life, including colorful fish and intricate coral formations, attracts travelers from around the world seeking underwater adventures. It’s warm climate, inviting beaches, and plethora of snorkeling opportunities continues to enchant cruise passengers. Major cruise companies like Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, MSC, and Royal Caribbean have regularly included Cozumel as a port of call in their itineraries.

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

Portal Maya 2012 on the beach in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico at Parque Fundadores.
Portal Maya 2012 in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Playa del Carmen, locally known as simply Playa and abbreviated PDC is located 68.2 kilometers (42 miles) south of Cancun and about 19.3 kilometers (12 miles) west of the island of Cozumel. Ferry rides, lasting about 45 minutes shuffle travelers back and forth between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Playa del Carmen rests about 64 kilometers south of Tulum. Playa del Carmen has seen absolutely phenomenal growth in the last 20 years and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Unbelievable to imagine, Playa del Carmen had only 17,621 residents back in 1995 and only 43,613 in at the turn of the century. The 2020 census puts the population of Playa del Carmen at 304,942 (Spanish). That’s unprecedented growth for any city.

Condo Development Continues to Grow in Playa

Because of the demand to live in or visit Playa, condo style housing development, which is limited to 5 stories, continues to grow exponentially. One of these developments, Playacar, is located south of Fifth Avenue. Playacar is an exclusive residential and tourist complex that has an 18-hole golf course, large all-inclusive hotels and private residences. Playacar is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is smaller and consists of mainly residential housing with only a few small hotels. Phase 2 is larger and includes an aviary, condos, houses, a large golf course, a small shopping area, and several all-inclusive hotels. Playacar has direct access to the public beaches of Playa del Carmen.

The Famous Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

Playa del Carmen locally known as just Playa or PDC is famous for its pedestrian Fifth Avenue known as La Quinta where everything happens. La Quinta is 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) long. There is a great concentration of bars, hotels, restaurants, tour guide vendors and souvenir shops.

Annoying Street Vendors Are Relentless

Unfortunately, La Quinta is full of annoying street vendors trying to sell anything and everything, from costume jewelry, knickknacks, marijuana (yes you may be approached discreetly to buy some weed, coke or whatever). More than anything you’ll be bombarded by tour and restaurant vendors. It’s overbearing at times. Whether the tourists drive down from Cancún or come over on the ferry from the island of Cozumel, the vendors prey on them ferociously. It’s understandable that they’re just trying to make a living. Nonetheless hearing “Hey my friend…” every 5 seconds sucks. After a while one gets used to it and just keeps walking without responding. Street vendors aside, La Quinta is a great avenue. It’s a lot of fun to walk. There’s a lot to see and it’s perfectly located just behind Playa’s beautiful beaches, assuming PDC’s shores aren’t full of sargassum.

Tourists Visit Playa Del Carmen Briefly While Cruise Ship Docks at Port of Call in Cozumel

Playa del Carmen has luxurious, five-star, all-inclusive hotels as well as more moderately priced hotels including quaint boutique style lodging. Previous to the Corona Virus outbreak, Playa del Carmen received loads of tourists each day that took the ferry from nearby Cozumel, situated just 12 miles off the coast. According to In 2017, previous to the pandemic, the number of cruise ship passengers docking in Cozumel reached 3.6 million, ranking Cozumel the world’s leading cruise ship tourism destination. They arrived on cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. A great majority of these tourists, embarked on these ships from Miami, hence, the vast majority of the tourists were U. citizens. Many of them would hop on over to Playa on the ferry to spend a few hours.

The Portal Maya 2012

By far, Playa del Carmen’s most iconic landmark is the Portal Maya or more officially, Portal Maya 2012 which was placed in front of the beach at Parque Fundadores in late 2011. It commemorates the Maya calendar and the date of December 21st, 2012, when it was prophesized that the world would come to an end and a new era would begin. Fortunately, the calendar was incorrect. Understandably, some people mistake or interpret the sculpture for two mermaids rising out of the ocean in embrace.

