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At the now four and a half year mark into our full-time relocation to mainland Mexico, there are many things that stand out to me as being unique to our adopted country—features that definitely distinguish it and set it aside from our former lives in the U.S.A.

1. A Different Place, A Different Pace

Market

Artesian Market, San Miguel de Allende

Mexico, often referred to as the “land of mañana”, embodies much more than the traditional meaning assigned to this popular cliché. There is an almost palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and take it all in, in large because of the colors, vibrancy, and sensory-rich nature of a “typical” Mexican town—so alive and pulsating with energy from the outdoor markets, music, smells from the fresh, local food; filled with people that embrace, revere and honor their national pride and cultural heritage…that assign importance to their identities and mark and celebrate them with intention and meaning.

Dancers in Banda

Christmas Celebration in Banda~Rural Community Outside of SMA *Photo Credit: Katie O’Grady

 

Dia de los muertos

Día de Los Muertos @ La Parroquía in San Miguel de Allende

A culture rich in color and embedded in history not only encourages but coaxes you to slow down and to change your perhaps previously frenzied pace of rushing through life to get from one thing to the next.

Wedding Re-size

Wedding Celebration on The Streets of San Miguel de Allende

I love that here in Mexico I am allured, intrigued, invited to stop and look, to be in the moment. My senses are awake and tuned in, I am aware of the detail and the magic of my surroundings.

Indian

Just running a few errands

Mexico has taught me, and reminds me daily, to relish and thrive in the here and now, to celebrate the present moment and the textures and layers within that moment. 

Los Mariachis

Mariachis in The Parroquía on A Break

2. Personal Freedom & Responsibility

There is a certain aspect of “controlled chaos” on the streets of Mexico—families of four piled atop a motorcycle, off-leash dogs dodging in and out of moving cars, traffic police standing in the middle of busy four-way intersections, the clashing symphony of sights, smells, and sounds emerging from the tianguis (outdoor markets), corner cantinas, garbage trucks, city buses and hard-working street vendors.

A Bus Standoff

It’s a bus standoff! *Photo Credit: Katie O’Grady

It seems that in the States personal freedoms are pervasively being taken away—walking your dog off-leash at the beach and having a beer while doing it are completely out of the question (and illegal) in San Diego. Yes, in an ideal world, humans could self-regulate and self-moderate, throw their cigarette butts in designated trash cans, buckle in their kids, and not text while driving. There are indeed certain laws that are sound, make sense, and that I absolutely agree with.

But akin to good parenting and teaching, over-regulation and modification of one’s behavior—which ties into a perceived limitation of freedom and autonomy—inevitably tends to backfire, creating a culture of resistance and sometimes defiance. Throw in there human nature’s capacity to be rebellious, and well…you just might have the perfect cocktail for disorder.

No

Just Say No

Here in Mexico, the disorder and the coloring outside of the lines just seems to work itself out in a “let the cards fall where they may” kind of way. 

3. Family Time

IMG_1602

La Cañada de La Virgen

Different pace, personal freedom…FAMILY TIME—by far the most important and remarkable difference in our Mexico life versus our stateside one. I love the Mexican culture’s emphasis, focus, and importance placed on the family unit…and the extended one at that, including second and third cousins—some related by blood, some not.

A very good friend is often referred to as a primo (cousin) and they are taken into the family as such. Conversations at gatherings and casual run-ins are sin prisa (without hurry)—not vapid or full of fluff, but rich in sincere inquiries as to how each other’s family, businesses, and other social affairs are going…and most often an invitation to get together again soon. The art of conversation is well preserved in the Mexican culture. Greetings and farewells? You can count on the customary hugs and kisses on the cheek between men and women, young and old alike.

