First rule: There are no rules. These resources are completely free and at your disposal. Use as much, or as little, as you want. Study casually, or work to create a portfolio of academic work that will blow the socks off of the educational establishment.
Feel free to adapt the materials for your own purposes. We expect families, business people, backpackers, college students, high school kids, middle aged vacationers, and retirees who are on a late life adventure to take these materials and run with them. We’d be very happy for teachers or travel group leaders to add these materials to their study abroad packets as well.
The nature of open source is collaboration, so please feel free to contribute when you become aware of resources we haven’t listed, or you have project ideas that we haven’t developed. Send us your work and inspire others to reach higher and deeper as they travel!
Our goal with this project is to inspire adventure and further education through experiential learning around the world. Please send us a note and let us know how you used these resources!
Buffet Style Learning
Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in Mexico?
- Two books
- Two films
- Three articles
- One Problem & Solution or Project Option
- One Cultural Assignment
Table of Contents
- Books for Kids
- Project Options
- Problems & Solutions
- Cultural Assignments
- Create Your Own Coursework
Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel -Fiction
Each chapter of screenwriter Esquivel’s utterly charming interpretation of life in turn-of-the-century Mexico begins with a recipe–not surprisingly, since so much of the action of this exquisite first novel (a bestseller in Mexico) centers around the kitchen, the heart and soul of a traditional Mexican family.
The youngest daughter of a well-born rancher, Tita has always known her destiny: to remain single and care for her aging mother. When she falls in love, her mother quickly scotches the liaison and tyrannically dictates that Tita’s sister Rosaura must marry the luckless suitor, Pedro, in her place. But Tita has one weapon left–her cooking. Esquivel mischievously appropriates the techniques of magical realism to make Tita’s contact with food sensual, instinctual and often explosive. Forced to make the cake for her sister’s wedding, Tita pours her emotions into the task; each guest who samples a piece bursts into tears.
Esquivel does a splendid job of describing the frustration, love and hope expressed through the most domestic and feminine of arts, family cooking, suggesting by implication the limited options available to Mexican women of this period. Tita’s unrequited love for Pedro survives the Mexican Revolution the births of Rosaura and Pedro’s children, even a proposal of marriage from an eligible doctor. In a poignant conclusion, Tita manages to break the bonds of tradition, if not for herself, then for future generations.
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait
by Carlos Fuentes -Biography
The intimate life of artist Frida Kahlo is wonderfully revealed in the illustrated journal she kept during her last 10 years. This passionate and at times surprising record contains the artist’s thoughts, poems, and dreams; many reflecting her stormy relationship with her husband, artist Diego Rivera, along with 70 mesmerising watercolour illustrations.
The text entries in brightly coloured inks make the journal as captivating to look at as it is to read. Her writing reveals the artist’s political sensibilities, recollections of her childhood, and her enormous courage in the face of more than thirty-five operations to correct injuries she had sustained in an accident at the age of eighteen.
Palenque (Unearthing Ancient Worlds)
by Deborah Kops
In the Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, nestled on a thickly wooded ridge, are the ancient ruins of Palenque (pah-LEN-keh). Occupied for several hundred years, from 400 to 800 A.D, it represents the western regional variant of Classic Maya civilization. It is believed to be one of the most important cities of its day during the Mayan period.
The hieroglyphic inscriptions found at Palenque were the inspiration for the modern epigraphic understanding of the ancient Maya writing system. These inscriptions tell the dynastic history of a series of rulers the most famous being Pakal, who is buried in a sarcophagus in a chamber below the Temple of the Inscriptions. The first European to visit the ruins and publish an account was Father Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada in 1567. Archaeologists estimate that only five percent of the total city has been uncovered.
This Is Mexico: Tales of Culture and Other Complications
by Carol Merchasin
This Is Mexico is a collection of essays on the often magical and mysterious—and sometimes heartrending—workings of everyday life in Mexico, written from the perspective of an American expatriate.
By turns humorous and poignant, Merchasin provides an informed look at Mexican culture and history, exploring everything from healthcare, Mexican-style, to religious rituals; from the educational role of the telenovela to the cultural subtleties of the Spanish language. Written with a clear eye for details, a warm heart for Mexico, and a lively sense of humor, This Is Mexico is an insider’s look at the joys, sorrows, and challenges of life in this complex country.
The Cenotes of the RIVIERA MAYA
by STEVE PENN GERRARD
A complete guide to snorkeling, cavern and cave diving the cenotes of the Riviera Maya.