The Portal Maya 2012 Depicts Two Players Playing Pok ta Pok

The statue displays two bronze figures, a man and women that stand up and embrace hands. Each side of the arched statue features a hoop, referencing a game that goes by many names including pitz, pok ta pok (or pok-a-tok), derived from the Maya word pokolpok.

Portal Maya is a Symbol of PDC

The figure is made up of 60 tons of bronze, stands 16 meters high and 16 meters long. It was created by the late Artist from Guanajuato, Mexico, José Arturo Tavarez Padilla.

Voladores de Papantla at Parque Fundadores

Parque Fundadores is also home to the amazing dance of the Voladores de Papantla that originated with the Totonac tribe of the Sierra Norte de Puebla and the Veracruz Totonacapan. The Voladores Dance is a ritual associated with fertility, which the Totonac natives performed. The dance is performed by 5 dancers, 4 of which launch themselves from a pole tied with ropes. They fly around a pole of 30 meters (98 feet) in height and eventually descend to the ground. The fifth dancer remains on top of the pole playing the drum and flute while dancing. It’s quite a sight to behold and shouldn’t be missed!

Tulum, Quintana Roo

The Maya ruins at Tulum, in front of the beautiful turquoise ocean water.

Tulum is known for its archaeological zone located on the shore of the Caribbean Sea. It’s the most beautiful, Instagrammable site in the region with gorgeous turquoise waters sitting right along the Maya ruins. It was one of the last sites the Maya inhabited. Tulum is the only Maya site built on the coast. It’s the gateway to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. That’s 1 of Mexico’s 35 heritage sites listed by UNESCO; ranking Mexico number 1 in the Western Hemisphere and 7th worldwide.

Tulum is Known for Ecotourism

Tulum is 131 kilometers (81 miles) from Cancun and 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Playa del Carmen. Like Playa del Carmen and Cancun, it receives national and international tourists. The majority of the tourists respect the need to preserve Tulum and its natural beauty. Tulum is known for its ecotourism. Naturally not all tourists care about ecosystems and pollute the area. Not all is to be blamed on tourists, however.

Mexico’s Corruption Thwarts Conservation Efforts in Tulum

Mexico has all the laws in place to protect overdevelopment but corruption in Mexico is widespread. Just until a few years ago waste was dumped in an open-air land fill in the jungle just a few kilometers outside of Tulum. That decomposing waste doesn’t take long to seek into the ground water and into the very same water people use to bathe and perhaps cook, not to mention how it affects the wildlife in the area. Thankfully, almost everyone knows to only drink bottled water. The apathy for conservation of the area is all about lining someone’s pockets. Who, in their right mind would just dump all of Tulum’s waste in the middle of the jungle? In 2022 The Corruption Perceptions Index of World Economics gave Mexico a score of 31 out of 100, with 100 being perceived as the least corrupt. That’s not a score for any country to be proud of.

Tulum’s Coast Isn’t Connected to the Power Grid

Tulum lacks proper infrastructure. The coastal area is not properly connected to the power grid. Much of the coastal area depends on gas powered, carbon dioxide emitting, generators to power its need for air conditioning, light and refrigeration; hence even affecting the air quality of the area. Damage has been done through construction and inconsiderate tourists. Most all residents of Tulum love where they live and are eco-conscious.

Conservation vs Progression War in Tulum

The truth of the matter is there’s always been a “Conservation vs Progression War” in all parts of the world. The demand for people seeking housing and development will always be met just like any other commodity. Just because some bohemian type has lived in Tulum from 20 years doesn’t give them the right to exclude new people from visiting and/or living there. That “locals rule”, almost xenophobic mentality, doesn’t work. They too were once foreigners poking their noses in another country’s historical, treasured locations. They were intruders and decided to stay.

