Traveling to Mexico for the first time I didn’t know what to expect. It was my first time ever truly being out of the U.S.A. and I must say it was definitely worth the trip. I have always been skeptical of going because I’ve always heard of questionable things going on but once I arrived those misconceptions were shattered.
What’s always been an ongoing issue for me is flying for an extended period of time but the plane ride was smooth, minus the crying kids. The air is different in Mexico as I could definitely tell by the smell of dust and smog. It kind of gave me comfort knowing that I was finally in a new country.
The purpose of the trip was to first and foremost get out of the U.S.A. and second to spend time in my fiancés hometown of El Salitre. The small town is about 60 miles outside of the main city of Guadalajara. It is a blast from the past type of town because it is small, less than 3000 residents, it has cobble stone roads and is very hilly and dusty. The people have lived there their entire lives and truly live the ranch life.
However there is a deeper sense of community in the town as everyone knows each other. It isn’t just because it’s a small town but I got the feeling that your neighbor would be there if needed. In a more developed city you could find yourself not know who your neighbors are because you are so disconnected from everyone around you. We act like we are all strangers in a big city but there in that small town in Mexico not one person was a stranger. I strangely felt more at home there then actually in my own home in Los Angeles.
In this part of town you have different cities in about a 5 to 10 mile radius all connected via backroads through farms and one main highway. These towns were Cocula, San Martin, Cofradia and Ameca. These were the towns I frequented mostly and they were a little larger than El Salitre. Cocula is a great town, a ton to explore, the food is great and the people are awesome as well. San Martin and Cofradia are smaller towns and if you want to experience the real Mexico you visit these places. When you are in the big city of Guadalajara it’s just that, a busy city like any other in the U.S. Traffic, Costco and McDonalds didn’t show me anything different than what I already know.
I was able for the very first time experience a real life cock fight, let me say it was intense and brutal. The betting was intense and everyone had their favorites. I asked how they train the roosters to fight and it is a lot like horse breeding. The winners pass along the genes and produce new favorites for future competition. When I first saw the roosters they are a sight to see, beautiful and you could tell that they were bulked up. Like body builders. You knew there was time and money spent in producing and training the animal. Overall mind expanding experience and I am grateful to have witnessed the competition.
The money situation in noticeable in the small town, you know who is well to do and not. There is no “middle class”. It is black and white. The dollar versus the peso is around 17/18 to 1 so as an outsider coming in I get away with only spending around $200 for a week but I was able to eat, drink and generally have a good time entertainment wise. Another observation I made was that dogs simply roam around the streets. They aren’t wild animals, they have owners but they just patrol the streets and live there just like the people.
There isn’t a concept of not eating meat in Mexico. Steak and fish and shrimp are part of the normal daily diet. You mix in chicken of course but in deep Mexico you’re not going to find anything “vegan”. I not exactly sure even if you went to a resort town you’d find what you are accustomed to in the states. However if you really try to find normal breakfast food you can. In Ameca we were able to find pancakes and eggs and bacon at a small indoor food court. It isn’t impossible if you just ask, my Spanish was tested for sure!
My first real stop was in Ameca where we went to check out one of their haciendas. We walked about a mile through dirt and cobble stoned roads which wasn’t an issue. Once we got there it was beautiful, rooms for guests and a massive outdoor type of wedding staging area. Really nice in a town that you wouldn’t think would have that. Second stop was at Hacienda San Diego in Cocula. Wow just wow. What an amazing property. You had tree canopy with waterfalls and flamingos! On the property they had an old church and their property seemed to stretch for 5 to 10 miles. Beautiful and amazing to even have the chance to walk on the property. (See pictures) Lastly Cofradia was equally beautiful but in a small nice town with a church right next door. The property was amazing, it reminded me of the villa in that show on Showtime called “Spartacus”. Where in the first season or two Spartacus was training in the gladiator Villa. It had the same look as the inside of that Villa on the show. (See pictures).
In conclusion. Being a guy that has never traveled further than Hawaii and New York City I was more than surprised by my experience in El Salitre/”Deep Mexico”. What I felt was a sense of community where everyone was a friend. You would spend time with your neighbors and I had a sense that I was in this life with them. Something totally foreign from a neighbor/community point of view. I don’t feel this sense when I’m home or in L.A. There something about being in a small town that keeps things simple the way you want it for real. Is that not the truth though? I read a book called “tribe” by Sebastian Junger where he described how early settlers in America would run back to their Native American captives to live with them in their tribal community. Nobody in the city to figure out why but it calls to our basis human nature as a people. We survive and thrive in small groups. I will be back to “Deep Mexico” often to get that hit from the echoes of our early human past. It could not have been a better experience and everything I didn’t know I wanted internally.