What I have learned and observed from my time in one of my new favorite places in the world, Mexico City:
- I knew this one before I left, but just in case you don’t: Don’t call yourself an American. Mexicans are also Americans. DOH. Say you are from the USA.
- Watch where you are walking. Almost every surface of every street has things sticking out or huge holes or uneven surfaces. And you will come across some substances you wish you didn’t notice. Approach with caution.
- Bring essential oils and rub them on your wrists before going out for the day. Pro-tip: it helps with some unsavory scents you will encounter.
- Wear closed-toed shoes. (see above^)
- Use Spanish, even if when doing so makes you sound like a babbling toddler. It is appreciated and will warm people to you, especially if you want to haggle over prices with them.
- Appreciate your privilege. There are so many less privileged than you.
- Mexico is like the US when it comes to racism-color-especially darkness, matters. The darker your skin color, the more challenging a life you will have. The whiter and more European you are in Mexico, the more privileged you are, usually. YES, I wish this weren’t the case. But it was blatantly obvious. It is this way in the US, too.
- Politicians are corrupt everywhere. Elections polarize people and make people passionate.
- Be kind. Smile at people. Be gracious. Say “lo siento” (I’m sorry) a lot, because you will screw up plenty.
- Cars have the right of way. They will NOT stop for you. Always be conservative crossing streets. Those cars are going to keep going, whether you are there or not. If you are in a turning late, mama you better get your ass across that street pronto, or you’ll be run over. Move your ass. No sauntering.
- Eat all the things. If there is a crowd at a street stand, that is a very good sign. Try not to let your language barrier keep you from stopping. I did let it sometimes, and I regret not eating a few things I saw. I didn’t eat mole the entire time I was there, sadly…
- Use hand gel.
- Street food is better than restaurant food 90% of the time.
- Search for Mexican craft beer, try Clericot, try Pulque, try tequila. GOOD tequila.
- Indigenous culture is revered as history, but not in practice, just like in the USA. Natives are on the periphery.
- If it rains, everything moves slower.
- Bring a raincoat. And sunscreen. A hat or sunglasses, too.
- Know your general location, and then put away the phone. Let yourself explore and see and smell and hear.
- If it draws you in, go toward it. You might be scared. Go anyway. You need to learn something in this place.
- Street vendors and street sellers are some of the hardest working people I have ever seen in my life. The amount of backbreaking work and hustle is humbling.
- Talk to people. Really talk to people. About anything. Let their stories in and let them change you.
- Be loving.
- If someone wants to sell you something, you can just say no. It’s okay to say no.
- Root for Mexico in the World Cup.
- The air is a bizarre combination of dry and humid. I had a slight bloody nose the whole time.
Appreciate that you have now traveled to the oldest city in North America. Let that soak in.
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