There is a strong sense of community and connectedness amongst the Mexican people. They are united, loyal, hard-working, welcoming, and generous of their time and help. Recently one of our neighbors saw Frank out in front of our house working on our car, and offered to take him to the auto-part store. He accompanied him in, helped him out where needed with Spanish translation, waited for the transaction to be done, and then gave him a ride back home. Some friends that heard of a recent respiratory illness that went through our home gifted to us bags of medicinal plants and herbs, all labeled with their indicated usages. These are only two examples of the many kind, demonstrative acts of care and community bestowed to us in the three and a half years that we have lived in Mexico.

4. Fresh, affordable, local food

Street Tacos

The Reds enjoying ten peso street tacos on a Friday night!

10 peso street tacos, 20 peso super-sized fresh fruit cups, 5 peso sweetbreads, 25 peso organic coffee, bags full of fresh produce for 100 pesos, 100 peso chicken rotisserie dinners complete with tortillas, rice, salad and grilled peppers….shall I stop?

Fruit Cups

Less than a dollar fifty for one of these delicious fruit cups!

 

Rotisserie Chicken

Mairead and I picking up our seven dollar family dinner!

 

Panaderia

La Colemna Panadería, San Miguel de Allende

With the current value of the dollar to the peso about 18 to 1, you can calculate how amazing these prices are! There is never a shortage of readily available, fresh, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, wines, breads….and many, thankfully, are organic.

Via Organica

Vía Orgánica, Colonia Guadalupe

5. Photo ops

This was not meant to be a pseudo-ad for Coca-Cola, but I just love this shot that I captured at La Parroquía in San Miguel de Allende of a cowboy with his horse, taking a break from the day’s work.

Coca-Cola

Break Time at The Parroquía

I have personally taken all of the photos on my blog, often with nothing more than my cell phone camera. From the jungle to the desert highlands, I have thousands and thousands of images—many published, many still in the queue waiting for their turn. I am grateful that I live in a country that provides plenty of sensory-stimulating experiences and that I am able to express myself creatively in this blog forum with an audience who appreciates my work.

These are but a few of my favorite things about Mexico….

What about you? What are some of your favorite things about Mexico? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!

Cheers,

~Katie

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Inside a narrow corridor down at the Mercado Emiliano Zapata in Old Town Vallarta is one of our favorite Mom and Pop restaurants where we are always guaranteed a hot bowl of delicious birria de res (beef stew soup), huevos rancheros and a chile relleno plate that almost makes you blush!

As to the name of the restaurant, I have no idea, but of the 3 different stalls that are there, it is the one directly in the middle. 

The prices are incredibly affordable, the serving sizes enough to fill you for the day, and the ambiance local, comfortable and casual.

My favorite is the birria, a traditional Jaliscan spice-filled soup that is served with rice, tortillas, cabbage, onions, radishes, lime and three different salsas on the side.

For two plates and 3 large glasses of fresh-squeezed OJ, our bill is usually around 220 pesos, less than 13 dollars.

Another great meal at Mercado Emiliano Zapata!

Another great meal at Mercado Emiliano Zapata!

After indulging to our heart’s and stomach’s content (there’s always room for one more bite!), a walk is in order so around the market streets and in and out of the various stalls we love to explore.

Post-meal walk time!

Post-meal walk time!

For a behind-the-scenes view of the tortillería at el mercado, click on this video below but do keep the volume low lest you enjoy a nail on chalkboard sound. 

 

A trip to el mercado Emiliano Zapata is not complete without a stop at one of the many fruterías where one is immersed in a bouquet of fresh produce! 

One of my favorite things to do--shop local & fresh!

One of my favorite things to do–shop local & fresh!

Looking around eye-level for the bananas, lo and behold, they were right there at my feet! No question as to their freshness!

Right off the tree!

Right off the tree!

If you are ever in the downtown Vallarta area and are wanting to have a unique, local experience, I highly recommend an outing to El Mercado Emiliano Zapata! It is sure to delight your senses and fill your belly!

If you have had the pleasure of going to this mercado or others in the Vallarta area and other regions of Mexico, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!

Follow along with the adventures of Los O’Gradys in Mexico by subscribing below and joining us on Facebook…

Saludos,

~Katie

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