You Know You're in Mexico When... 20 Ridiculously Mexican Street Scenes
November 20th in Mexico is a day of great social and cultural importance. The significant date in history marks the very beginning of the Mexican Revolution, a successful campaign led by socialist revolutionaries Francisco Madero, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata that brought about the demise of ruthless dictator Porfirio Diaz. The despot leader had led a tyrannical 35 year reign over the beleaguered nation, that culminated in a near genocide of the indigenous Mayan people, especially in the country's southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero. After a gruelling decade of bloody and eventual victorious war (1910-1920), the implementation of extreme social change took place, freeing the indigenous majority of slavery and restoring a semblance of civil union. Since that volatile time, Mexico has undergone many changes, and under the current rule of centrist president Enrique Pena Nieto, still faces many great challenges. But it's on this day, Revolution Day, that we as a nation focus on a famous victory for the people, and thusly turn our attentions to the positive results that a collective social consciousness can bring. So, in light of this, here are 20 very common, yet often completely bizarre, street scenes that highlight the many culturally quirky elements of this great nation. Viva Mexico!
Mariachi Street Performers
Basically anyone in Mexico who can eke out a few basic guitar chords, will call themselves a Mariachi. Walk around any city or large town for long enough, and one is bound to appear. A true Mariachi will sweep you off your feet with song, wordplay, and a serenade so saccharine sweet, that you will literally buckle at the knees. Sadly, most street performers are not true Mariachi, and musically, most of them are just god awful. Shit, they're entertaining though.
As mentioned, Mexico still faces some very serious challenges, and none more so than the plight of its indigenous cultures and the eradication of government perpetrated violence and corruption. Those who spend a good chunk of their time in Mexico know to plan every journey as though it may never be completed. Why? Snap strikes and protests occur on a daily basis here, and guaranteed, a highway near you will be blocked. Roadblocks, burning tyres and tent cities are as common as fish tacos in this magnificent nation, and of recent times, it was the Oaxaca teacher's strike that ground the country's south to a halt for several weeks.
Sickly Sweet Patriotic Candy
Travel through Mexico, and inevitably you will stumble upon a wild and labyrinthine street market. Do yourself a favour and enter with a full head of steam. Don't be shy. These mercados are the lifeblood of every city, town and village, and despite the pushy crowds and aggressive banter, the stallholders are always completely lovely. In every food market, you will find dulces, an equally appealing blend of culinary sweetness and visual nausea, that are often made in the colours of the Mexican flag. Take a dollar with you (20 pesos), and never go hungry again.
Overloaded American Pick-Ups
Whether it be loaded with surly labourers, watermelon, or food vendor equipment, the 40 year old Ford or Chevy pick up is a common sight in Mexico. Every street in every colonia in every city seems to contain one, illegally parked, with worn suspension and blocking traffic. It just wouldn't feel like Mexico without them.
Crispy Grasshoppers in a Bag
Yep. Chapulines they're called and they're damn delicious. These tasty little buggers are everywhere in Mexico, and if it's salty goodness you're after, then look no further. The popular snack is insanely cheap, full of protein, and very easy to find; street stalls, food markets, even in little bowls on local cantina bar tops. Dig in.
Sweet Old Men Selling Stuff
In reality, one doesn't ever need to set foot within the fluorescent confines of a major supermarket in Mexico. Spend enough time on the streets, or even sitting on a public bus, and see just how quickly your bag fills up with fresh food. Roaming the streets, selling everything from peaches to tamales to handbag knockoffs, are indigenous clusters of very polite elderly gentlemen who just love a good chinwag. Don't bother looking for them, they'll find you.
Fully Clothed Street Dogs
This question has been bugging me for ages; who the hell is clothing all the street dogs?! Stray dogs run rampant all over Mexico, and animal cruelty here is a major cultural issue. But, for the record, despite their poor health and living conditions, most strays are still amazingly sweet, instantly loyal, and just want to be loved like anybody else. But seriously, there is some crazy person touring the country and dressing the street dogs in tailored robes of zany flamboyance, and to him or her, I say, bless.
The Friendly Local Food Vendor
Littered throughout every main street, from early morning to late at night, are an ample supply of friendly food vendors. These guys are great, and will cook you quality, fresh food made from local produce for an absolute bargain. This is the only way to eat in Mexico, cheap, convenient, healthy, and supportive of the local community. Don't expect a lot of them to be in the same place two days in a row though.
Volkswagens Parked Up Trees
That's what I said. If you're a Dubby fan, then Mexico is truly like some sort of Nazi transportation wonderland. The 1960's version of the Volkswagen was manufactured in Mexico right up until 2009 and thus, are everywhere! Even halfway up trees, sort of. It's kind of a strange phenomenon here; if you haven't seen a Volkswagen wedged hard up against a tree and angled precariously over the tree's root ball, well you really haven't properly done Mexico, have you?
Iguana as Fuck
Iguanas are as synonymous with Mexico as Donald Trump is with sexual fantasies about his daughter. In the southern states especially, you'll see these scratchy little blighters all over the place; clifftops, roadsides, ruins, garden beds, even outdoor eateries. And they're cool too (cold blooded, see what I did there); super friendly, inquisitive, occasionally clingy, and just plain scrappy. Fun fact: In Mexico, the iguana is called the four-legged chicken. It's just that tasty.
