Monday, December 30, 2013

Planning a Trip to Mexico? Top Ten Books to Get you in the Mood

Pelicans resting at a fishing village in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico (photo by Simone Cannon)

In 2009, Luis and I returned to the US to live in Seattle after five years of living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since the trip would have amounted to more than 32 hours including layovers, we decided to break it up and spend a week at our layover, Mexico City. I've been to Mexico several times, but only to resort towns like Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cancun and Cozumel and Luis has never visited so it we thought it would be an interesting trip. Luis whistled Mexican tunes for two weeks before we arrived (he does this everytime we visit a new place; when we visited Brazil, I listened to whistled versions of "Mas Que Nada", "Brazil" and "The Girl from Ipanema" for nearly two months prior to our trip...ya gotta love him; he's a truly happy guy).

Mexico City at Night (photo by Luis Bastardo)

I have my own obsessions. I like to read everything I can about a place so I know which historic sites to visit, where and what the locals eat, where the botanical gardens and central food markets are and how not to offend the local people too horribly. I also like to read fiction to get a more personal sense of a place and its culture. Non-fiction is interesting and factual, but it can be a bit dry or can gloss over the less appealing aspects of a place in an effort to encourage tourism, but fiction pulls no punches. The authors rarely have an agenda and the story, if well told, pulls you in and makes you feel that you have a deeper understanding of local life or at least that you are somewhat privy to secrets in a way that other tourists aren't. I also like to get a sense of historical context before I visit a new place. To understand the struggles of a population give you great insight into who they are and how they view the world today. Here is my list of books to give you a glimpse into Mexican culture :

A quinceañera celebration at  El Ángel de la Independencia monument, Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

1) Like water for chocolate by Laura Esquivel
2)The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
3) Aztec, by Gary Jennings
4) The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, by C.M. Mayo
5) The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes
6) Las Muertas by Jorge Ibargüengoitia
7) La Güera Rodríguez,by Artemio de Valle Arizpe.
8) The Death of Artemio Cruz: A Novel by Carlos Fuentes
9) Tula Station by David Toscana
10) Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo

Indigenous performers recreate Aztec ceremonial dance in the Zocolo, Mexico City (photo by Luis Bastardo)

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