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Wednesday
Nov162011

FRONTIER CENTRAL AMERICA FOCUS: MEXICO

México, home of strong shots of tequila and spicy chili tacos! With fascinating traditions ranging from lucha libre (a form of Mexican wrestling) to Día de Muertos (a national holiday in which families remember the deceased), the country is pervaded with a strong Hispanic culture. Mexico boasts a population of over 100 million, making it the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. With 68 different languages spoken, Mexico is teeming with a huge diversity of people and history.

FACTS

Capital: Mexico City

Languages: Spanish and 68 indigenous languages

Population:  113.4 million

Currency: Mexican Peso (£1 is approximately M$22)

Backpacker Budget: From M$535 per day (About £25)

Climate/When to go:

The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zone, giving Mexico one of the world's most diverse weather systems:

North of the tropic of cancer:  Generally low yearly temperatures averaging from around 20 to 24°C. Climate is hot and humid during the summer, with more moderate conditions during the winter. Rainfall is sporadic year round.

South of the tropic of cancer: Temperatures remain fairly constant year round, with a median between 24 and 28°C, and only a 5°C difference between winter and summer.  Climate is fairly hot and humid with parts of the tropical lowlands averaging more than 78.7 inches of rainfall every year.

History:

Mexico’s story starts with a 2700 year tradition of ancient civilization, the beginning of which scientists and archeologists have traced back to as early as 1,800BC. These ancient civilizations, such as the Olmecs, the Mayans and the Aztecs, flourished for nearly 4,000 years before the first contact with Europeans in the early 16th century. The Spaniards invaded and conquered the Aztecs in just 2 years, bringing an end to the Aztec civilization. Discover all Mexico’s turbulent past, from the Aztecs to the 11 year war for independence, in the various ruins, archeological sites and museums that Mexico has to offer.

Don’t miss:

Mayan Ruins – Head to the Yucatán peninsula for the best of Mexico’s ancient civilizations. Although crowded, Chichén Itzá is rightfully the seventh modern wonder of the world: the temples are stunning and essential in understanding the Maya astronomical calendar. To experience nature in perfect harmony with ancient history, visit the pyramids of Calakmul, located in the heart of the Mexican jungle. For isolated beaches, head to the Mayan ruins near Xcalak: a beach town in the middle of nowhere, as yet undisturbed by tourism.

Cuisine – Mexican food is known for its tasty variety of flavours, spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. You could not do better than to feast on enchiladas, tacos or tamales accompanied by a heap of guacamole and a typical Mexican beverage of a hot atole or an ice-cold corona.

Surfing- Although Mexico boasts over 6,000 miles of coastline, the best surfing is found on the Pacific side. Here, waves of all varieties provide an exciting surfing experience, ideal for beginners and experts alike. To avoid the crowds head to Puerto Escondido, the ‘hidden port’, home to the legendary surf break known as the Mexican Pipeline. Alongside surfing, Puerto Escondido also offers beaches for swimming and snorkeling, and scuba diving trips to see turtles, dolphins and even whales. A vibrant restaurant, café and bar scene makes this the perfect traveller’s destination!

Festivals – Mexico's many fiestas are full-blooded, highly colourful affairs, which often go on for several days.  Head off to the ‘Carnaval’, which takes place in late February or early March and is celebrated most wildly in Mazatlán, Veracruz and La Paz with parades, music, food, drink, dancing, fireworks and fun. Alternatively, try out ‘Día de la Independencia’ if you’re in Mexico on 16th September, where Padre Miguel Hidalgo's famous call to rebellion is called from the balcony of every town hall, followed by many fireworks and much merriment.

Mexico with Frontier

Frontier’s Mexico projects are designed to allow volunteers to explore true Mexican culture. Learn Spanish whilst taking classes, working in local orphanages, or simply conversing with locals. See some of Mexico’s magnificent sites, such as the Catedral Metropolitana (the western hemisphere’s largest cathedral), the infamous murals of Diego Rivera, or relax at renowned surfing beach Playa Zicatela.

Mexico Language Programme

“This was a great way to learn Spanish, you really get to immerse yourself in the culture and because you go out into the community to do activities you use what you are taught on a daily basis. My host family were lovely, the food the mum cooked was incredible! It’s definitely my favourite food now, and they were so helpful and patient in helping me to improve my Spanish. My Spanish teacher was great and she helped me get involved in the local orphanage where I worked with some of the best kids I’ve ever meet, they loved having someone to play with even if we couldn’t always understand each other. Thanks to everyone I meet for making it such a wonderful trip!”

McKenna, February 2010

Central America Ethical Adventure Trail

“It was really good to see three sides of Mexico, the hustle and bustle of the city, the chilled vibe of San Cristobal and the peacefulness of the jungle in Palenque.  Each place has been beautiful in their own way and I have loved every minute so far. It’s really cool to experience the locals and get to know the people who I’m travelling with, as well as the good food! My favourite moments so far have been the boat ride to Xochimilco, horse riding to San Juan Chamula, the boat ride down Rounc Sumidera Canyon, walking around Mexico City and seeing the ruins at Palenque.”

Lottie Strevens, January 2011

By Greta Hedley-Miller

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