Three weeks ago, my partner returned home from the corner shop with an astonished look on his face — as he was paying for some cheese and tortillas, the owner pulled out a gun and announced: “Next time I’ll be prepared.” The store had been robbed the day before and, as the authorities do next to nothing to prevent such events, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
A week later, a friend’s house was burgled. As she was sharing the details of the event with me and three other friends a couple of days later, we bitterly realized that only one of us hadn’t experienced such crime.
Another week later, a group of youngsters was assaulted and threatened to be shot two blocks from my home; it was in broad daylight and they were resting in front of the local church.
These three events are just the tip of the iceberg; violent crimes are more and more common in Mexico. In fact, in 2017 more than 29,000 people were assassinated, a 27% increase compared to the year before, which made it the most violent year in the last two decades and since such statistics are being compiled.
The fact that crimes are so prevalent in my daily life led me to rethink my living in Mexico. I have spent countless nights planning a return to Europe, a place where I feel much safer, and have had endless conversations with my partner and friends about the pros and cons of living here. In the end, the many things that make this country so amazing won. Mexico has been my home for the past five years and here’s why I wouldn’t move anywhere else.
1. Delicious and cheap street food
You can’t go hungry in Mexico. Every street corner has its doña making quesadillas in the morning, a taco man with a spinning top of fresh meat to satisfy your cravings in the afternoon, and trolleys of boiling corn in the evening. And if you want something lighter, you can grab a cup of freshly-cut fruit with granola and honey at any time of the day. Delicious, fast, and cheap.
2. Fresh fruit and vegetables all year around
If you grow up in a country where winter is a big deal and the only local “fresh” fruit and vegetables are three-month-old apples and sour cabbage, you learn to appreciate the abundance of daily harvested mangos, papayas, avocados, bananas, tomatoes, and dozens of other fruits available all year long.
3. Customs and traditions
The celebration of the Day of the Dead, the Dance of Flyers, and the Dance of Parachicos are only a few of the most popular Mexican traditions. But there are hundreds of other, lesser known yet equally magnificent customs, celebrated in the intimacy of a particular village or community. Living in Mexico gives me the possibility to be part of them.
4. The easy access to education
I had zero photography knowledge when I first came to Mexico — five years later I make a living out of it, all thanks to the quality and affordability of education in this country. The variety of courses helping you acquire new skills is just amazing. Whether it’s about traditional embroidering, piñata making, salsa dancing, playing the jarana, digital marketing, Adobe programs or screenplay writing, there’s someone teaching it, and it’s really cheap or even free of charge.
5. People’s acceptance and tolerance
I have been in Mexico for so long that I don’t feel as a foreigner any longer. Sure, with my brown hair, pale skin, blue eyes and funny accent, I do stand out — nobody would ever confuse me with a “true” local. But people rarely pay attention to it and I am being treated the same as any other person here.
Mexican coffee is so superb that it is the one gift I never fail to bring with me when visiting relatives in Europe.
7. Mexico City
The New York Times named it the top destination to visit in 2016 and it’s for a reason. The capital of Mexico is a place of contrasts where one can have a traditional Mexican breakfast at one of the numerous markets, admire the murals of Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros in the Palace of Fine Arts, enjoy pulque in a bar, discover the pre-Columbian heritage in the National Museum of Anthropology, dine in hipster Colonia Roma neighborhood, and get wild at the concert of an internationally-renowned rock star. All that in one day.
8. Beach vacation at any moment
There’s no need to wait for the summer or to fly to the other side of the globe if you want to take a short beach vacation. Mexico has thousands of miles of coast and the weather is always perfect for a swim and some sunbathing. For me, the nearest beach is a three-hour drive away and when I want to indulge, there are numerous low-cost airlines flying to Cancun daily.
9. Family reunions
Whether they’re celebrating a birthday, Independence Day, or the birth of Jesus, Mexican families gather in great number to eat, drink, laugh and dance. Family reunions are always loud and fun and you always feel part of it even if you’re not a member of the family.