Respect the Environment but Don’t Ignore the Need for Progression

It all comes down to respect for the environment, its natural surroundings and its residents whether long time or newly arrived. However, Tulum and Mexico in general must progress. The Tren Maya is a great example of Mexico progression. Progression is necessary. A coalition of all residents new and old alike along with local government that shares the same interests should do their best to see that things are done the right way. Unfortunately, money talks; always has, always will. It’s the law of human nature. Remember, Playa del Carmen only had 17,621 residents back in 1995 and that number is expected to reach 308,287 by 2023. Hopefully, somehow, the two opposing sides can meet in the middle, and perhaps rule out parts of Tulum from any future development, as in a protected zone, while allowing development in other parts of Tulum. Regardless, Tulum will continue to grow. Tulum is well on the radar of many people seeking to either expatriate or simply visit for some fun in the sun while getting those Instagrammable pics.

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

The colonial architecture of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.

San Miguel de Allende is situated in the highlands of central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato. Its located 97 kilometers (60 miles) from the city of Guanajuato which shares the same name as the state of Guanajuato. San Miguel de Allende is 70 kilometers (53 miles) from Querétaro and 270 kilometers (167 miles) from Mexico City. According to Data Mexico, the population of San Miguel de Allende is around 174,615, an increase of 8.87% since 2010. Approximately 30% of San Miguel de Allende’s residents are expats or foreign born. San Miguel de Allende was the first city to declare its independence from Spain during the Mexican Independence War.

Climate in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

San Miguel de Allende has a dry, temperate climate which makes it very popular for tourists and Mexicans looking to relocate. The average temperature ranges from 16 ° C and 22 ° C (60 ° F and 71 ° F). The summers are warmer with precipitation, while winters are cool. The rainy season begins in June and lasts through September, sometimes stretching into October.

San Miguel de Allende’s Art, Colonial Architecture and Mild Weather Are a Big Draw

San Miguel de Allende’s art, baroque colonial architecture, and culture are the main attractions for both international and Mexican tourists. The weather is another major plus for many. Countless foreign visitors fall in love with San Miguel de Allende and decide to pack up their belongings and call it their new home. Most of them are from Mexico’s neighbor to the north, the United States of America.

There Are a Lot of Gringos in San Miguel de Allende and That’s Just Fine

Although some people complain about the number of gringos in San Miguel de Allende, in general, most seem to be involved in the community and without doubt are an integral piece to the city’s economic strength. The majority of expats get along with the Mexicans in San Miguel de Allende. Many expats help collaborate and contribute to the economic growth of the city while respecting Mexican culture and history.

Xenophobes Will Always Complain

Sure, there are cafes and restaurants that cater to Americans that may not reflect Mexican culture but there is nothing wrong with that. It adds to the economy, creates jobs for Mexicans, and gives locals a chance to experience different types of food or drink than what they are typically used to.

Xenophobia Exists All Over the World

Any city in the world with a decent number of expats from a particular country or region will have establishments that cater to their tastes from their native homeland. Take a look at Miami for example. Think of how many bars and restaurants cater to Brazilians, Colombians, Cubans, Venezuelans and Latinos in general. What about Texas and the Mexican influence on Texmex? What about all the excellent Mexican restaurants in California and those delicious Californian burritos based on the burritos from northern Mexico? How about Moroccan establishments in Spain? Xenophobes all over the world will always complain about the presence of foreigners in their homeland. There is little one can do to change their dislike of anyone or anything foreign. It’s a shame.

Expats in San Miguel de Allende Cannot Be Compared to the Typical Cancún Tourist

Expats living in San Miguel de Allende cannot be compared to tourists visiting Cancún for a weekend. They are immersed and invested in the city. They have established institutions such as the public library in the former convent of Santa Ana where they’ve collected a set of books in English, the largest of its kind in Mexico. The city has art galleries, boutiques, cafes, luxury hotels, restaurants, and a wide variety of bars and nightclubs. The local government has established certain regulations that aim to preserve the authenticity and history of San Miguel de Allende’s buildings, churches and monuments. Businesses must abide by the city’s rules when it comes to the color, location, shape and size of any signs they use to promote their business. This allows San Miguel de Allende to keep its wonderful colonial charm that visitors from all over the world have come to love. San Miguel de Allende was placed on UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 2008 under the title “Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco.”

