Now, of course one could write about México (usually written "Mexico" in English, and officially named "Estados Unidos Mexicanos") for hours, and still not quite get to the point.

There are several reasons for the slipperiness of the subject. First of all, it is a very big country. You could easily lose Belgium somewhere in it. The single state of Veracruz is bigger than Italy, and it is only one state of the federation.

Then, it is multicultural. There are many indigenous people and cultures, the cities are very different from the countryside. There are mountain people, desert dwellers, sailors ...

Basically, whenever some tells you "I know all about Mexico" he is bullshitting you. At most, one can know something about it, and again only at a particular time - things change fast. The Mexico of General Cardenas was vastly different from today's country in many things. Of course, for the Huichol not much has changed - but Mexico City became about ten times bigger !

We are doomed to incompleteness. I now realize that this is true for many subjects, only for Mexico more so.

So, let us start:


My personal Mexico

My personal Mexico is first and foremost the southern part of Mexico City, comprising Coyoacan, Tlalpan, a healthy chunk of Periferico and the UNAM. Xochimilco is also in the South, but I don't go there often: no doubt it is a surreal place, you can be on a boat, floating among the egrets and the ducks in absolute blessed silence, save for the occasional lowing of a cow in the distance, admiring the little artificial islands (called chinampas): and this in the middle of a fairly populous district of the biggest city in the planet.

Truly Mexico is a place of opposites.

Mexicans travel in peseros, and practice Mexican democracy.

Mexico introduced me to hot food, taught me the beauty of violently saturated colors, and violently saturated fats.

Mexico made me a boss, and I hope it does not unmake me soon.

Outside Mexico City, I know Veracruz, Oaxaca, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Pachuca, San Luis Potosí, and Villahermosa. I also visited Cancun, but I was not happy about it.

The Mexican newspaper I read is La Jornada, and at times Reforma. Mexican TV I mostly avoid, although the wrestling matches could have some surreality interest.

As a background, I have the volcanos: the Popocatépetl and the Iztaccihuatl. Of course, only when they are visible. Pollution is quite strong. On bad days, the sky is gray and you can't even see the Ajusco, let alone the volcanos.

Fun activities that I engage in

I like misleading gringo tourists in Mexico City.
I walk up to them when they are lost, and with my flawless but slightly accented gab I induce them to board peseros that will take them to parts of the city that do not even appear on maps.
To selected Midwestern tourists I suggest local dishes that are served in ceramic dishes because they are so hot anything else melts.

When they ask me for the US Consulate or Embassy, I route them (with the help of a friendly taxi driver) to the Mexican Forestry and Hamster-Powered Devices Office where they will be eaten alive by secretaries and rabid hamsters.

To the would-be cool dudes from New York, I sell dried epazote under the guise of grass. And I am not making a profit on that, since ganja in Mexico is very cheap; it is just an effect of my spiteful nature.
When I feel just mildly nasty I simply tell them to go to Cancun - that is punishment enough.

I eat tortas in torta stands (the cheapest are at UNAM). Every now and then, a little trip to Oaxaca. I have a giant statue of Benito Juarez, with laser eyes !

Mexico. A country of south-central North America. Inhabited in pre-Columbian times by the Aztecs and Maya among others. The Spanish arrived in Mexico around 1500 and immediately set out to steal, rape and burn everything in sight. Mexico was conquered by Cortés in 1521 and held by the Spanish until 1821. The spanish brought many diseases to Mexico, and the American continent, such as smallpox, measles, bubonic plague, diphtheria, typhus, cholera, scarlet fever, chicken pox, and whooping cough. When this war ended, the spanish had also destroyed most of the religion and culture that existed in the country, to impose their own christian beliefs.

Mexico was at that point still larger than Brazil, but the United States found a way to steal most of the lands located north of the Rio Bravo. It was called the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It was either that or full out war between the U.S. and Mexico. Texas, California and many others were lost to the U.S. in this way. Mexico City is the capital and the largest city. There is a lot of crime. Population at last count was about 97,395,826, probably larger today.

Salma Hayek is from Mexico.

So is Ricardo Castillo.

So am I.

People in Europe are taught in school that Mexico is in "Central" or "South America", because culturally we're part of "Latin America". That is not the case. In fact, most "Mexicans" would be dismayed by the idea.

Strictly speaking, Central America starts in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, just east of the Yucatán Peninsula, but most of the landmass of the country is in "North America".

Mexico's official name is the United Mexican States. There are 32 states, including a federal district. Below is a list of the state capital, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses, and then the capital of the state.


