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Mexico City is a city of cultural, food, and diversity richness, and there will always be countless reasons why every Mexican-American should visit Mexico City.
Today I want to share some of those reasons with you.
Whether you identify as Mexican-American, or you don’t but your parents are of Mexican descent and you identify more with the country in which you were born (the U.S. or a different one) this post will be of interest to you, as I will share with you some of the reasons why every Mexican-American should visit Mexico City as a heritage trip of sorts.
As a way to begin or continue your journey to understanding quite possibly a part of who you are as a person of Mexican descent, who maybe never really had the opportunity before.
What is a heritage trip?
According to familysearch.com, the definition of a heritage trip is “traveling to understand the cultures and places of the past—including those of your ancestors…This kind of travel is called heritage tourism, or traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.”
Essentially, it is a trip with the purpose of getting to know your roots in order to appreciate them, but also help you understand a big part of the influences that shaped your world views, and how you show up in the world today.
Culture has a massive impression on us – from the perspectives we have to the foods we like and traditions we celebrate.
As Mexican-Americans (born in the United States to Mexican parents) it is an extremely amazing opportunity to be able to have Mexico not only so close to the States but also a destination like Mexico City that seems to have a little bit of each state, within it’s Capital borders.
A flight to Mexico City is usually really inexpensive, and a few hour flight away, depending on course where you are in the world. But if you’re in the states, it’s relatively super accessible and inexpensive to travel to and spend a few days in this amazing city.
Why Mexico City?
It’s the city in Mexico that you can visit, and have access to little pieces of all of Mexico – from its people that hail from different corners of the country (and the world even), different regional foods and restaurants that offer a wiiiiide variety of Mexican traditional foods ranging from Mexico City classics to a little bit of what the rest of Mexico has to offer, and more.
There are tons to see, do, experience, and learn in Mexico City – especially if you’re Mexican-American and you’re wanting to find a way to connect back to your roots.
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Many of us Mexican-Americans do not learn anything about Mexican history at school in the states, and many times our parents don’t know a lot about their own country or its history enough to teach us and pass those traditions on to us.
I know my parents definitely rediscovered their own country on this recent trip to Mexico City, in a way that not even they knew how amazing the city was.
Visiting Mexico City, in the end, offers its visitors – of foreign and of Mexican descent – an amazing opportunity to get to know its history, traditions, people, foods, celebrations, and so much more. Mix that with world-class metropolitan luxuries and accommodations, amazing coffee culture, many amazing green spaces, and so much more – how can you not visit??
This was my third visit to Mexico City, and even though I haven’t seen it all – not even close – I feel that I have a good understanding of what the city offers all of us Mexican-Americans wanting to reconnect to our roots. Let’s talk about some of the reasons why every Mexican American should visit Mexico City.
From the days of the Aztecs to the days of the conquest and thereon, Mexico City has TONS of history that many of us Mexican-Americans are not aware of.
First off, we don’t learn this information at school in the states – we barely learn the history of the world as a whole, much less Mexican history.
Mexico City has its history on display everywhere in public settings, and mostly for free.
From taking a walk outside El Parque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) and observing the outdoor exhibits and photos on interesting topics in Mexican culture, to walking along with Mexico’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame outside of el Auditorio Nacional (National Auditorium), to simply waking down the Centro Historico (Historic Center) and walking slowly by the houses and reading the plaques detailing the history of the homes and those who lived there.
Not to mention, walking around El Zocalo, which is the place that the Aztecs named the capital as it is where they saw the eagle devouring the serpent (as seen on the flag), and so much more!
Like many other world-class cities like Rome, Paris, London, and New York – Mexico City has a lot of museums (150 museums, the city that has the most museums in the world, in fact) many of which are either free or really inexpensive to enter for visitors.
There are many, many ways to learn about our cultural history, understand the beginnings of the people of Mexico, why certain ingredients mean more than just food – like corn, which symbolizes a very Mexican staple item as it’s native to the land and used in almost all Mexican recipes.
As someone who was born in California to Mexican parents, it was very important for me to visit explore my Mexican roots, and what better way to do it, than in a city where the Mexico we know really began, and where there are tons of museums and places to see?
Here are some of the places I recommend seeing:
Castillo de Chapultepec: Take in the interesting story of Charlotte and Maximilian of Vienna, and why they came and governed in Mexico for a while, as well as their amazing castle, and stunning views of the city. They have an amazing history museum inside showcasing Mexican culture with incredible pieces of artifacts from the signed constitution to old china and horse buggies that were used by Mexican presidents and so much more. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Museo de Antropologia: A truly stunning place to visit to explore the beginnings of Mexican civilization all the way to modern culture and traditions. Artifacts, stonework, art depicting moments of tragedy and triumph throughout Mexican history – so worth the experience. Make sure to block out a good few hours.
