As of this month, we’ve officially been residents de México for over two years! I honestly can’t believe how fast our time here has gone by, but I’m very happy to say that despite the short timeframe (and the global pandemic), Tucker and I were actually able to check loads of things off our Mexico Bucket List. Here are some of my favorite things we’ve done en México, plus a few more to come before we leave:
✓ Listen to Mariachi
Jalisco, the state we live in, is the birthplace of mariachi, so I’d say we’ve checked this one off and then some. We’ve listened to many a mariachi band at restaurants, at hotels, in the main plaza, and even at a mariachi festival. Although still not my favorite style of música (brass instruments can be a little jarring), I will always be transported back to Guadalajara when I hear mariachi, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
✓ Walk the Ruins of Chitchen Itza
Something that should be on everyone’s bucket list is to walk among the many ancient ruins of Mesoamerica, perhaps the most famous being Chitchen Itza. Prior to living in Mexico, this was the only archaeological site on our radar, but we’ve now also seen Uxmal, Tulum, Monte Albán, Teotihuacán, El Cerrito, and los Guachimontones, each one as incredible as the last.
✓ Cheer and Jeer at a Lucha Libre Event
Another event that we just couldn’t miss out on while in Mexico was Lucha Libre. Although I’m not a fan of fighting, even when I know it’s pretend, even I couldn’t help but be entertained by the cheers, the jeers, the theatrics, and the outfits of the luchadores. The crowd also taught me quite a few useful words and phrases for…expressing emotion en español.
✓ Admire Frida Kahlo’s Work
Mexico has so many symbols, but perhaps none will ever be as famous and beloved as Frida Kahlo. Over the years, we’ve learned so much about this incredible artist and have been lucky enough to see her work in person a few times. We even have our very own copy of Las Dos Fridas, so she will likely be accompanying us on our journey post-Mexico.
✓ Drink Tequila in Tequila
By far one of my favorite experiences we’ve had in Mexico was the Tequila train tour. Tequila is the town where the drink originates, and we happen to live about 45 minutes away from it. The town, the agave fields, and the distilleries are all equally amazing, but taking it all in via scenic train with all-you-care-to-enjoy Tequila drinks is pure perfection.
✓ See Axolotls in the Flesh
Some animals are just cooler than others, and the axolotl (or ajolote) has to be one of the coolest. However, they are also, unfortunately, critically endangered. Therefore, we were extremely lucky to get the chance to not only see them in person, but to learn more about their continued struggle and even be a part of the conservation effort.
✓ Yell “Gol” at a Fútbol Match
Tucker loves sports of all kinds, so, of course, we had to attend a football match in Mexico. And while I have no idea who we played or whether or not we won, I’ll never forget the Atlas chants and the whimsical red and black stadium snacks we enjoyed. Not to mention the sheer mania that ensues when there’s a “GOOOOOOOOOL”!
✓ Swim in a Cenote
Visiting a cenote is absolutely another thing that should be on everyone’s bucket list. They’re incredibly cool, natural swimming holes that are all extremely unique and beautiful. Whether you want to float through an ancient cave system, splash around in crystal clear waters, or listen to stories of Mayan sacrifice, there is literally a cenote for everyone.
✓ Share Roscas de Reyes and the Subsequent Tamales
Some of the most important items on our list had more to do with customs than tourism, for example, the sharing of a Rosca de Reyes on Three Kings’ Day and tamales on Candelaria. It was so fun to see who got the baby (spoiler: it was me), and to then shoulder the responsibility of sourcing tamales on the hottest tamale day of the year – something I’ll never forget.
✓ Revel in the Rainy Season
Then there are things on the list that we had no idea would or should be on a Mexico bucket list, such as experiencing the rainy season. When we first read about Guadalajara’s climate, we learned that it would rain basically every day for three months during the summer, but we had no idea how much that would change our daily routines. From the most hail we’ve ever seen to crazy flash floods, we have realized that rainy season is truly something to behold.
✓ Celebrate Día de Muertos
Another celebration that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in Mexican culture, is Día de Muertos. There’s really nothing like it anywhere else in the world, and it’s just such a great window into what makes Mexico Mexico. It’s colorful, energetic, and happy – just an incredibly fun celebration of life that anyone would be lucky to experience firsthand.
✓ Shop at a Tianguis
A tianguis is a local, generally weekly pop-up market that is absolutely an experience in and of itself. They can be quite sprawling as they take up alleyway after alleyway, and it seems there is something new to discover around every corner: snacks, clothing, home décor; basically, if you can name it, you can find it in a tianguis.
✓ Find the Hidden Beach
One of the most Instagram-worthy places we were able to visit during the last two years was definitely the Hidden Beach in the Islas Mariettas, about 36 kms (22 miles) off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. It’s essentially a beach surrounded by land on all sides that can only be accessed by swimming through a cave. And as if the beach wasn’t amazing enough, seeing all the blue-footed boobies on the island really made the excursion unforgettable.
✓ Cross the Border on Foot
Another experience that I count among one of my favorites in Mexico was crossing the border by foot. Before moving to Mexico, the border was a shadowy, mysterious place, but now we’ve been back and forth in a variety of manners, and I have to say walking across the Rio Grande (or Río Bravo as it’s known en México) was superbly cool.
✓ Perfect our Taco Order
You will never truly know tacos until you have them from a taco stand at 3am in Mexico. Over the last couple of years, we’ve done this more times than I can count, thus we each now have our perfect late-night taco order. But more than that, we are also now experts in differentiating tacos, gringas, quesadillas, gorditas, huaraches, and all the other taco/taco-like options, which I think will serve us very well for years to come.
✓ Survive some Earthquakes
Sometimes you just have to wait for a bucket list item to unexpectedly hit, as was the case for our first earthquake in Mexico. For much of Mexico it’s such a common occurrence that there are regular safety drills and a plethora of memes; however, it’s not so common in Guadalajara. Nevertheless, we were lucky enough to experience and survive a series of moderate quakes that shook western Mexico in 2022.
✓ Try Grasshoppers
Mexican food is one of, if not my absolute favorite of all the world’s cuisines; however, there are still a few delicacies that I thought I’d try to avoid entirely. One of such delicacies are the infamous chapulines (or grasshoppers). But as it turns out, I actually did try a roasted and seasoned chapulín while in Oaxaca, and I’m happy to report that it wasn’t that bad! Seriously, try them!
Now onto the last few things on our list that we haven’t quite done yet, but have plans to do in the next few months!
☐ Snorkel in the Sea of Cortez
Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez the “Aquarium of the World”, and that sounds like something I have to see for myself. Dolphins, whales, sea lions, and an incredible array of tropical fish and coral all wait for us in one of the most beautiful regions of Mexico. Stay tuned because depending on when you’re reading this, we might even already be there.
☐ See Masses of Monarchs
The monarch butterfly migration is another amazing feat of nature that happens to take place right on our Mexican doorstep, and it is something that I will be doing everything I can to make happen before we leave! Millions of butterflies in a magical Michoacán forest, yes please.
☐ Make Tortillas from Scratch
Everyone knows I hate cooking, but one of my fondest memories of China was learning how to make handmade dumplings, which is what prompted me to add this particular item to our list. It’s not exactly surprising that this should be the last thing I hope to do before we leave, but no matter where it falls on the list, I know it’ll be a worthwhile experience!
So that’s my round-up of just some of the incredible things we’ve been able to do and see over these last two amazing years in Mexico. Whenever I take a look back like this, I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful and insanely lucky. ¡Gracias, México, por todo!