State                (Abbr.)    Capital 
Aguascalientes       (Ags.)     Aguascalientes
Baja California      (B.C.)     Mexicali
Baja California Sur  (B.C.S.)   La Paz 
Campeche             (Camp.)    Campeche
Chiapas              (Chis.)    Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Chihuahua            (Chih.)    Chihuahua
Coahuila             (Coah.)    Saltillo
Colima               (Col.)     Colima
Distrito Federal     (D.F.)     Mexico City 
Durango              (Dgo.)     Durango 
Guanajuato           (Gto.)     Guanajuato
Guerrero             (Gro.)     Chilpancingo
Hidalgo              (Hgo.)     Pachuca
Jalisco              (Jal.)     Guadalajara
Mexico               (Mex.)     Toluca
Michoacán            (Mich.)    Morelia
Morelos              (Mor.)     Cuernavaca
Nayarit              (Nay.)     Tepic
Nuevo León           (N.L.)     Monterrey 
Oaxaca               (Oax.)     Oaxaca
Puebla               (Pue.)     Puebla
Querétaro            (Qro.)     Querétaro 
Quintana Roo         (Q.R.)     Chetumal
San Luis Potosí      (S.L.P.)   San Luis Potosí
Sinaloa              (Sin.)     Culiacán
Sonora               (Son.)     Hermosillo
Tabasco              (Tab.)     Villahermosa
Tamaulipas           (Tamps.)   Ciudad Victoria
Tlaxcala             (Tlax.)    Tlaxcala 
Veracruz             (Ver.)     Jalapa
Yucatán              (Yuc.)     Mérida 
Zacatecas            (Zac.)     Zacatecas 
Mexico is also the name of one of my favorite drinking games. All you need to play are two dice, an opaque cup (non-breakable) and lots of booze. Here's how it goes:

  • Randomly choose someone to go first. They shake the dice in the cup and slams it down on the table, so that no one can see the roll.

  • The roller then announces their roll. They can tell the truth, or bluff. Except for a one and two, or doubles, values of the rolls are determined by the higher die being the tens, and the lower die being the ones. E.g., a 3 and a 6 would be "63."

  • Double 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, or 6s, are worth 200, 300, 400, 500 and 600, respectively. Double 1 and 2 is the second highest roll, double 1s is the highest. Both of these have special rules associated with them, explained later.

  • The next player can then choose to call their bluff or roll themselves. If they choose to roll, they repeat the procedure just described, except that whatever they call, it must be higher than the preceeding roll. If they roll lower than the preceeding roll, they must bluff. It is advised to think of a bluff before you roll, because rolling, seeing that you got lower, and then thinking for several seconds to come up with a bluff is a dead giveaway.

  • Play continues this way until someone calls a bluff. At that point, the dice are revealed. If the roller was bluffing, he must drink (we play with a third of a beer = one drink, but this can be adjusted). If he was telling the truth, the person who called his bluff must drink.

  • A one and a two is "Mexico." It's the second highest roll, and calling it (whether or not you're bluffing) reverses the direction of play. Therefore, the person who rolled just before you must then either call your bluff or decide to roll. Note that if they decide to roll, they're going to have to call double 1s, no matter what, since that's the only roll higher than Mexico.

  • Double ones are the highest roll. Obviously, the next person would not be able to roll higher, so ordinarily, they would automatically call your bluff. To compensate for this, there is the following special rule: the consequences for calling a bluff on double ones are doubled. If you call double ones, the next player can either bite the bullet and take one drink, or call your bluff. If they call your bluff and you were lying, you drink once, and they may assign one extra drink to anyone they want. If they call your bluff and you were telling the truth, they have to drink twice.

  • After a bluff is called, play restarts. The person who called the bluff rolls the dice, and may call any roll.

  • Dropping the dice out of the cup: Drink once for every die that escapes. Then reroll. Play continues as usual.

  • Calling a roll that doesn't exist (e.g. calling "35" on a 3 and 5, instead of "53"): Drink once, and pass the dice to the next player. Play restarts (as if a bluff had been called).

Like any drinking game, this game can get you very drunk if the specified volume per "drink" is high enough. Start low, and work your way up until you find the amount that works for your group of friends.

I've heard of people making this game more complicated by inventing special rules for other rolls of the dice aside from 1-2 and double ones (e.g. skip the next player, reverse the order of rolls so that you now must roll lower than the preceeding player, etc.), but I've only played it with the basic rules given here.

