After travelling to Brazil in 2016 I was hopeful that I’d be able to travel to another Latin American country while studying here in the US – I am chuffed to now be able to scratch off Mexico on my map when I return home!
We hadn’t realised until after booking our flights that we were going to be in Mexico City during the ‘Día de los Muertos’ celebrations, also known as the Day of the Dead (you’ll know it if you’ve seen the Disney movie ‘Coco’!). The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to remember those who have died and to support their spiritual journey, and these rituals have been observed for as long as 3,000 years. In celebration of the lives of those lost, the whole city was an explosion of colour and decoration, with graves covered in orange Mexican marigolds and many people wearing calavera (skull) makeup. It was so beautiful to see so many families gathering together and a really uplifting way to remember those who have passed.
Much of our time was spent visiting the sites in the historical centre such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the so-called ‘Cathedral of Art in Mexico’, and the Monument to Independence which commemorates the beginning of the nation’s War of Independence and remembers the heroes from the war. We also visited the Frida Kahlo museum, located in the blue house that the Mexican artist grew up in before sharing with her husband, Diego Rivera, as well as spending an evening in a plaza with rehearsing Mariachi bands… and eating lots of tacos!
Whilst the view from the hilltop Chapultepec Castle was pretty special, my favourite location was the pyramids in Teotihuacan, an ancient city located about an hour out from the main city. Climbing the pyramids on a beautifully sunny Monday morning (25 degrees in November?!) is something that I’ll never forget!
A few travelling tips…
- Make sure that you get any travel plans approved by your international school if necessary. In order to re-enter the country after travelling to Mexico I needed to have my DS-2019 (part of my visa to be able to study abroad here in the US) signed off by a member of staff at the international students’ office, and they recommended that we requested this with at least two weeks’ notice. Don’t leave it to the last minute if you can help it!
- Plan ahead for any events or potential disruptions at your destination. As mentioned previously we were lucky enough to be in Mexico City during the ‘Día de los Muertos’ celebrations, but we were also in the city when the government had to shut off the water supply for critical maintenance. Thankfully some advanced research (and a heads up from our Airbnb host) meant that we were prepared for this and could sort out alternative access to water.
- Take lots of photos! I know that I’ll be looking back next November, probably hunched over a desk in Queen Mary’s library and no-doubt stressing over my looming dissertation deadlines, in disbelief that a year ago I casually went to Mexico City for the weekend – those photos will preserve the memories forever (as well as helping the ol’ Instagram profile).