For one month about three years ago, I was able to go on a trip that I had always dreamed about - a month long journey through Mexico. I had never been out of the country before, and was not sure if I was up to navigating my way through the countryside in a small Volkswagen beetle. I was a bit scared and a little apprehensive, but extremely excited.
I spent months preparing for this trip, learning about Mexican history, researching information on the cities, and planning the places I wanted to visit. I was going to discover my Mexican roots while learning about a culture I had little experience with.
My trip took me from Mexico City down throughout the countryside to Aculpulco, then up the coast (figure 1), to Zihuantanejo (figure 2), east to Guadalajara, and back to Mexico City. Travel time between each city took from eight to eleven hours driving over roads in disrepair through small villages perched high in the mountains (figures 3 and 4), through roadside towns in lowland agricultural areas, and finally through scattered settlements in the high desert plateau. I spent many days in each town, visiting historical places, ancient ruins, colonial buildings, museums, and art galleries. In between the towns, I spent time in rural areas visiting with the local people at roadside restaurants and store.
The small roads (figure 5), rural villages, beautiful scenery, and friendly people all enhanced the view I had about Mexican culture. Most poignant was the contrast that I saw with such a beautiful land and the reality of poverty. I saw shantytowns outside of Mexico City, small shacks through the countryside, and people everywhere asking for money or trying to sell whatever they could. This made a huge impression on me, as I was immersed in a culture so different from the United States. I soon realized that despite the hardships these people endured, there still remained a rich culture, full of festivals, c