Culture

These Mexican Border Towns Are Quickly Becoming The Most Booked Weekend Getaways For Good Reasons

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One of the biggest harms that a certain politician by the initials of DT has done to Mexico-US cultural relations is to paint an apocalyptic vision of Mexico. However, things are creative, colorful and plain amazing as you cross the border, and the state of Baja California, just below San Diego, offers sights, sounds, smells and flavors that are to be experienced to be believed. In particular, the city of Tijuana is no longer seen as the party town for gringos borrachos, and is home to a cultural scene. Just head further down and you will find beach settings and a valley que no tiene nada que pedirle a Napa. 

The sites of Tijuana, Rosarito Beach and the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe are within driving distance of each other and showcase the wonderful diversity of a region. The area has been a bridge for millions of migrants and a home for proud and creative communities for centuries. No offense, but life in los esteits can sometimes be a little, mmm, predictable (shall we say aburrida?). In particular, la ruta del vino or wine route that leads to the pristine vineyards of Baja is a trip that offers sight that border paradise. Whether you want to take a trip with your friends or are planning a good old-fashioned viaje familiar, Northern Baja California is a great option to visit. 

Let your eyes wander because Tijuana is a visual and artistic feast.

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When it comes to street art and graffiti, Tijuana is one of the epicenters of the world. The mix of Mexican and urban American influences produces vibrant and often politically charged imagery that is perfect to capture on the Gram. If you are an artist in search for inspo, Tijuana is your spot.

Urban public art is plentiful and mesmerizing.

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Tijuana has long been a site of political and artistic activism, and the municipality often allows artists to decorate public spaces, as witnessed here. There is always a surprise around the corner.

Photograph every corner and you can capture the true colors of Mexico.

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Perhaps because it is right on the border, Tijuana folks are hyper-Mexican. Yes, they are proud of their cultural heritage and popular culture is expressed on the streets, in how houses are decorated, in kitschy but amazing public displays of creativity.

Head down to Rosarito Beach to get some more folklore.

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Rosarito is the perfect combination of a tourist site and traditional town. It has not let tourism gentrify it completely, and it is still possible to capture amazing shots like this one.

The sunsets at Rosarito Beach are pictures of paradise.

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There is nothing more humbling that witnessing a breathtaking sunset on the beach. The immensity of the ocean and the sky really gets you to reflect upon your life. If you have a media naranja, nothing beats kissing with this honey-infused backdrop.

Further down in Baja California, there are vineyards as far as the eye can see.

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Even if you are not into the vino, witnessing the care that growers take in producing the perfect grape is amazing. Just seeing how the vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe form perfect rows is humbling in itself.

Let your tastebuds tingle with the taste of real tacos south of the border.

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Damn, look at this tacos. Fresh cilantro, thick fried corn tortillas and spicy birria. Nothing beats Tijuana tacos, and taqueros in the city take an extra effort in showing that what you can get in the United States is just not that good.

Rosarito means lobster in culinary terms, langosta con frijoles.

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Rosarito is famous for the quality of its seafood, particularly of lobster with black beans, pico de gallo and freshly made corn tortillas, infladitas y calientitas. Life just doesn’t get any better than that.

Get your gourmet on in Valle de Guadalupe.

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Like in other wine regions in the world, Valle de Guadalupe has developed an artisanal food industry that benefits from local products and develops products that can be paired with the many wines from the region. El Cielo, for example, produces Mexican-influenced chutneys with ingredients such as chipotle. Stack up for those canastas de regalo come Christmas time.

Let your skin feel the warmth en Tijuana donde el sol es más sabroso.

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We can’t deny that the city has faced many challenges throughout the years, and that being one of the busiest border cities in the world has also brought crime and corruption. Tijuanenses, however, are a strong and proud people and the city’s famous sunsets, with the border barrier as the background, are engrained in everyone’s memories. Watch it, feel the sun on your skin and capture it for your Instagram.

Explore by Rosarito by horse and turn your trip into an experience.

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You can hire a horseback ride on the beach. Just look at these amazonas having fun. Girl power!

There is also the option of an ATV.

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It might not be as peaceful, but adrenaline will run when you get on an All Terrain Vehicle and feel the sea breeze caress your body. 

Or a camel?

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Yes, that’s right. You can also hire a camel ride. To be honest, this is the first camel we see wearing a sarape.

Valle de Guadalupe is one place everyone should experience.

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Places like Vinos Lechuza offer banquets al fresco that will fill your senses with wine, food, laughter, and sun.

Let your nose take it all of the smells Tijuana and its cocktails have to offer.

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Take in the amber notes of a whiskey sour, or the bitterness of a mezcal pizco. Tijuana has been taken over by hipster culture and that means cocktails! The city has some of the best barmen in the world. Your nose and your tastebuds will have a fiesta. Places like Moustache Bar and Adelita Bar are a must. Tijuana is no longer just defined by cantina culture but also by top-notch fine drinking holes.

