The current swine flu outbreak and the subsequent shunning of Mexico has got me thinking about how much this remarkable country means to me. I first visited Mexico over 25 years ago, and it was the proverbial “love at first sight.” The exotic (to me, anyway) sights, smells, and sounds of what was then a much less-developed Puerto Vallarta made a lasting impression on me and opened a door that has never closed.
On more return trips to Mexico that I can remember, I rode the autobuses from sprawling Mexico City north to the handsome cities of the colonial heartland, east to the sultry state of Veracruz, south to the cultural Mecca that is Oaxaca and beyond to the jungles of Chiapas, the Yucatan Peninsula, and the haunting world of the ancient Maya. Along the way, I took thousands of photographs and made notes that would later morph into travel articles. I lingered to study Spanish in beguiling San Miguel de Allende and devoured every book about Mexico that I could find, while standing in awe of iconic Mexican writers and artists such as Octavio Paz, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
But in the end, it is the ordinary Mexican people that I met during my travels who inspired me the most. Their disarming hospitality, subtle sense of humor, and coolness in the face of countless natural and man-made adversities ensure that I, like so many other Mexico addicts, will keep coming back for more.