This book includes photographs, maps, and provides details of where and how to swim, dive, and enjoy these beautiful cenotes located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Loco Adventures – From Sea to Cenotes on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast: Diving and Snorkeling in the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya
by Kay Walten
Loco Gringo has created a series of travel guides written by locals who live in the Riviera Maya and Yucatan. These travel guides give you many options to explore local cultural sites, activities, historical towns and regional foods.
Dive or Snorkel the second largest Barrier Reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. From Cancun to Xcalak you can dive or snorkel over 400 kilometers of barrier reef which is home to hundreds of coral types and species of fish. Find out how you can snorkel with the world’s largest fish in the world, the Whale Shark, or experience one of the worlds most unique diving and snorkeling experiences, cenotes. Each Riviera Maya city has dive centers and local guides who are passionate about the sea and cenotes, delivering daily tours to visitors and locals who want to explore this portion of the planet.
More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico
by Alice Driver
In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, people disappear, their bodies dumped in deserted city lots or jettisoned in the unforgiving desert. All too many of them are women.
“Advances the line of critical work on the relationship of violence, death, memory, gender, and representation along the U.S.-Mexico border.”—Ignacio Corona, co-editor of Gender Violence at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Media Representation and Public Response
“Well-written and engaging. The methodology is appropriately interdisciplinary, and the juxtaposition of a broad array of texts is original and interesting.”—Rosa Linda Fregoso, editor of Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas
Queen of the South
by Arturo Perez-Reverte – Fiction
Teresa Mendoza’s boyfriend is a drug smuggler who the narcos of Sinaloa, Mexico, call “the king of the short runway,” because he can get a plane full of coke off the ground in three hundred yards. But in a ruthless business, life can be short, and Teresa even has a special cell phone that Guero gave her along with a dark warning. If that phone rings, it means he’s dead, and she’d better run, because they’re coming for her next.
Then the call comes.
In order to survive, she will have to say goodbye to the old Teresa, an innocent girl who once entrusted her life to a pinche narco smuggler. She will have to find inside herself a woman who is tough enough to inhabit a world as ugly and dangerous as that of the narcos-a woman she never before knew existed. Indeed, the woman who emerges will surprise even those who know her legend, that of the Queen of the South.
Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness
by Alfredo Corchado
In the last decade, more than 100,000 people have been killed or disappeared in the Mexican drug war, and drug trafficking there is a multibillion-dollar business. In a country where the powerful are rarely scrutinized, noted Mexican-American journalist Alfredo Corchado refuses to shrink from reporting on government corruption, murders in Juárez, or the ruthless drug cartels of Mexico. One night, Corchado received a tip that he could be the next target of the Zetas, a violent paramilitary group—and that he had twenty-four hours to find out if the threat was true. Midnight in Mexico is the story of one man’s quest to report the truth of his country—as he races to save his own life.
by James A Michner
Pulitzer Prize–winning author James A. Michener, whose novels hurtle from the far reaches of history to the dark corners of the world, paints an intoxicating portrait of a land whose past and present are as turbulent, fascinating, and colorful as any other on Earth.
When an American journalist travels to report on the upcoming duel between two great matadors, he is ultimately swept up in the dramatic story of his own Mexican ancestry—from the brilliance and brutality of the ancients, to the iron fist of the invading Spaniards, to modern Mexico, fighting through dust and bloodshed to build a nation upon the ashes of revolution. Architectural splendors, frenzied bullfights, horrific human sacrifice: Michener weaves them all into an epic human story that ranks with the best of his beloved bestselling novels.
Mexico City Street Food: A travel guide for the curious eater. How to safely enjoy the delicious foods from the street vendors of Mexico City.
by Ron Upshaw
It would be a crime to miss out on the vibrant street food scene when traveling to Mexico City. The sprawling metropolis has over 20 million residents, and most of the locals eat at least a meal a day at one of the various food vendors that set up shop on the sidewalks throughout the city.
This e-book will give you the confidence to jump right in and eat like a local. In addition to describing everything from the perfect burrito to torta pambaco, the author also created nine video vignettes to show you what to look for on your travel adventure.
Mexico City is an amazing place. One of the crown jewels to its legacy is the creation of one of the worlds favorite cuisines. It is a humble food, but when executed correctly, you’d be hard pressed to find a more delicious menu.