I know these dreams seem make believe
But I don’t think we should let em go
Can’t promise you Rome or St. Tropez
But one day we might make it to Mexico

The frozen lake shone. The ice glistened in the light of the fading sun, partially blocked by the naked trees. The park was empty except for the occasional ultra-committed athlete out for their evening jog. His steely eyes were focused ahead, but his thoughts were elsewhere. His ears were bright red and chapped at the bottom. A strong chin was speckled with short hairs. The dry air stung his lips and chilled his lungs with each breath. Yet every breath was a blessing.

Her eyes were sad. She wore an old wool hat and a white scarf turned cream by age; her long black hair dangled carelessly behind her. She covered her face with her scarf and crossed her arms to warm her gloved hands. She walked beside him in silence.

His clenched hands rested in the pockets of his brown jacket. From inside he pulled out a pack of generic cigarettes. There was one left. The lucky. Hesitating for a split second, he grabbed it and tossed the empty pack.

"Last one" he said to her. "The lucky"
She walked on. He turned to look at her, but her eyes avoided his. Despite being with her since high school, her beauty still took him by surprise at times. Everything about her was beautiful. Her wavy black hair, her pale skin, reddened slightly by the cold, her black eyes that shone even in the dim light, even that tiny mole beside her right eye that she went through so much effort to hide. A slight smile trickled across his face as he lit his cigarette.

Noticing his smile, she couldn't help but look over at him. He was glowing. Something about the creases in his face as he smiled soothed her uneasiness. A single flake of snow rested on his long eyelashes. It was just like him to not realize. His brown hair had grown over his ears, and stood up slightly in front. Her mother had hated that about him. She loved it.

His thoughts took him back to an old house, covered in yellow siding, standing tall on Desolation Row. The smell of mold and old age. The sound of the antiquated radiators knocking into life. The wonders of that place. A memory of walking down the street to this same park. A blue morning. The feeling of warmth and safety as his mother smiled at him, two strangers in a world of morning dew and gloom. The only souls awake in the universe.

Her stare pierced his thoughts. He looked over and met her gaze. Her skin was clear and young, lacking the scars and wrinkles of old age he had expected to see. Her eyes were bright and filled with energy, not the black, endless pits of wisdom and experience he remembered so clearly. Yet she slouched slightly as she walked. Lazy, indifferent. Infected with the same contagious pathology that everyone who lived here dealt with from time to time. Like a mutated super-virus resistant to all forms of immunity. His mother had fought this same disease, and had emerged victorious. Her commitment to herself and to her family had pulled them away from this dreadful place, to a quiet suburb home where schools were good and neighbors were friendly, a place where top locks didn't exist. Yet here he was.

His smile vanished and his gaze faltered. She felt his failure.

Gently, she wrapped her arm around his, and rested her head on his shoulder. He took a long drag on his cigarette. Her free hand moved to his face and took it from his lips. She closed her eyes and inhaled.

"Tell me about our place down south." The thick smoke lingered for a moment. He wrapped his arm around her and held her close, but said nothing. She stopped walking and looked up at him, urging him to join her in this brief moment of belief. With a deep sigh, he began.

"It's on the beach, of course." They continued walking. "In the Yucatan Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf. The water is clear and the sand is white. Even in December the temperature won't fall below 70. Palm trees line the backyard, and there's a hammock hanging between two particularly large ones. The days are long and hot, but the water is cool and the sand is clean. There's a small patio behind the house where we can sit and watch the waves come in. You can see the water from the kitchen. It's a nice kitchen with a little island counter top in the middle. There's a small dining room, and a living room and a bedroom. The building is made from white stone, and it shines after a rain. We'll fall asleep to the song of the ocean every night, and we'll be the only people around for miles and miles."

"What will we do with all this free time and space?"

"We definitely won't work. We won't have to. The house will be ours and life is cheap in Mexico. We'll spend all day on the beach, playing in the sand and maybe I'll buy a small boat so we can go out on the water every now and then. We'll start a fire every night and eat dinner outside beside it. No one will bother us. On the weekends we'll go in to town and see the marketplace and watch the street performers and we'll eat the finest Mexican cuisine at the best restaurants until we get sick of it. We'll drink real Tequila and the finest South American wines. And when we come back late at night, we'll smoke Cuban cigars on the sand and fall asleep under the stars."

She closed her eyes and imagined this wondrous place, far away from the cold and the noise. Even now, in their worst moment of desperation, in this frozen park hidden away in the urban sprawl of Jersey City, she believed in him. She believed in them.


-Lyrics from "Mexico" by Cunninlynguists

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