Frida Khalo Casa Azul Museum: Visit the house of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera, and just take that in for a moment. It’s such a beautiful little house, very Mexican, and full of inspiring and reflective information that depicts the life and death of one of Mexico’s most iconic people. When you’re out, take a stroll around Coyoacan (the neighborhood name) and take in its picturesque small streets and genuine Mexican charm. It doesn’t even feel like you’re in Mexico City!
Metropolitan Cathedral: This interesting cathedral was built under the order of Hernan Cortes, which is built from materials that used to make up the pyramids of the Aztecs. Today, its foundations are slowly sinking, and inside you get to observe its sinking and shifting state with the pendulum that they have inside. If you’re into some spooky stories, come back at night were on the weekends, they offer tours of the crypts underneath the church where some of the painters whose work is displayed around the church were buried.
Templo Mayor: The temple ruins that belonged to the original, indigenous people of Mexico before the Spanish arrived. They are next to the Metropolitan Cathedral, which is still intact, very impressive, and interesting to see. There is a museum with so much more information about the discovery, excavation, and findings since it was first discovered in the 70’s/80’s.
Palacio Nacional: The official governing palace where each Mexican president visits and on the 16th of December, stands on the balcony to say a few words and yell out each national hero and a loud “Viva Mexico!” The palace has impressive works of art by Diego Rivera, which are so worth the visit on their own! It’s free entry.
Food has a special way of allowing people to deeply get to know a culture, and in Mexico City, that is no exception.
For instance, did you know that traditional Mexican cuisine was added it the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity? There are many reasons why, but one of them is for the symbolism that many of the ingredients have not only when it comes to food, but also celebrations like Day of the Dead, as well as the combination of skill, technique, community, sacredness, and ingenuity.
Trying Mexican food in Mexico City is not only a meal but an experience of Mexican cultural cuisine that dates back to the Aztecs.
From tacos de suadero which are soft, beef tacos, and tacos de canasta which are tacos with various fillings such as meats. chicharron, potato, beans, and so much more – come ready to eat when you come to Mexico City!
There are approximately 15,000 restaurants, and that is not counting the street vendors that offer the most authentic dishes!
This doesn’t even include all the bakeries, ice cream shops, street vendors, and so much more!
Tamales, atole, tortas of all sorts of fillings, tacos, huaraches, gorditas, enchiladas, mole, and so much more.
In Mexican culture – each state has its specialty dish – and in Mexico City, you can pretty much get it all.
Visiting Mexico City means a lot of local dishes, new traditional and regional favorites, and access to world-class dining such as the famous Pujol restaurant by Chef Enrique Olvera.
Some of my recommendations include the following:
Uxmal 161, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Av. 5 de Mayo 43, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
C. de la Palma 23, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Panaderia La Esperanza
5 de mayo, No. 46 Col. Centro, Del, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 CDMX, Mexico
The Celebrations and Traditions
Connecting back to our roots means getting to know the celebrations and traditions, and observing how the locals interact and come together during these events.
Special events such as Day of the Dead – which is a time-honored event that dates back to the Aztecs, is a celebration that highlights life and death as a natural part of the human experience.
With flowers like cempasuchil (marigolds) used symbolically to light up the path of loved ones who passed to their graves where their families left their favorite foods to enjoy, to families cleaning up their loved one’s tombs, decorating with flowers and candles, and staying all night at the cemeteries.
Mexico City holds an impressive and massive Day of the Dead parade showcasing the celebration of life and death, and Mexican culture and colors, Independence Day on September 16th, and the way the Zocalo fills up with green, white, and red, and many more traditions.
There is always an event happening in Mexico City – whether for cultural reasons or fun, light-hearted reasons.
For instance, when I was visiting in late October, there was a famous festival of day of the dead bread and chocolate where you can test try a different day of the dead bread and you’re greeted with a cup of hot chocolate to dunk your bread in, amongst other amazing food options inside.
To name all the traditions and celebrations would be impossible, but some of the most notable celebrations in Mexico are Semana Santa (Holy Week) in May, Independence Day on September 16th, Day of the People and Day in October, Dead of the Dead in November, Day of honoring the Virgin Mary in December, and so much more.
If you can, I would recommend planning a trip around a celebration such as one of the ones I suggested, or do your own research on what celebration you’d like to be part of, and plan a trip to experience it in person.