Fire & Blood: A History of Mexico
by T. R. Fehrenbach
There have been many Mexicos: the country of varied terrain, of Amerindian heritage, of the Spanish Conquest, of the Revolution, and of the modern era of elections and the rule of bankers. Mexico was forged in the fires of successive civilizations, and baptized with the blood of millions, all of whom added tragic dimensions to the modern Mexican identity.
T. R. Fehrenbach brilliantly delineates the contrasts and conflicts between them, unraveling the history while weaving a fascinating tapestry of beauty and brutality: the Amerindians, who wrought from the vulnerable land a great indigenous Meso-American civilization by the first millennium B.C.; the successive reigns of Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Mexic masters, who ruled through an admirably efficient bureaucracy and the power of the priests, propitiating the capricious gods with human sacrifices; the Spanish conquistadors, who used smallpox, technology, and their own ruthless individualism to erect a new tyranny over the ruins of the old; the agony of independent Mexico, struggling with the weight of its overwhelming past and tremendous potential.
Throughout the narrative the author resurrects the great personalities of Mexican history, such as Motecuhzoma, Cortes, Santa Anna, Juárez, Maximilian, Díaz, Pancho Villa, and Zapata. Fehrenbach, who has updated this edition to include recent events, has created a work of scholarly perspective and gripping prose.
The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics
by Gilbert M. Joseph & Timothy H. Henderson
The Mexico Reader is a vivid introduction to muchos Méxicos—the many Mexicos, or the many varied histories and cultures that comprise contemporary Mexico. Unparalleled in scope and written for the traveler, student, and expert alike, the collection offers a comprehensive guide to the history and culture of Mexico—including its difficult, uneven modernization; the ways the country has been profoundly shaped not only by Mexicans but also by those outside its borders; and the extraordinary economic, political, and ideological power of the Roman Catholic Church. The book looks at what underlies the chronic instability, violence, and economic turmoil that have characterized periods of Mexico’s history while it also celebrates the country’s rich cultural heritage.
A diverse collection of more than eighty selections, The Mexico Reader brings together poetry, folklore, fiction, polemics, photoessays, songs, political cartoons, memoirs, satire, and scholarly writing. Many pieces are by Mexicans, and a substantial number appear for the first time in English.
Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya
by William Carleson
In 1839, rumors of extraordinary yet baffling stone ruins buried within the unmapped jungles of Central America reached two of the world’s most intrepid travelers. Seized by the reports, American diplomat John Lloyd Stephens and British artist Frederick Catherwood—both already celebrated for their adventures in Egypt, the Holy Land, Greece, and Rome—sailed together out of New York Harbor on an expedition into the forbidding rainforests of present-day Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. What they found would upend the West’s understanding of human history.
In the tradition of Lost City of Z and In the Kingdom of Ice, former San Francisco Chronicle journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist William Carlsen reveals the remarkable story of the discovery of the ancient Maya.
Enduring disease, war, and the torments of nature and terrain, Stephens and Catherwood meticulously uncovered and documented the remains of an astonishing civilization that had flourished in the Americas at the same time as classic Greece and Rome—and had been its rival in art, architecture, and power. Their masterful book about the experience, written by Stephens and illustrated by Catherwood, became a sensation, hailed by Edgar Allan Poe as “perhaps the most interesting book of travel ever published” and recognized today as the birth of American archaeology. Most important, Stephens and Catherwood were the first to grasp the significance of the Maya remains, understanding that their antiquity and sophistication overturned the West’s assumptions about the development of civilization.
The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico
by Miguel Leon-Portilla
For hundreds of years, the history of the conquest of Mexico and the defeat of the Aztecs has been told in the words of the Spanish victors. Miguel León-Portilla has long been at the forefront of expanding that history to include the voices of indigenous peoples. In this new and updated edition of his classic The Broken Spears, León-Portilla has included accounts from native Aztec descendants across the centuries. These texts bear witness to the extraordinary vitality of an oral tradition that preserves the viewpoints of the vanquished instead of the victors. León-Portilla’s new Postscript reflects upon the critical importance of these unexpected historical accounts.
Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico (Blacks in the Diaspora)
by Herman L Bennett
Asking readers to imagine a history of Mexico narrated through the experiences of Africans and their descendants, this book offers a radical reconfiguration of Latin American history. Using ecclesiastical and inquisitorial records, Herman L. Bennett frames the history of Mexico around the private lives and liberty that Catholicism engendered among enslaved Africans and free blacks, who became majority populations soon after the Spanish conquest. The resulting history of 17th-century Mexico brings forth tantalizing personal and family dramas, body politics, and stories of lost virtue and sullen honor. By focusing on these phenomena among peoples of African descent, rather than the conventional history of Mexico with the narrative of slavery to freedom figured in, Colonial Blackness presents the colonial drama in all its untidy detail.
