•SEPTEMBER: All across the country, from the tiniest town to the busiest metropolis, celebrations abound during the month across Mexico. The reason: commemorating 211 years of the start of the Mexican War of Independence. September means fiesta for locals and visitors alike; however, Covid-19 has changed how public officials will honor and sanction the festivities and gatherings that begin on the 15th. No matter the destination or the length of your stay in Mexico, as a traveler, you will be able to partake in such an essential part of national culture. Consider the following suggestions to keep you safe and make the most of your stay.
•IT STARTS WITH A CRY: September 16 is the official date of remembrance of Mexican Independence (not Cinco de Mayo). On the holiday’s eve, the president steps out into the balcony of the Palacio Nacional (the National Palace where he resides in Mexico City) to deliver the words that emulate the call to arms against the Spanish Crown centuries ago. In Mexico, this is called “El Grito de Dolores” (The Cry of Dolores) in honor of Mexico’s founding father, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo. He called on citizens by ringing the bell of his parish in Dolores in present-day Guanajuato state. Usually, thousands of Mexicans would gather for el Grito at Mexico City’s main square, also known as the Zócalo. Last year however, the Zócalo looked somber given the absence of public due to Covid-19 gathering restrictions. Elsewhere, state governors and city mayors reenact the Grito in local plazas where crowds also meet. This year, health authorities at the state level are issuing varied restrictions on the number of people in public events. In popular tourist states like Oaxaca and Michoacán, public celebrations have been canceled once again due to the pandemic. Visitors should check official city government websites and social media for Grito-specific information. Hotels and restaurants may require further reservations and charge extra if they offer views of the event.
•HEALTH RESTRICTIONS: The number of Covid-19 cases in Mexico is slowly dwindling, although the downward trend is yet to be confirmed. According to official data, there were 16,609 new cases reported on August 30, and they dropped to 4,261 on September 11. Travelers must be careful to obey specific rules depending on where they are. The states with the highest number of active cases as of September 11 are: Mexico City (17, 820), Tabasco (6,825), Estado de México (6,665), Nuevo Léon (6,201), and Jalisco (5,204). Mexico does not require tourists to provide a negative Covid-19 when entering the country but exercise caution nonetheless. Last week, the Ministry of Tourism, reported that 3.4 million international travelers visited Mexico last July, an 8.4 percent increment over June but still lower than the 4.1 million of July 2019. Vaccination rates in Mexico among the population are lower than in the United States mostly due to a lower availability of vaccine doses. International visitors must be conscious that most Mexicans continue to wear face masks in public, including those who already finished their immunization scheme.
•SAFETY: If joining large-scale events, do so at your own risk. Keep your valuables close, be aware of your surroundings, and wear your mask. Celebrations start in the local square and continue in other neighborhoods, resorts, restaurants, or cultural centers. Do not wander off from where the main events take place. Private beach resorts usually organize fiestas as well. Mexicans are proud of sharing their culture, including food and drinks, with foreigners, but be careful when accepting beverages, like tequila or mezcal, and other invitations from strangers. Local police patrol the celebrations and are friendly with foreigners, although not many speak English. However, do not confuse friendliness with tolerance towards exaggerated acts of drunkenness, like brawling or public disturbances.
•FOOD AND LIBATIONS: September showcases the best of Mexican cuisine and culture. Food varies by region, from the frugal dishes and beef of the arid Mexican north, fresh seafood in Sinaloa, Baja California, and Veracruz, the moles of Oaxaca, Mayan flavors of the Yucatán Península, premium coffees of Chiapas and Veracruz, birria in Jalisco, humble tacos and enchiladas, to the elaborate and traditional dishes of Puebla and central Mexico. Mariachi music and dancing are present everywhere (you can get in the spirit by viewing this special produced by Mexican Public Television on Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán).
•MEXICAN CITIES VOTED AS FAVORITES: Once again, San Miguel de Allende topped the list of the Best Cities in the World, according to readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine for the year 2021. The winners were announced this week. Also in the top ten, Mexico City (seven on the list) and Oaxaca City (number 8).
•FOREIGN AIRLINES EYE THE MEXICAN MARKET: Daniel Martínez Gaburno, writing for Simple Flying, talks about how Turkish Airlines could tap into the Mexican market. This week, the Turkish Embassy in Mexico announced that the airline will start with direct flights between Istanbul and Cancún on October 31. Martínez adds that a connectivity agreement between Turkish Airlines and low-cost carrier Volaris could be in the works. Similarly, Emirates signed a deal with regional carrier Aeromar to reach ten new destinations in Mexico, such as Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Escondido.
•TRADITIONAL MASKS AND THE RIGORS OF THE PANDEMIC: Cathy Newman, for NPR’s Goats and Soda, interviewed two Mexican ethnologists and professors at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) in Mexico City. Blanca Cárdenas and Carlos Dávila, answered questions about a project they launched. They asked traditional indigenous mask-makers to construct figures regarding the pandemic. They aimed to understand how these artists and their communities view the health crisis.
•CHILES EN NOGADA: The most patriotic of Mexican dishes, chiles en nogada, only available during September, combine complex culinary techniques and history. The dish comprises poblano peppers filled with meat, spices, seasonal fruits, topped with a white walnut sauce, chopped parsley, and pomegranate seeds. Together, they represent the colors of the Mexican flag. However, initially, they referenced the flag of the Mexican Empire and Independence during the 19th Century. Puebla is the capital of chiles en nogada, where local nuns supposedly created them, although the recipe could be older. The mix of ingredients, mainly available during August and September, and its association with the Day of Independence, along with its baroque Mexican appeal, make it a clear representation of the Mexican national spirit. Additionally, their preparation is highly laborious. You can find the best chiles en Nogada in Puebla and Mexico City. In Houston, you may taste them in restaurants such as Hugo’s (Chef Hugo Ortega) or Pico’s (Chef Arnaldo Richards). Pair them with Mexican dry white wine, like Monte Xanic’s Chenin Colombard, that balances some of the dish’s sweetness, a rosé by Coahuila´s Casa Madero, or if you´re feeling fancy, some champagne. ¡Salud!