A BBQ in Mexican wine country? Yes, please!

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Deckmans is a fantastic BBQ restaurant where you can have carnita asada and taste the delicious wines from the region. Let the smell of steak and caramelized vegetables fill your soul. Se nos hace agua la boca. A perfect spot for a tame and gentlemanish bachelor dinner party.

Let the border sounds fill your ears and your soul with global culture, music included.

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Places like the Centro Cultural Tijuana offer concerts, and the city’s music scene has generated legends like Kinky, the electronic band that has won worldwide fame. DJs of word stature often play in venues like Rouge Live Music Venue.

Can you hear that? No? Well, you are listening to the silence.

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Valle de Guadalupe features some of the most creative and dreamy accommodations in the world, such as this bubble hotel, Campera. Imagine waking in the middle of the night to meet the stars. Just enjoy the silence, or if this is a romantic getaway… well, you can make some noise. Prices are not that steep, with rooms available for $180 USD a night. Caro pero costeable.

READ: Mexico City Paints Its LGBTQ Pride Across A Pedestrian Crossing And The People Are Here For It

What You Need To Know About The Magic Mushroom Tourism Craze In Oaxaca

Culture

What You Need To Know About The Magic Mushroom Tourism Craze In Oaxaca

For almost 70 years, since Maria Sabina, also known as Santa Sabina, spread the culture around the ritualistic consumption of magic mushrooms in the Oaxaca highlands, the world has been fascinated by these special fungi. The region near Huautla de Jimenez, particularly places like San Jose del Pacifico, has since been swarmed with tourists in the months between July and October, both from inner Mexico and from overseas, who want to experienced the altered states of consciousness brought by one of nature’s most powerful secrets. 

So any story about Oaxacan magic mushrooms has to start with the legendary Maria Sabina, the godmother of all things trippy.

Credit: Giphy. @Hamiltons

Maria Sabina was a Mazatec curandera, or witchdoctor. She was well versed in the ancient arts of magic mushrooms and introduced the Western world to their consumption. She soon became a magnet for the rich and powerful who wanted to taste her psilocybin mushrooms. She was born in 1894 and died in 1985, so she saw the world change dramatically during her lifetime. 

She allowed foreigners into her healing evenings, known as veladas.

Credit: YouTube / Vice

She became legendary, as City A.M. reported in 2018: “It was here that, in 1955, R Gordon Wasson, a vice-president of JP Morgan and amateur ethnomycologist, consumed psilocybin mushrooms in a ceremony presided over by the healer Maria Sabina. The article Wasson subsequently wrote up for Life magazine – ‘Seeking the Magic Mushroom’ – transformed Sabina into a reluctant icon and caught the attention of scientists including Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary”. What followed is an enduring cult following of the plant. 

Mushroom tourism got a boost in the 1960s due to the high profile of some of Sabina’s visitors, who included The Beatles.

As EFE News Service reported back in 2007: “In the 1960s, the ‘high priestess of the mushrooms’ popularized this corner of Mexico located between the capital and Oaxaca city, a place visited by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan at the height of the psychedelic era”. We mean, the place has basically been a Hall of Fame! 

Consuming magic mushrooms is an ancient, ritualistic indigenous tradition that remains officially illegal.

Credit: High Times

Spanish friars first reported the use of psychedelic mushrooms in the region. Though magic mushrooms are illegal today, the authorities tend to turn a blind eye. This is due to the centrality to the customs and traditions of the Zapotecs, the area’s dominant indigenous group. Children as young as six participate in the ritualistic ingestion of shrooms.

However, tourism disrupts this long lasting understanding and ritual has turned into business.

Credit: YouTube. Vice

If you decide to try them for yourself, beware as the region is now swarmed with fake magic mushrooms offered by scammers. Anyway, San Jose del Pacifico is a natural joyita in itself, and you might get high just by taking in the landscape!

The state induced by the mushrooms is supposed to get you in touch with nature: with the soil below your feet and the celestial bodies above your head.

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous. 

According to man named Andres Garcia, he was introduced to the ritual ingestion of mushrooms by his grandfather. Just outside of Huautla, the man experienced mushrooms several times. He told High Times: “The first time I tried mushrooms I was 7 years old. And each time after that was different; each time there were messages and messages. Communication with the earth, the universe, the moon, especially the energy of the moon. The mushroom shows you everything—about your errors, your problems, all the good you’ve done, all the bad you’ve done. It’s something personal.”

Even though mushrooms are widely available in Oaxaca they are not for everyone, specially not for those who disrespect the ritual and want to do mushrooms just for some mindless fun.