Children’s Books – A powerful strategy for teenagers and adults to learn about a new topic is to start with children’s books. They are quick and easy to read and may give you an idea of which topics interest you most.
Life in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book
Customs, traditions and activities of daily life in ancient Mexico — revealed in 41 authentically detailed drawings. Dramatic scenes of mysterious religious rites, warriors in battle, depictions of Mayan sculptors at work, astronomers taking sightings, an Aztec wedding, panoramic views of cities, much more. Descriptive captions.
P is for Pinata: A Mexico Alphabet
by Tony Johnston
The country of Mexico has long been a popular travel destination. But there’s much more to enjoy and appreciate than just sunshine and warm temperatures when exploring this region with its ancient history and proud traditions. Enjoy an A-Z tour of our neighbor to the south in P is for Piñata: A Mexico Alphabet. Young readers can visit the tomb of a Mayan king, experience the life of the vaquero (Mexican cowboy), attend the world-famous Ballet Folklórico de Mèxico, and sample the everyday treat that was once known as the “food of the gods.” From folk art to famous people to the original “hot dog,” the treasures of Mexico are revealed in P is for Piñata. Vibrant artwork perfectly captures the flavor, texture, and spirit of its landscape and culture.To find recipes, games, interactives maps and much more for this title visit www.discovertheworldbooks.com!
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras—skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities—came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852–1913). In a country that was not known for freedom of speech, he first drew political cartoons, much to the amusement of the local population but not the politicians.
He continued to draw cartoons throughout much of his life, but he is best known today for his calavera drawings. They have become synonymous with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Juxtaposing his own art with that of Lupe’s, author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the remarkable life and work of a man whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity.
Crossing the Wire
by Will Hobbs
When falling crop prices threaten his family with starvation, fifteen-year-old Victor Flores heads north in an attempt to “cross the wire” from Mexico into the United States so he can find work and send money home. But with no coyote money to pay the smugglers who sneak illegal workers across the border, Victor must struggle to survive as he jumps trains, stows away on trucks, and hikes grueling miles through the Arizona desert.
Victor’s journey is fraught with danger, freezing cold, scorching heat, hunger, and dead ends. It’s a gauntlet run by millions attempting to cross the border. Through Victor’s often desperate struggle, Will Hobbs brings to life one of the great human dramas of our time.
The Ancient Maya
by Jackie Maloy
This is a grade school primer on history and archeology of Central America in general and the fascinating Maya people specifically. Covers the subject in a thorough and interesting manner. Story of a advanced civilization who moved human existence forward in giant steps. Clear description of a complex society. – by Cheyenne
Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs: World Cultures through Time
by Wendy Conklin M.A.
The Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs were three groups of people found living in the ancient Americas, including the Andes Mountains and a city named Tenochtitlan. This intriguing book features details about these three incredible civilizations and explores how each of them fell when Spanish explorers found their settlements.
Through detailed images and maps, captivating sidebars and facts, and an accessible glossary and index, readers will learn about leaders like Moctezuma as well as how these civilizations used farming, hieroglyphics, and glyphs to create their unique cultures.
Two White Rabbits
by Jairo Buitrago
In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the U.S. border.
They travel mostly on the roof of a train known as The Beast, but the little girl doesn’t know where they are going. She counts the animals by the road, the clouds in the sky, the stars. Sometimes she sees soldiers. She sleeps, dreaming that she is always on the move, although sometimes they are forced to stop and her father has to earn more money before they can continue their journey.
La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol / The Woman Who Outshone the Sun
More beautiful than the sun, loved by the whole of nature, purveyor of quiet goodwill, Lucia Zenteno is a part of the story-telling tradition of Mexico’s Zapotec Indians. In this English-Spanish retelling, Lucia’s fate at the hands of unkind strangers is captured in artwork glowing with color and vitality. When the dazzling girl arrives in a village, it is no surprise that the river falls in love with her, rising “from its bed . . . to flow through her shining black hair.”
The villagers are less welcoming, however, and only on discovering the loss of their glorious river do they repent of their cruelty toward the mysterious Lucia. While the plot is somewhat limited and moralistic (the Golden Rule is heavily applied) and the writing occasionally plodding, much of the imagery is refreshing–“she combed out the fishes, she combed out the otters.” Surreal illustrations, calling to mind a stylistic mixture of William Joyce and Karen Barbour, highlight the richness of the folktale convention and perfectly capture a sense of place. Ages 7-up.
