***Chapter title has no relevance to the below, and every relevance to the taco ad made famous in the early 2000s in Australia, you’re welcome.
If you’re under the age of 25 I AM SO JEALOUS OF YOU. You can follow any mad idea that pops into your head without worrying what happens afterwards, because when you’re that age it doesn’t matter in the slightest. If this doesn’t seem right to you, I promise it is. Trust the word of an old hag.
I know this, because I was 22 and rolled into Mexico City on my own in April 2006 with a semester and a half of Spanish under my belt from my first year at uni and no real idea of what I was getting myself into. The very idea of it now worries the hell out of me, but when you’re 22 you don’t think about the bad things happening. Or at least I didn’t.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t stay for the three weeks in Mexico that I had intended, mostly because a) I had no idea what I was doing and b) travelling on my own through Mexico suddenly seemed slightly terrifiying. But for the week or so I spent in Ciudad de Mexico, I had a fantastic time.
Through a complete lack of planning or checking the calendar, I ended up being there for Easter, which turned out to be lucky because Mexico is a place that takes Easter seriously, and doesn’t view it as an excuse to eat chocolate in your pyjamas while watching the football.
I met a very nice girl from England at the hostel I stayed at who was planning to stay and teach English in Mexico for a while, so we hung out a bit and went out to Teotihuacan to see the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon. Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the world during its heyday, and one of the most architecturally significant sites in Mexico. Unfortunately anything I learned about the site has floated out of my head, but I do remember being quite the novelty with Mexican families on holiday who were mindblown that there was an Australian wandering around.
Somewhere either on the way or on the way back our driver took us to see the Popemobile belonging to Pope John Paul II, which I’d completely forgotten about until just now.
The girl I met at the hostel told me about a festival happening in Iztapalapa on Good Friday, and with no plans and no idea what I was in for, I tagged along with her. As it turns out, the Passion Play of Iztapalapa is famous worldwide, and attracts up to 2 million visitors during Holy Week, including a very curious Tasmanian whose knowledge of religion is sketchy at best (chocolate and pyjamas, as I mentioned)
This was something else. The eight barrios unite and spend months creating the sets, costumes and choreography. The competition for the roles of Jesus and Mary are fierce, and are given to single young people who do not have children, addictions, tattoos and can demonstrate their Catholic faith.
I didn’t take any photos that day, because it didn’t seem right to. But from my position under a tree at the back of the crowd eating a mystery flavoured icy pole, I couldn’t see much anyway. We did, however, make friends with some locals who took us home for dinner. This remains the only time I’ve ever had mole, because let’s face it when will it ever be as good?
Mexico is very much on my list of places to return to. 37 year old me is far more interested in Frieda Kahlo than tequila, which wasn’t entirely true back then. There’s so much more to Mexico than what you think and I’m so keen to get back.
On my last night in Mexico, I inexplicably decided to take up residence at the bar. An infinite amount of tequila, a short nap, and a taxi ride later I was at Mexico Airport, trying to negotiate my way through security to board my flight to New Orleans.
Pro travel tip: Don’t do that.
Next time: New Orleans, baby!