Cancun. Spring break. A playground for the wealthy. A characterless hub of college students, American dollars, and all-inclusive resorts. This is not Mexico. The once pristine coastline has been eroded by tourism, mangroves destroyed for the construction of hotels, the clear turquoise waters gradually turning into a seaweed-riddled brown. Countless people have disturbed the formerly deserted sands and all charm has vanished.
In Mexico, a market is more than just a market. It is an explosion of colour, a social hub, a place to while away the hours. Countless stalls accommodate for every need, from fruit and vegetables to clothes, curtains, children’s toys, and stereo systems. The narrow alleyways are abuzz with activity as men, women and children rush around, trading goods and greetings. The sound of haggling duels fills the air.
The Federal District is a bubble within Mexico City, home to the wealthiest people and run by the most liberal politicians. While other regions of Mexico battle crippling violence and poverty, the DF, as it is locally known, is a relatively prosperous and safe part of the country. However, despite a rosy outlook on paper, the DF is nevertheless inherent with the kind of inequality that sadly prevails in much of Latin America.
Ten hours north east of Mexico City is a mystical land, characterised by tall, green forests, deep blue lagoons and cascading waterfalls. Formerly dominated by the Huastecan people, purportedly a branch of the Mayan civilisation, the region stretches across several states and is home to some of the country’s most exciting natural phenomena. La Huasteca has suffered throughout history, from the enslavement of the majority of locals upon the Spanish arrival in 1519, to becoming one of the last areas of Mexico to develop the requisite infrastructure for social and economic development. It remains one of the poorest regions in the country, but thanks to the enchanting scenery, tourism is giving it a much-needed economic boost.
Mexico is by no means undiscovered. The country welcomes millions of visitors each year, many returning to a country they love. People are drawn by the excellent food, a rich history and, at present, a struggling peso. Sandwiched between the US and Central America, Mexico tends to attract retired Americans from the north and beach-hungry backpackers from the south. These two groups rarely collide. To make a sweeping generalisation, the older generation seeks history and relics of Mexico’s indigenous and colonial past, whereas the backpacker stays near the cluster of countries beyond the southern border, enticed by the varied and colourful passport stamps. Time and budget constraints often hinder exploration.