Who Was Frida Kahlo
by Sarah Fabiny
You can always recognize a painting by Kahlo because she is in nearly all–with her black braided hair and colorful Mexican outfits. A brave woman who was an invalid most of her life, she transformed herself into a living work of art.
As famous for her self-portraits and haunting imagery as she was for her marriage to another famous artist, Diego Rivera, this strong and courageous painter was inspired by the ancient culture and history of her beloved homeland, Mexico. Her paintings continue to inform and inspire popular culture around the world.
The Pot that Juan Built
by Nancy Andrews-Goebel
Quezada creates stunning pots in the traditional style of the Casas Grandes people, including using human hair to make brushes and cow dung to feed the fire. This real-life story is written in the form of “The House That Jack Built,” and relays how JuanÂ’s pioneering work has changed a poor village into a prosperous community of world-class artists. Illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz.
Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask
by Xavier Garza
In Xavier Garza’s bilingual kids’ book, young Carlitos attends his first lucha libre match in Mexico City. At ringside, Carlitos sees the famous luchador—the Man in the Silver Mask, a man whose eyes look terribly familiar. The masked wrestler even smiles at Carlitos!
He is mesmerized as the Man in the Silver Mask is pitted against the terrible forces of evil—los rudos, the bad guys of lucha libre. They make the audience boo and hiss! In the end, though, the Man in the Silver Mask triumphs and, in the process, gains a lifelong fan.
Click here to watch online.
Using text from Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes and ancient Aztec and Mayan poetry, Mexico leads viewers on a visual journey through this country’s rich and varied past and present. Stunning images and a dramatic musical score by Daniel Valdez create a vivid, insightful portrait of the Mexican people and their culture. – IMDB
Hecho en Mexico
Starring Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, and Alfred Molina, ‘Frida’ chronicles the life Frida Kahlo shared unflinchingly and openly with Diego Rivera, as the young couple took the art world by storm. From her complex and enduring relationship with her mentor and husband to her illicit and controversial affair with Leon Trotsky, to her provocative and romantic entanglements with women, Frida Kahlo lived a bold and uncompromising life as a political, artistic, and sexual revolutionary.
Missing Young Women
This gripping documentary investigates the disappearance of young women from assembly plants that line the Mexican-American border.
The Fruits of Mexico’s Cheap Labor
In northern Mexico, farm workers who pick produce bound for US supermarkets earn as little as $7 a day. They follow the harvest, traveling between the states of Sinaloa and Baja California as internal migrants in their own country. With daycare not an option, children join their parents on the job, sometimes working in 100-degree heat.
Video of Mexico in the 1930s
These charming home movies were made by the artists Stefan Hirsch and Elsa Rogo while living in Mexico during the 1930s and early 1940s. Included are seven small reels of black and white film, and two reels of color film, preserved with funding provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation.
While there is limited documentation of the film footage, several of the reels appear to have been shot in the town of Tehuantepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and some of the footage made have been made in Taxco, located in the state of Guerrero. Shown are market scenes, people working, a procession and festival, and scenes of village life that appear to have been staged with the involvement of the villagers. Elsa Rogo ran an art school for children during her years in Taxco, and some of the kids shown in these movies may have been students of hers as well.
The first reel of color film was shot on Kodachrome, with its famously rich color. The second reel of color film, shown in the last few minutes of the video, was shot on the more rare color stock known as Dufaycolor. It is rare for amateur film from this era to exist in color, because these were relatively new film stocks not widely available to consumers at the time.
Why Foreign Retirees Are Flocking to Mexico
In Mexico, seniors are traditionally cared for in the homes of relatives. But a boom of foreign retirees, many of them Americans, have begun moving to Mexico to live out their years, paying much less for independent and assisted living than in other countries. Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery reports.
Like Water for Chocolate / Como Agua Para Chocolate
In a forgotten Mexico Tita and Pedro fall in love, but are forbidden to marry. Mama Elena sees Tita’s role as her caretaker for life – no youngest daughter has ever married and her daughter will not be the first to break tradition. Tita’s heart breaks when her mother instead offers to Pedro her other daughter, and he accepts. Now they live in the same house, and Mama Elena cannot forbid their love as she did their marriage. –IMDB
Meth and Madness in Mexico
The Storm That Swept Mexico
A documentary about the revolution of Mexico. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Between Borders: American Migrant Crisis
From Central America, thousands of children fleeing poverty and danger make multiple attempts to reach the United States despite increased efforts by Mexico to turn them back.
