Go Back to Mexico

Mexico’s drug killings have crept out of the cartel hangouts and spilled over into society, including tourism, just like gooey cheese melts over enchiladas -- it isn’t supposed to flow over and touch the rice and beans but it does. Warnings to stay out of Mexico are as effective as the waiter’s advice as he places the steaming plate in front of me, Very hot, senor.  I can’t not touch it.

Mexican Food in Cancun

Timing is often mistaken for conspiracy theory. We slowed the flow of Mexican immigration into America about the same time as their drug wars escalated. Our economy faltered and the concept of staycations was invented. Travel agents pulled their hair out as we pulled out of our destination weddings.

I stayed out of Mexico for years; but I missed her. It’s weird having the same next-door neighbor for my entire life yet not being able to just drop by and bring them a pie.

I bit the bullet, hoping it was only proverbial, and flew to Cancun for a week to fetch a winter tan. My friends worried and advised me to stay in my resort to avoid murder, bring antibiotics and take parasite prevention drops before every meal to avoid tourista. (A few whispered that if I saw certain medications to pick some up for them, as the prescriptions were cost prohibitive in the U.S.) I googled the shit out of foods to avoid and was prepared to forego salad and live off of tomato-free guacamole and chips. I packed a case of protein bars and braced myself.

A Mexican getaway has always included certain elements of danger: one can get sick from the food, be ripped off by merchants, and harassed by fake police. Part of the fun of living in Los Angeles was Mexico’s proximity; it was fun to pop down to Rosarito Beach outside of Tijuana and eat one dollar lobsters, drink buckets of good local beer, and ride raggedy wild horses along the beach, splashing into the surf.

When I arrived in Cancun, no Tarantino-directed gunfight erupted as I de-planed, nor did a mariachi band greet me in baggage claim. I was met by a Bubba Gump Shrimp franchise in the terminal.

I cruised to my hotel along the ocean, and was stunned by the color of the water. I’m sure a jealous Mother Earth took one look at this unbelievably blue sea and got busy creating turquoise. When the Mayans vanished, the only things they would miss were great chocolate, human sacrifices and this sparkling ocean.

Cancun Ocean

I lunched at the Cancun Ritz-Carlton in a lavish, private tent, wedged between an opulent swimming pool and the freakishly azure sea. As I ate grilled grouper caught moments before, I reached over and scooped up a bit of mango and papaya salsa with each bite, confident that the only thing that might make me ill was the bill.  This was not border-town Mexico.  The tanned, glamorous European diners at Harry’s almost stole my attention from my delicious Kobe beef sliders. Almost.

The machine gun-bearing guard startled me as I entered one of the many splashy malls, using the door between Cartier and Louis Vuitton. I was already caught off-guard because they had a Cartier and Louis Vuitton. The Mexico I had last visited sold poorly constructed papier mache marionettes and sequined sombreros, which are still around; but it’s good to know if I have an itch for Zegna, it can be scratched by authentic Zegna, or a classic Hecho in Mexico wooden backscratcher.

Shopping in Cancun

For less than a dollar you can hop on a city bus and ride anywhere you need to go along the one street in the town. The drivers wildly careen the huge, bio-fueled buses at unsafe speeds, yet are the sweetest men -- smiling, giving change and directions, and stopping to pick passengers up at unmarked stops.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

I may be crazy but I'm not stupid. I ate at resorts or restaurants with current online recommendations. I didn’t get drunk at a disco and weave my way home with thousands of pesos protruding from my fat American pockets. I drank bottled water. I used sunscreen. I wasn’t kidnapped and I still have both kidneys.

Walking along any beach is mesmerizing. In Cancun, you stare out to sea, into a new lover’s crystal clear blue eyes and fall in love. Her soft white sand slides over your feet with each step, like smooth, slippery, soothing Hermes socks. Which they probably sell at the local mall.

Beach in Cancun, Mexico

Cancun has the second most important and dive-worthy reef in the world. Drive a couple of hours, tic one of the Seven Wonders of the World off your bucket list and get a glimpse into the secretive Mayan civilizations of Tulum and Chichen Itza. Have delicious ceviche.

Ritz-Carlton Gingerbread Tulum

This is not the vacation bargain I used to love about border towns; this Mexico has taken steroids (available at local farmacias) and is pumped up to impress tourists from all over the world. They still have a good thing going and are glad to share it with those willing to take a chance. NAFTA is a kinky three-way agreement after all.

U.S. hotels could take ecology lessons from those in Cancun. The resort at our hotel had a giant Christmas tree made entirely of used plastic water bottles.



Open your eyes and your mind will follow. Fun in the sun and all that you loved about Mexico in the past will reveal itself to you again in new, amazing wonders.

Go back to Mexico. She’ll have you at hola.

Cancun Sombrero Shopping

1 comment:

  1. Ah Talum, that beautiful Mayan city overlooking the Caribbean. It was a tropical paradise until the first Spanish sails appeared on the horizon. The Mayans were said to have said in unison, "Oh caca, la fiesta es fin".

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