Multi-Coloured Streamer Type Things
It's true. Mexico is the land of the street fiesta. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, somewhere in the country, a street fiesta is taking place. Mexicans will find any excuse to drink tequila, eat themselves stupid and let off extraordinarily loud fire crackers in the daytime. And where there's a fiesta, these dainty and pretty ornaments will be, strung up within family homes, neighbourhood streets and parks, churches, and of course the town plaza. Someone, somewhere, is making a buttload of money on these things.
Dodgy Work Practices
Coming from a land where one must complete a regimented safety course on wiping your own arse properly, I truly respect the way Mexicans get shit done. High wall need painting? Fuck it! Just bang a rickety ladder against the wall on uneven ground and let's go. Deep roadside ditches go unfenced, high-rise construction remains a mystery fun bag of who's going to lose what limb where, and scaffolding and safety ropes? Don't be stupid. It works too. Without the burden of bureaucracy, shit get's done real quick 'round these parts.
Amazing Coffee Without the Fart-Sniffing Hipsters
It's a little known fact; hipsters invented coffee. Who knew? Those wacky, bearded buffoons sure do love the smell of their own farts don't they? Ever been looked up and down by a hipster at a cafe when you order a straight espresso direct from the actual machine? What? No almond milk and latte art? No French press? Pffft. God bless their oddly paired cotton socks and weird neck tattoos that have no meaning. In Mexico though, hipsters don't exist. Yet. So let's rejoice while we can, and drink the best coffee in the world, in our favourite hole-in-the-wall coffee house, the way it's supposed to be. Hot, black, in a small fucking glass, and without the hijack of bearded judgement. Mexico style.
Torta de Cochinita
I'm okay, I've calmed down now. That's because I just feasted on a torta de cochinita. That's slow-cooked pork, in crusty, home made bread, soaking in chimichurri (an uncooked, spicy sauce especially made for drowning meat). I'm not going to lie, torta de cochinita is the best thing in the world. It could stop wars. Give the Israelis the bread, and the Palestinians the meat, and use the chimichurri as the bargaining chip, and how long do you reckon it would take for them to become friends? Seconds. Found mostly in the country's south, washed down with a coke in a very loud and diesel-fumed market, and all for one buck, this shit is better than sex.
Day of the Dead Shrines
Granted, it's only at a certain time of year (early November), when these beautiful and intricately arranged shrines are on display, but if you can haggle for your holiday leave around this time, then please do. The tradition of the Dias de los Muertos, is to honour deceased loved ones with a shrine made of all that they loved in life, and to feast on the food that gave them the most mouth orgasms. Often on public display, these shrines are truly the most healthy way I know to help deal with recent family tragedies.
Random Religious Ceremonies
Religion is utter frogshit. Right? Those without delusion know. But religious ceremonies? Well, they can be way cool! Mexico, a deeply catholic nation, has been known to throw a spontaneous religious ceremony or two in its time, such as this one, La Bendicion de los Caballos, The Blessing of the Horses. Anyone is free to watch or participate in such folly, and as long as one is at least publicly respectful, a hell of a lot of absolutely pointless fun is there for the taking.
Nighttime Sensory Overload
In a land as varied and complex as Mexico, blanketed unity is a scarce commodity. But, when the sun goes down and the dresses hitch up, garishly nauseating food, kitschy, hand-drawn signs, and excessively bright lights hit the streets the nation over. As one, the entire country helps contribute to spot-blindness, diabetes and an overall disrespect for the human body, and who are we to argue? For is there anything better in the world than making an absolute pig of one's self as an anonymous traveller, where people may judge, but no one is going to post a photo of your disgraceful, gluttonous self on Facebook and share it with your friends. And isn't that what it's all about?
Chilaquiles for Breakfast
If you leave Mexico, and you haven't had a plateful of this plonked in front of you after a long night on the tequila, then once more, you ain't done Mexico. Chilaquiles is the ultimate hangover food, and not only that, it's a very traditional breakfast nationwide. Corn chips, onions, cheese, cream, beans, fried meat and chillies all for three bucks... what the hell else do you want? Goes good with a Modelo chaser too.
Women Dressed as the Dead Playing With Their Phones
This happens way more than you might think. Mexicans have a fascination with death, and as such, take any opportunity to dress bleak and get made up nice and morbid. Conversely, Mexicans also have a fascination with their cellphones, worse than any other country ever! So, if you're walking down a narrow footpath minding your own business and are suddenly bowled over by a female gothic skeleton with dead eyes and playing Pokemon Go, just take it with a grain of salt.
Meeting B-Grade Celebrities You've Never Heard Of
Okay, so this may not happen too often, but when it does, isn't it just an unbridled joy to meet a celebrity? Such heroes. So brave and unattainable. Like this sexy beast, Roberto. That's right, like Madonna or Herpes, just one name is all that's required. Roberto is Mexican television's everyman; game show host, roving reporter, bad comedy actor, kids tv star... the works. And ladies, he smells amazing too! Oh, he's the guy on the right by the way.