National Geographic The Aztecs Empire Documentary
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to 16th centuries. mean “people from Aztlan”, a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking culture of the time, and later adopted as the word to define the Mexica people. Often the term “Aztec” refers exclusively to the Mexica people of Tenochtitlan
Mexico’s Third Gender
Every November a celebration known as the Vigil of the Authentic Intrepid Searchers of Danger takes place in the city of Juchitán, Oaxaca, in Mexico. In this community of Zapotec indigenous people, it’s generally understood that there are men, there are women, and there are muxes (pronounced “mooshez”). Muxes are born men, raised as women, and live as women all their lives. The Vigil—or Vela—is the most important event of the year for the muxes of Juchitán, as one of them is crowned queen during the festival. In this documentary we travel to Juchitán to meet members of the “third gender” of Zapotec culture, and to hang out at the Vigil, which was honestly one of the best parties we’ve ever been to.
A Mexican Sound – a documentary about Mexico’s mountain music
Experience “son huasteco,” a style of music from the mountains of northeast Mexico.
Teotihuacan of Mexico | The City of Gods
Teotihuacan also written Teotihuacán, was an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub valley of the Valley of Mexico, located in the State of Mexico 30 miles (48 km) northeast of modern-day Mexico City, known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds; the Avenue of the Dead; and the small portion of its vibrant murals that have been exceptionally well-preserved.
National Geographic Return to the Giant Crystal Cave
It looks like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and is nearly as hard to get into, but that hasn’t stopped explorers from uncovering new secrets in and around Mexico’s deep, deadly hot Cave of Crystals.
Outfitted with ice-cooled suits, teams have found biological mysteries, parallels with other planets, and the “Ice Palace,” an unexplored cavern lined with rare crystal formations—and just in time too. Parts of the complex may soon be returned to their natural, submerged states.
Peyote: Last of The Medicine Men – Huichol People of Mexico
In “Last of the Medicine Men,” British adventurer Benedict Allen introduces us to the Huichol people of Mexico, where he has the rare privilege of taking part in a ritual ceremony with peyote, the classic hallucinogen-containing (mescaline) cactus, to bring him at last “face-to-face” with the gods.
Cracking the Mayan Code
A documentary about how the Mayan gliphs were finally decoded, beginning at the ruins of Palenque, Mexico.
Mexico Lindo y Querido (Beautiful, Beloved Mexico)
Jarabe Tapatio (The Mexican Hat Dance)
La Cucaracha (The Cockroach)
Mayan Kids [Mayan History]
Wonderville – Frida Kahlo [Culture]
Geo Mexico [Recent News in Mexico]
The Mexico Report [Recent News in Mexico, Tourism]
Lonely Planet – Mexico [Geography, Cenotes, Tourism]
Wikipedia – Cenotes [Geography, Cenotes] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenote
Mexico Rises to 2nd on Happy Planet List (Aug 16, 2015)
Note: Be sure to read the comments for unique perspectives from locals that live in San Miguel de Allende
Mexican Immigrants in the United States (March 17, 2016)
Governor implicated in Tulum Evictions (June 2016) [Government Corruption]
Picking Tobacco Under an Unforgiving Sun in Mexico – New York Times
Research and write about an aspect of the history. Some possibilities to get you started:
- Mayan Civilization
- Aztec Civilization
- Toltec Civilization
- Mixtec Civilization
- Olmec Civiliazation
- Other ancient civilizations (there are many!)
- Legend of the origin of Mexico City (hint: it’s on the flag)
Mexico is a land dotted with ancient ruins from both the Mayans and the Aztecs. Identify three archaeological features common in these societies and discuss their importance. For instance, the palace, the ball court, numbers, sculptures, pyramids, etc.
Visit as many sites as you can, preferably from both people groups; compare and contrast.
Top 10 Archeological Sites in Mexico:
- Teotihucan (outside Mexico City)
- Tenochtitlan (underneath downtown Mexico City)
- Chichen Itza (Yucatan)
- Coba (tallest pyramid in the Yucatan, only one you can still climb)
- Tulum (Yucatan)
- Uxmal (nearer to Merida)
- Palenque (near town of the same name)
- Monte Alban (near Oaxaca)
- Olmec Heads (near Veracruz)
- Balamku (near Campeche)
Research the significance of Sept. 16th, Day of the Dead, and Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Describe the cultural customs associated with these Mexican holidays. What are their origins? How do they shape culture? What do they have in common? What is different?