San Miguel de Allende “Best Street” and “Best City in the World” Accolades

The Historical Center of San Miguel de Allende is the most popular tourist attraction. The Parish of San Miguel Arcángel (Spanish) is the is the city’s most iconic symbol. One can enjoy a stroll through the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende, surrounded by colorful, colonial architecture and wind up spending some time at El Jardin, the city’s main square. One street in particular, Aldama Street, was named as one of the 31 most beautiful streets in the world in 2019 according to Architectural Digest. Additionally, Travel and Leisure has ranked San Miguel de Allende as the most beautiful city in the world several times. Its latest ranking as of 2022 places San Miguel de Allende at number 2 in the world just behind a new number one, Oaxaca, Mexico. These rankings were apparently based on the votes of travelers that read and/or subscribe to Travel and Leisure.

The Best Places to Live in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

The nicest neighborhoods are Allende, Atascadero, Colinas de San Miguel, Historic Center, La Candelaria, and Los Balcones. Real estate tends to be more expensive the closer it is to the Historic Center.

Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, the Birthplace of Mexican Independence from Spain

Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, is a pueblo mágico located 44 kilometers (27.5 miles) from San Miguel de Allende, about an hour’s drive away. Dolores is known as the Cradle of National Independence. On September 16, 1810, in the Parish of Dolores, the Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla shouted out the famous Grito de Dolores, as a wake-up call for all Mexicans to take up arms against of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. To this day Mexico’s Independence Day occurs on September 16th of each year based on Hidalgo’s Grito.

Tijuana, Baja California

Tijuana, Mexico, at night.

Tijuana colloquially known as TJ, is the fifth city most populated city in Mexico and the largest in the state of Baja California. It’s the western most city in Mexico. According to Data Mexico, Tijuana has approximately 2,157,853 inhabitants, counting the metropolitan area (Spanish). Its rankings vary depending upon what is truly considered the metro area. It’s been stated as high as 3rd most populated and as low as 6th most populated on various media platforms including Wikipedia.

Climate in Tijuana, Baja California

If you’re familiar with San Diego, California weather then you’ll know exactly how the weather fares in Tijuana considering its proximity. November through March are the coldest times of the year in Tijuana, on par with any place in the United States with December and January having the lowest temperatures of around 7 ° C (44 ° F). The warm season runs from March to October, again on par with weather in the United States with the hottest temperatures occurring between July and September at around 28 ° C (80 ° F).

Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico/San Ysidro, California US Is Busiest Border Crossing in the World

Tijuana shares a border of about 24 kilometers (15 miles) with its United States neighbor, San Diego. More than 50 million people cross the border between San Diego (San Ysidro) and Tijuana each year. According to BBC, approximately 180,000 people legally cross the San Diego (San Ysidro)/Tijuana border in both directions daily. Many that head north have no intention of returning to Mexico. The border brings together and also separates the lives of loved ones every day.

Tijuana, Mexico Is the Epicenter of Political Controversy

Tijuana just happens to be home to one of the biggest humanitarian and political controversies in recent times as it’s a gateway to the United States. The same can be said of the Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico/El Paso, Texas, US crossing. Migrants traveling all the way from impoverished Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and even the Caribbean nation of Haiti along with Mexicans often find themselves destitute and victims of abuse including physical, verbal and written. Many people in Mexico and the United States simply don’t want them and lack of empathy for their wish to simply live a better life and take care of their family. The fear of a foreigner taking away jobs from locals is a valid, well understood argument anywhere in the world, but where is the love and empathy for our fellow mankind?