Seeing how the city prepares for the events, how the people dress up and show up throughout the city the day of the events, and the way the whole city celebrates is truly unique and such an amazing experience to be a part of!
The ingenuity, creativity, energy, intention, and thought process that goes behind the action of Mexicans when it comes to work – is quite honestly inspiring.
I know that I may sound biased when I say this, I would see this in my parents growing up too, but honestly, the people of Mexico truly know how to make a dollar or couple of pesos.
Aside from its creativity and ingenuity when it comes to working, you’ll also be impressed with the immense amount of mannerism that the people of Mexico exhibit not only to the tourists but to each other.
You enter an Uber, and the Uber driver actually introduces themselves and ends with “para servirle” (to serve you).
You enter a store or a museum and the employees greet you with a genuine smile and greet you formally, You walk around in public, and people offer their help and guidance if you’re looking a bit lost – and actually mean it.
The mannerism and hospitality levels in Mexico City are TOP LEVEL.
Really anywhere in Mexico, but never in any other part of the world that I have visited – The U.S. Canada, or Europe – in cities smaller than Mexico City, are people as kind and helpful and humble as they are there.
Yes, I know I sound biased, but when you visit the Mexican capital you will notice.
As Mexican-Americans, you’ll feel proud to see how kind the people are – which is such a different story from what the news seems to depict.
I can’t end this post without addressing something that seems to hold SO many people back from visiting the city.
I have heard from family members, friends, people in the media (news, etc.) that Mexico City is dangerous, not safe for visitors, and many more scary stories.
Here’s the thing: as our Uber told us on our drive to our Airbnb – Mexico City is just like any other metropolitan with a large population. There will be different types of people with different types of intentions. It doesn’t matter if it’s Mexico City or New York City – where there is a large population of people living together, there is a chance that you’ll find good people and bad people. In other words, just be vigilant.
And it’s true.
As someone who has traveled to various other European countries, Canadian cities, and cities in the U.S. – I can honestly say that Mexico City, the areas I was visiting which were more on the tourist side, I did not once feel uncomfortable or like I was in danger.
If I am being completely honest, there are other places in the U.S. that make me feel unsafe in comparison to Mexico City, so it’s definitely not all like the news paints it to be.
My best recommendations for safety when it comes to visiting Mexico City are the following:
- Make sure you know where you’re staying, do research on neighborhoods and where you’d like to stay, so you feel comfortable walking outside on your own or with others. Popular and safe neighborhoods include Polanco, Condesa, Roma Norte, Centro Historico, and Santa Fe.
- Do a walking tour as soon as you can, to get a lay of the area, and know where things are and hear them all from your local guide.
- Don’t be too flashy with your clothes – be casual, and don’t draw attention to yourself with what you’re wearing. Don’t make yourseelf stand out not only like a tourist, but like a clueless and gullable tourist, keep an eye on your belongings.
- In crowded areas, wear your backpack in front of you if that makes you feel more comfortable.
- Mexico City literally never sleeps – there will always be people out at all times, so don’t feel scared that you have to walk somewhere at night. However if that’s not your jam – take an Uber, they are completely safe and super acceessible all throughout the city.
Final thoughts for reasons why every Mexican American should visit Mexico City
I hope that my tips and reasons offered to visit Mexico City will encourage you to plan a trip to the Mexican Capital. Every time I visit, I come back home inspired and reminded of the dedication and attitude that Mexican confronts in everyday life.
No matter what may be happening, they still show up and still try their best every day, and isn’t that one of the many points of traveling? To learn from other cultures and become inspired by them?
Like I said at the beginning, we are not taught the history and culture of other countries in our school systems, therefore we must seek it out – and what better way to do it than traveling to the country itself to learn it yourself? Those of us who live in the States, are really lucky to have Mexico so close to visit, and even if it’s not close to where you live, a trip here is most definitely necessary.
Experiencing the history in the country itself is the best way to really let the culture set in – you’re learning and experiencing it all day long. From visiting the museums and learning there, to walking the streets and observing the locals interact and go about their day, to stopping by a food stand and trying local foods and interacting with locals – it’s simply the best.
I hope that this post has helped you even plan your own “Heritage Trip”, and learn more about your people whether it’s for yourself, or your family, and whether you’re Mexican American or you have heritage from other countries. Embrace the richness.
Are you inspired to take a trip to Mexico City? Let me know in the comments below, and any questions you may have! I’d love to help you in any way to experience this marvelous city.
To more travel moments like these,