Are there other Mexican holidays, either national, or local, that you find interesting? Have you ever heard of the Noche de los Rabanos, in Oaxaca? Make a project of investigating holidays and festivals in Mexico.
Almost every city in Mexico has a Benito Juarez Street. What do you think is the reason for this?
Find out who this man was. Why does he matter to Mexico? Write a short biography of his life.
Zocalo: Center of Community Life
On many Mexican city maps, you find the main square labeled “z?calo”. Discover the role of the z?calo in both past and present times. Spend some time in the zocalos of various towns, both small ones and large cities. Vary the time of day and the day of the week that you visit. What do you notice? How does the life of the zocalo change?
Chamula is a unique town high in the mountains of the State of Chiapas. This town holds a unique autonomous status within Mexico. Find out what this means and how this has impacted the town’s ability to retain its indigenous language and heritage.
Arts & Crafts
Study the art of a particular region and produce a multi-media project related to the art history and modern expression.
Some suggestions are:
- Black filagree pottery (Oaxaca)
- Guitar making (Paracho)
- Hand painted bird pottery (Tonala)
- Pinata making (everywhere)
- Leather work (Guadalajara)
- Blown glass (Baja, and other places)
- Textiles (locally everywhere)
- “Yarn paintings” Huichol Art (Nayarit, Durango, Jalisco)
- Huichol bead work (Nayarit, Durango, Jalisco)
- Basket weaving (locally, everywhere)
- Silver work (Veracruz)
Rivera & Kahlo: Mexico’s Most Famous Artists
Two of the most famous Mexican artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, were married to each other and are known for their tumultuous relationship.
Frida Kahlo is known for portraying more of her emotions in her work. Choose a few Frida Kahlo paintings and discuss the deeper meaning she is conveying.
Diego Rivera is known for painting frescos that depict Mexican culture and history. Perhaps his most famous frescos are those that line the second story of the Presidential Palace in Mexico City. These are free to see, but you’ll need to show your passport and you cannot carry anything larger than a small purse into the building. Choose one of his murals. Discuss the controversy shown in the mural and its importance to depicting this time period in Mexico’s history.
Like Water for Chocolate: Birthplace & Culture
After reading or watching Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, explain the connection between birthplace and cultural traditions. Additionally, consider why the author made many of the choices she did when writing this novel, by reflection upon the questions here. Finally, cook two of the recipes from the book.
The purpose of this exercise is to get a well rounded picture of what it is like to live in Mexico. Conduct a series of interviews, at least three people, many more if you like:
People you might profile:
- Restaurant owners/workers
- Church official
- Government officials
- Doctors or Nurses or Pharmacist
- Street vendors
- Taxi or collective drivers
- Artists or Musicians or Craftsman
- NGO workers
- Long term expat running a business
- Long term expat retired
Study the Unique Geographical Features of Mexico
Examine the Geography of Mexico including the three lands (hot, temperate and cold) as well as geographic anomalies including the abundance of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Chicxulum Crater.
Explore the Meso-American Reef, the second largest reef in the world, either by snorkeling or scuba diving. Learn about life in the Caribbean Sea and keep track of those species that you see in their natural habitats. Track migration routes of manatees, whale sharks, Hawksbill Sea Turtles, or other sea life and be able to explain the purpose behind this migration.
In most homes and businesses, water cannot be drunk from the tap. Bottle watered is both a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle and a daily expenditure for families. Often Coca-Cola and other sugary beverages are consumed in lieu of water. Examine the reasons why functioning infrastructure has not been put in place. What are the local solutions? Are there any federal initiatives in the works? Propose actions that can be taken to ensure that all families, affluent and poor, have equal access to clean drinking water and see it as the first choice to quench thirst.
Garbage, Recycling & Sewer Systems
Toilet paper cannot be flushed because it will clog the sewer system. Empty lots are strewn with empty beverage containers, used diapers and other dirty garbage. Most households do not have the ability to dispose of plastics, glass or other recyclable materials separately from the rest of their garbage. Explore this issue and identify places in Mexico that are an example for the rest of the country.
Examine the data on the ZIKA virus. Learn what can be done to prevent its spreading, the health risks associated with it and high risk areas. Do your own analysis and make a statement on how great a risk ZIKA is for most humans. Statistically, should people not travel to Mexico and other ZIKA known locations?
