The Toad and Tikal

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Apple takes out her beloved red delicious and sparks a flame.

Inhaling slowly, letting the smoke dance through her lip rings, she pulls and pulls and pulls until she can pull no more. With a cough and a giggle she exhales as we pass the famous Kapok tree a few meters inside Tikal.

The gnarled face of Whistler perks up into a smile as he points far into the canopy, yells “monkey!”,  and then wails out a strange jingle from a small flute that dangles from his neck.

The monkey ignores. Apple laughs. Continue reading

Lucha Libre in Mexico City

*This is the final part of a 13-part series. Read part 12 here.*

Cat calls flood the stage as the balloon-breasted models strut down the aisle in high heels. Their hips sway back and forth as do the eyes of the hypnotized audience — left, right, left, right. Soon the music softens and the jumbo-tron explodes with highlight reels.

The first match of the night is about to begin here at Arena Mexico.

As the luchador (wrestler) walks down the grand stairs, stopping every few steps to power pose for the audience, the frantic cameraman positions himself at the bottom and points up, giving the Spandex Gods a larger-than-life feel.

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The Island of Dolls

*This is part 12 of a 13-part series. Read part 11 here. *

Perched atop a floating landmass in the canals of Xochimilco, just south of Mexico City, there lives The Island of Dolls (La Isla de Munecas). 

The landmass, as well as all the others nearby, was built by human hands over 1,000 years ago. Locals dug up glob-upon-glob of muddy earth and piled them into huge mounds. The mounds were layered with vegetation and other sediment to create a stable mass that rose above the water.

These small oases of fertile land were called chinampas . They were essential for providing food to the growing population of the Aztec Empire. But for my travel partner S. and I, the food we seek is a bit more strange than your average stalk of corn.

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Visiting Santa Muerte

*This is part 11 in a 13-part series. Read part 10 here.*

“Do you want to come along?” S. asks in an upbeat tone of voice.

“What are you crazy!” the heavily pierced backpacker yells and moments later, as if forgetting what she just said, she continues “You’ll be fine, just bring some mug money.”

Well that’s an uncomfortable jumble of words I say to myself before stuffing pesos in my empty pockets and making sure everything else is out. And off we go. Continue reading

A Ride To Matehuala

*This is part 9 of a 13-part series. Read part 8 here.*

“So two of our guys broke down right in Gypsy territory. They got a bad reputation for stealin’ things, so our guys are like pressed against their bikes, waiting for us to come bail them out. But this crowd starts moving towards them, real slowly. They have no idea what’s goin’ on. Suddenly though, it breaks in two and this tiny old woman walks down the center. Everyone is silent…” Continue reading

Guanajuato Mummies

*This is part 8 of a 13-part series. Read part 7 here.*

Some of the best pictures are never taken.

An elderly woman in a blue nightgown hobbles onto a antique balcony that crumbles with age. From her hands pours forth bread crumbs that fall off the ledge like an arced waterfall as fifty pigeons, their white wings fusing with the ochre background, dive to the cobblestone floor to feast. She watches contently, turns around, and heads back inside.

Not too far away, I am sitting on a small stool sipping rooibos tea. It’s 9 in the morning and I’ve fallen in love with Guanajuato. Continue reading

Into San Miguel de Allende

*This is part 7 of a 13-part series. Read part 6 here. *

Clutched between the corner and back hatch of the crammed pickup, he clasps his knees, sinks his head low, and sings. At first a faint sound but ever-so-quickly it grows; so the smile across his brothers face.

It’s the Imperial March from Star Wars.

“Well, pop culture travels far” I think to myself before steadying my posture as the car curves around the mountainous road that leads through the Sierra Gordas outside Jalpan de Serra. The soundtrack continues as we dash through Pinol de Amoles, a small mountain village in Queretaro state. Continue reading

Las Pozas, Surreal Mexico

*This is part 6 of a 13-part series. Read part 5 here.*

Scent is one of the most underrated sense impressions; it is also one of the most important for memory.

I can still recall that immense chasm of smell that existed between my dusty travel partner and I, on the one hand, and the recently showered and perfumed family on the other. They were kind enough to pick us up — after seeing us drenched in sweat on the side of the road — and I am grateful for that, but great-googly-moogly we smelled a hell of a lot oo-glier. Continue reading