Credit: Musrooms-in-Oaxaca. Digital image. Own Mexico

The magic mushroom tourism industry has brought an steady income to Huautla de Jimenez, the original stomping grounds of Maria Sabina. As reported by Juan Ramon Peña in EFE News Services, “visitors are greeted when they get off the bus by boys who offer to help them found the hallucinogenic fungi”. The wide availability of mushrooms is un secreto a voces. However, each person’s brain chemistry is different and you need to have an experienced guide to help you on a mushroom-induced trip. 

And tourism has put the sustainability of the species at stake.

Credit: User comment on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_XnzIYmUYw

The lack of regulation translates into indiscriminate picking. Of course, traditional owners of the land are affected and that is just not fair. 

Magic mushrooms have a good rep, but they are also unpredictable.

Credit: 2037. Digital image. The Guardian.

Several recent studies indicate that magic mushrooms could have medical benefits in people suffering from mental health issues. As reported by The Guardian earlier this year in relation to a study conducted at Imperial College London: “Magic mushrooms may effectively ‘reset’ the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests”. However, this study was done in a controlled environment. Doing mushrooms can have unpredictable effects that some people have described as a “bad trip”

Note: the consumptions of magic mushrooms is illegal throughout Mexico and only specific Indigenous groups can consume them for spiritual purposes. We do not condone the consumption of illegal substances. This article is for informational purposes only.

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Culture

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day! After a war that lasted over 11 years, Mexico achieved independence from Spanish rule and would begin a path toward self-determination. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence. Yes, decolonize! 

To celebrate Mexican history, we’ll be focusing on one hero today, not of the Mexican War of Independence but of the Mexican Revolution. Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is recognized as the first trans soldier in the Mexican military’s history. A decorated colonel, Ávila lived as a man from the age of roughly 22 or 24 until the day he died at 95 years old. 

While some believe it was Ávila’s wealthy family that allowed him to live life as his truest self, it certainly may have helped, but his courage in battle and in life must be honored and celebrated. Ávila’s identity was not always met with kindness, but the soldier was well-equipped to deal with challenges to his gender. The pistol-whipping colonel was a ladies man, skilled marksmen, and hero. This is the story of Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila. 

Amelio Robles Ávila

Amelio Robles Ávila was born to a wealthy family on November 3, 1889, in Xochipala, Guerrero. In his youth, Ávila attended a Catholic school for little girls where he was taught to cook, clean, and sew. However, at a young age, he began to express his gender identity. He showed an aptitude for things that were, at the time perceived to be, masculine like handling weapons, taming horses, and marksmanship. 

Perhaps, it was a natural response, if not the only response, to being pressured to conform to a gender identity that isn’t yours —  Ávila was perceived as stubborn, rebellious, and too much to handle for the school nuns. But it would be his tenacity and obstinance that served him in the long run. 

In 1911, when Ávila was arranged to be married to a man, he enlisted as a revolutionary instead. 

Not a woman dressed as a man, just a man.

To force the resignation of President Porfirio Dîaz and later, to ensure a social justice-centered government, Mexico needed to engage much of its population in warfare. This meant that eventually women were welcomed with many limitations. Soldaderas were able to tend to wounded soldiers or provide food for the militia but were prohibited from combat and could not have official titles. 

Ávila legally changed his first name from Amelia to Amelio, cut his hair, and became one of Mexico’s most valuable and regarded revolutionaries. 

“To appear physically male, Robles Ávila deliberately chose shirts with large chest pockets, common in rural areas, and assumed the mannerisms common among men at the time,” according to History.com

While he was not the only person assigned female to adopt a male persona to join the war, unlike many others Ávila kept his name and lived as a man until the day he died. 

“After the war was over, their part in it was dissolved along with whatever rank they held during the fight, and they were expected to return to subservient roles. Some did,” writes Alex Velasquez of Into. “Others, like Amelio Robles Ávila, lived the rest of their lives under the male identities they had adopted during the war.”

You come at the king, you best not miss.

Ávila fought courageously in the war until its end. Becoming a Colonel with his own command, he was decorated with three stars by revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata. He led and won multiple pivotal battles where his identity and contributions were respected. 

However, that respect was sometimes earned through empathy other times through the whip of his pistol. Ávila was a man and anyone who chose to ignore this fact would be taught by force. On one occasion, when a group of men tried to “expose” him by tearing off his clothes, Ávila shot and killed two of the men in self-defense. 

Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila

Unsurprisingly, Ávila was a bit of a ladies man, though he finally settled down with Angela Torres and together they adopted their daughter Regula Robles Torres. In 1970, he was recognized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense as a veterano as opposed to a veterana of the Mexican Revolution, thus Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is considered the first trans soldier documented in Mexican military history. The swag is infinite! 

After the war, Ávila was able to live comfortably as a man where he devoted his life to agriculture. He lived a life, that still for so many trans people around the world seems unfathomable. Colonel Ávila lived to be 95 years old and the rest  — no all of it — is history.