The Bible Warns Against Xenophobia

The distaste and/or outright hatred of foreigners, known as xenophobia, goes completely against what is written in any Christian bible and therefore makes any “devout Christian” that is a xenophobe an absolute hypocrite. I’m not particularly religious but I found this enlightening. Leviticus 19:34 (English Standard Version, ESV) of the bible states “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Sure, there are few “bad hombres”, as then President Elect Trump, called Latinos during his 2016 presidential debate speech, drawing much criticism. However, those bad hombres are an absolute minority of the people seeking asylum or a dignified life in a new land.

Americans Living in Tijuana, Baja California

The cost of living in San Diego isn’t cheap, although the salaries are decent for United States standards. A growing number of Americans have chosen to work in San Diego and live in Tijuana where housing is much cheaper. The following cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment for both San Diego and Tijuana was taken from an average of the figures listed on Expatistan and Numbeo. Both websites offer a cost-of-living comparison for most any city in the world based on user input.

Cost of Living Comparison between San Diego and Tijuana

The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment outside of San Diego’s city center is $1,572. This is based on an average input by 186 contributors (97 Expatistan, 275 Numbeo). The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment outside of Tijuana’s city center is $231. This is based on an average input by 59 contributors (49 Expatistan, 69 Numbeo).

To be fair, a $231 apartment in Tijuana is probably not going to put someone in the best area and won’t cut it for most Americans. There’s quite a bit of crime in Tijuana. Therefore, most Americans that make this commute would most likely opt for a more luxurious apartment in Tijuana in one of the nicer neighborhoods in the $400 to $500 range: still way below the prices in San Diego.

Ganar en Dólares y Gastar en Pesos or “Earn Dollars and Spend Pesos”

That’s the idea behind this strategy and financially it makes sense, especially seeing as how the Mexican peso reached its worst devaluation in history hitting a record 25.13 pesos per dollar on April 24, 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is bad for Mexicans that earn pesos, yet good for those that earn US dollars and spend Mexican Pesos.

The Rise of the Super Peso in 2024

Thankfully for Mexicans, the peso has made a strong comeback and is currently at 16.73 pesos per US dollar as of March 10, 2024 and has been dubbed “the super peso”. To give you can idea of how strong that is, the Mexican peso was at 21.50 in January of 2017, making Mexico an absolute bargain for anyone earning and spending US dollars in Mexico. Those days are long gone, however, and Mexico isn’t exactly “cheap” right now for citizens of the US, Bonaire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Marshal Islands, Palau, Panama, Timor-Leste, and Zimbawbwe all of which use the US dollar as their official currency. Numerous US territories also use the US dollar including American Samao, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in addition to the UK territories of The British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. Morevoer, many countries unofficially use the US dollar. Argentina’s black market “dollar blue” is worth much more than the Argentinian Peso. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s worthless “Bolivar” has been set aside in favor of the US dollar.

SENTRI Card Is a Big Help for Those that Cross Tijuana/San Ysidro Border Frequently

They get used to the commute back and forth between San Diego and Tijuana whether by crossing on foot or passing through customs in their car. Some even choose to apply for the SENTRI card which is offered by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. Having a SENTRI card makes crossing the border much quicker with designated lanes for SENTRI card holders. First one must create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) System account. There is a rigorous background check as well as a non-refundable fee of currently $122.50 USD. After receiving one’s completed application and fee, CBP will review the application. If conditionally approved, then the applicant’s TTP account will notify them to schedule an interview at a SENTRI Enrollment Center.

SENTRI Card Works for Any US/Mexico Border Crossing

It may seem like a big hassle at first, but it is well worth it for those that live the San Diego/ Tijuana border lifestyle. The SENTRI card works for any Mexican/US border crossing including others such as Brownsville/Matamorros, Laredo/Nuevo Laredo, McAllen/Reynosa, Nogales/Nogales, and the second busiest crossing, El Paso/Ciudad Juarez.

Expedited vehicle/pedestrian entrance into US from Canada and Mexico
Access to TSA Pre✓® expedited security lanes at airports within the US and US territories for US Citizens an