Into Mexico

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

For those of you who follow along on our Facebook page, you may have seen our news that Pete was robbed at gunpoint on the beach near our apartment in Puerto Escondido this last weekend. It just so happens that at that same moment, I was working on this, our first post from Mexico in which I profess our quick love for the country.

I haven’t changed a word as everything said below still holds true, and we in no way believe that one man is representative of a country. UPDATE: here is a post about the robbery.).

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It could be that we are developing a pattern for ourselves of experiencing the sharp bite of a North American winter for a few months before rushing south in search of the sun’s affable glow. Last year we went from Wisconsin to Guatemala, this year, Alberta to Mexico.

Everything we said about our transition last year is easily repeated this time around – nothing quite sparks the spirit like the brilliant colours of Latin America after living through several months with only shades of white and grey. We were soon pleasantly relieved of our itchy and parched winter skin with the absorption of natural warmth and humidity, and relished in turning our toes to the sun, free from the binds of thick socks and boots.

Streets of Oaxaca

We can’t talk enough about how much fun we had during these last few months in Alberta, but that didn’t stop us from walking with perma-grins in an entirely foreign climate and culture. I practically skipped through the streets of chromatic Oaxaca with every outing, we even laughed like fools while running through an impromptu downpour one night after dinner. We weren’t bothered by the fact that the stunning force of that rain had flooded our hotel room and soaked my bag of clothes on the floor. That’s life in the tropics, we chalked it up to, and calmly changed rooms with little agitation.

And about this country that we have somehow managed to avoid until now? We can say with great certainty that there are few others we have fallen for so hard, so fast. I mean, we have been within its borders several times before, but with the intention of only subduing our overwrought corporate brains and beings – we barely left the confines of the resorts we checked into. Tan, turn, pool, repeat…for seven straight days.

So, we’ve been to Mexico before, but not really.

Boy, were we missing out. There is a time and place for all-inclusive resorts (I do believe), but the Mexico we were shown then was a massively diluted version. Local dishes made more palatable for fussy tourists, choreographed theater to dramatize stereotypical aspects of Mexican culture.

We never explored the night streets, never saw families congregate in plazas to visit and listen to local music. Never tasted a menu del dia with authentic cuisine for just a few dollars, and we failed to discover our favourite new treat of mangoes with chili powder. (And within the first few days we realized: Mexico has the best food of all Latin American countries we’ve visited.)

We barely ventured out, and never gave ourselves the chance to absorb the true variety and tastes of our surroundings.

And about this country that we have somehow managed to avoid until now? We can say with great certainty that there are few others we have fallen for so hard, so fast.
Menu del Dia 2
Menu del Dia 1
Menu del Dia 3

Oaxaca-at-night
Menu del Dia 4
Árbol del Tule

And there’s something gently soothing to us about being in Latin American culture. Easing into the slower pace, witnessing the unadulterated way that affection is publicly shared between lovers, or parents with their children. It feels so natural for us to be there, heart-warming and soul-nourishing. And slipping back into Spanish is always a fun challenge (even if embarrassing at first).

We’ve known so many others who have come before us and professed love for this country we’ve ignored until now. With over two months to explore, we expect our immediate infatuation to only grow wider.

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  • March 24 2014

    Fantastic post! Fantastic pictures! We are in Isla Mujeres a wonderful Mexican destination you need to check out. We also agree the food…best ever
    Linda & Marc Faubert recently posted..Isla Contoy Mexico

    • March 25 2014

      We did do a day trip to Isla Mujeres during one of our resort stays – SO beautiful. Would love to go back and enjoy it more thoroughly. 🙂

      • March 25 2014

        We have been here for six weeks and have been useing Isla Mujeres as a home port for exploring Mexico. We will be sailing south when the weather permits up to the Belize border. Having a great time

  • March 24 2014

    I totally understand that feeling of being “in love” with a country like Mexico. Hope you get to Mazatlan!

    • March 25 2014

      Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll make it there this time around. But we definitely will be back, we know that. 🙂

  • Dara
    March 24 2014

    I love following you both on your adventures. As always I’m impressed by your positive attitude. After Pete’s incident I’m sure you were both shaken as anyone would be but you moved on. I am so happy you stated to the world that it was merely one bad incident in the five years of amazing experiences you’ve shared.
    Also you have made me extremely hungry for some authentic Mexican cuisine.
    Wishing you safe travels and hugs from a fellow northern Albertan.

    • March 25 2014

      Thanks so much for your comment Dara. We’ve had far too many great adventures to let one man spoil them entirely. Pete is very resilient, it will take more than that to keep him down. 🙂 Hope you find some yummy tacos soon!

  • I’m glad Pete is okay. I love mexico, and that food looks incredible!

  • March 24 2014

    Isn’t Mexico AMAZING!!?!?!!