Read the article on El Chapo and the Secret History of the El Chapo Crisis. How has his demise influenced life in Mexico and the US? Research several perspectives of the illicit drug trade from the perspective of small-time drug dealers, rich cartel, politicians, policeman, drug users and their families.
Immigration of Mexicans to the US is a hot topic in United States politics. Explore this topic writing about it from varying perspectives such as a Mexican citizen, an immigration official from the US, and a US politician.
Mexico has a reputation of government corruption at the highest levels. Examine the corruption issue, both past and present. How has it changed, or is it changing? Are there initiatives in place to reduce corruption? What effect are these having? Locally? Federally? What actions do you think should be taken to safeguard Mexico’s citizens from corrupt individuals?
This is a list of ideas for projects that you can take and run with. In order to get credit for these projects there needs to be an “output” of some measurable sort. Common options would include a video project, a blog post, an essay, a published piece of work, or a certificate of some sort documenting the experience (in the case of a class taken)
Study the Language
Record the number of hours of language instruction along with verification from the language school. One week (minimum) is recommended. There are numerous reputable language schools in all of the major traveler centers of Mexico, from Mexico City, to Cancun, to Oaxaca and elsewhere.
Sample the Foods
Document the experience of trying at least five brand new foods during your stay (a fun photo essay? or video?) Take it up a notch and learn to cook something local. Enroll in actual cooking classes, or learn from a local friend. Perhaps sample the best of Mexican street food? Find a way to document this experience.
Have a Meaningful Interaction With a Local
What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.
Document this interaction and how it impacted you.
Take a Class….
- Whatever interests you
Procure some form of documentation from the class provider to document your experience. You might also create a video, or a piece of art, or write about what you learned and how you learned it.
Mexico City has some amazing museums. The Museum of Anthropology is not to be missed, as it houses the best of the archeological finds from the ruin sites around the country. This is a great place to get an overview of the people groups historically. The Ballet Folklorico is not a museum, per se, but a live theater dance performance that is spectacular. You’ll learn much about the people groups and cultures of music and dance that form the fabric of Mexico in one evening.
Of course archeological sites dot the country and should be explored as often as possible. Try to go beyond the obvious two or three and visit some of the lesser known sites.
The only aquarium in the country is in Veracruz. It’s small, but worth a visit if you find yourself off the beaten track.
Save the ticket stubs and share something that you learned.
There are numerous volunteer opportunities available, both advertised on line and unadvertised locally. Look for them at a school, a social project, an NGO, teaching English, building project, or something entirely different.
Photos of work, or documentation from project leader are a couple of options for documenting this one. As is a write up of the organization, what they are doing and how you helped. Preferably this is more than one day.
Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay.
Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?
Through an organization like WWOOF, HelpX, or Workaway you can arrange for an opportunity to work in exchange for your room and board in a number of capacities, from farm labour to hospitality. Lots of students make use of these experiences to lower the cost of their travels, while at the same time learning valuable skills or “trying out” various career areas that interest them.
Request feedback in the form of a short evaluation that can be used later for a CV or reference
Public Transportation Project
Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in Thailand. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?
Attend a Religious Observance
One way to learn more about a country or culture is to study the religious aspect of life. Attend a church service, visit a shrine, or an indigenous ritual. Visit a religious festival or event. Or, if you’re very lucky, score an invitation to a wedding or funeral for a window into the way that religious ritual is woven into the fabric of life. Compare and contrast this to your other experiences, at home and abroad. What did you learn about Mexico and Mexican people as a result of this experience? How did it make you feel? What did you learn about yourself?
Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.
You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:
- Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
- Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
- Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?
Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.
Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the box and truly experience your education.
Do You Have Anything to Add to This Resource Page?
We’re actively seeking to grow these resources in an open-source spirit. Please email jenn(at)bootsnall(dot)com with your edits or submissions of new information or materials.
Mickelle spent 10 years as an elementary school teacher and math specialist, and 5 years working for a start-up building math software. When her kids were young, she decided to leave the workplace and focus on running the household. Almost instantly, the entire family was happier and healthier. Three years later, Mickelle and her husband went on a running adventure in Guatemala. While there they met an expat living with his wife and four boys in the mountains of Guatemala and loving every minute of it. Inspired by what they saw they decided they wanted to break the mold of corporate America and live an expat life. Six months later, in July 2014, they packed up the house, took the kids out of school and started driving south. For more than two years they slow traveled through Mexico and all of mainland Central America. In December 2016, Mickelle and her family will take their travels to Europe starting in the United Kingdom. You can follow their adventures on their blog at Sunglasses Required.