  • March 25 2014

    Really glad you guys enjoyed Oaxaca. Gorgeous photos, as usual. It really sucks about the robbery in Puerto, but at least everybody’s alive and well to tell the tale. I further commend you guys on your attitude: the actions of one #$@%!# should not impair an infatuation with a whole country. We spent 5 months in Mexico and did not even get a whiff of trouble. The only time I ever got mugged (well, attempted, they weren’t very good) was in Europe, also in broad daylight. It can happen anywhere… Anyway, looking forward to all your new Mexican posts! Good luck!
    Lunaguava recently posted..Notes from a Hospital in Guatemala

    • March 25 2014

      Thanks so much. We loved Oaxaca, and really are enjoying Puerto, barring that one incident. We won’t let that #$@%!# get us down! 🙂

  • March 25 2014

    We owned homes in Mexico for 15 years and have experienced both the good and the bad. Sorry your introduction was so mixed between the two, but as you’ve noted crime can happen anywhere. When people used to call us and inquire about renting there, they’d always ask, “Is it safe?” to which we’d always chuckle and then say of our little village, “Well we’ve had no drive by shootings like we’ve had in Seattle or other such crimes as occur in the big city.” enjoy your time. . .

    • March 25 2014

      Thanks Jackie. Always great to hear a perspective from someone who has a lot of experience in the country. I hope our story doesn’t scare people away, most travelers we know travel here completely without issue!

  • SO glad he’s okay and I’m happy to see that it hasn’t changed your views about Mexico. I only went once as a child but have been wanting to visit for awhile now. I live in southern California so there’s no excuse! AND THAT FOOD! Ahhhhh.

    Happy travels 🙂
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren recently posted..London Food Series – Part 2: Asian Fusion

  • Claudia Espinosa
    March 25 2014

    I feel really proud to reed blogs like this, i’m mexican and i’m pretty sure that we have a lot of interesting things that we can share with the hole world. Our culture, traditions, gastronomy, folklore, etc. are the most representatives of Mexico. I would like to suggest to add Mexico in your list of destinations.
    Have you ever been in Mexico city. I’m sure that you will love it.

    As you said, one men is not the shouldn’t be the representative of this beautiful country.

    • March 26 2014

      Hi Claudia, thanks for your comment. We are in fact heading to Mexico City, but just to explore for a few days. We are really looking forward to it. 🙂

      • March 26 2014

        Hola!

        Thanks for reply! And sorry about the ortography, i didn’t review my text!. (actually, these are my first texts in english!). But, anyway I’ll be waiting very anxious for more posts about Mexico.

        Gracias y saludos!!

  • March 26 2014

    Oh my gosh! Pete! Is he ok?! You know, it can happen in any country I guess. Need to check out y’alls FB for details! No camera theft I hope?

    I love Mexico, too, and I feel like I’ve experienced some of the “local” non-tourist side… but I’ve never stayed longer than about 10 days. I think it would be neat to spend a couple of months there. Oaxaca definitely on my list!

    • March 26 2014

      Hey Lindsay – yes, he is okay – physically without scars but still a little shaken of course.

      Oaxaca is simply awesome. It is very much worth a visit!

  • March 26 2014

    It was so awful to hear of Pete’s incident on the beach. It can be hard to move forward when you have such negative associations with a location. I know I would find it hard to continue exploring without fear or recurrance. Great post, you’ve shown me the side of Mexico I’m sure many encounter, the vibrant, loving, beating heart!

    P.s Please send me that cup of mango pieces YUM!

    • March 26 2014

      That cup of mangoes would never make it out of my possession. I am not a good sharer. 🙂

  • March 26 2014

    Hey guys, you have been at the forefront of my thoughts since I heard about your incident. I’m so sorry about it, and feel that sense of sorrow even more since I too have a deep love of this country I have lived in for 15 months. It’s messing with my head a bit actually, as I have just arrived in Guatemala, which although very beautiful, does hold a slight sense of danger for me. Something I did not once feel in Mexico. I do really hope you make it to the Yucatan, particularly the Caribbean Coast, and if you do, let me know as I have a tonne of info. Buen viaje!
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Helping Jorge: What a journey it’s been

    • March 26 2014

      Thanks for your comment Sarah, and your tweet. I can understand what you mean – I remember arriving in Guatemala and feeling the need to get my back up a bit, and we haven’t felt that here at ALL. Even the other night, two days after the robbery, we went down the street for tacos and once again proclaimed: PARADISE. Kids were playing in front of us, the sun was dipping down on the beach while people threw the frisbee around. Honestly so peaceful and carefree, it’s hard to believe what had just happened to Pete.

  • Kellie
    March 26 2014

    Really sorry to hear about what happened the Pete, but I’m glad its not clouded your judgement of Mexico. We’ve been here 4 months and have really fallen for it too.

    We’re heading to Oaxaca in a few weeks and those pictures have just made me very excited for all the food.

    Oh and Sarah Somewhere is a true font of knowledge, we were lucky to have her as our personal tour guide when we stayed in Playa.

  • March 28 2014

    This really makes me want to go to Mexico! I’ve been twice before but certainly haven’t experienced it properly. The first time was spring in college. Enough said. The second time I drove with some friends from Arizona to a little town on the west coast. I remember eating the best fish tacos of my life! Would love to go back and dig a little deeper.
    Heather recently posted..Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea at the Willard Intercontinental

  • April 2 2014

    Dalene, It’s heartwarming that you still love the country even after an unfortunate incident. Love your photos as always!

    • April 2 2014

      Thank you Corinne. It takes more than that to keep us down. 🙂

  • Looks like a great trip! Beautiful photos- thanks for sharing!

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