CABO VS MEXICO | ENRICH THIS YEAR'S SPRING BREAK
For the months of March and April, thousands of American college students will be making their annual migration to Mexican cities like Cabo, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta to lay out at resort beaches and pools and consume scary amounts of margaritas and tequila shots. This week-long hiatus from reality and responsibilities is Spring Break.
Staying in a resort, the popular choice for Spring Breakers, makes it difficult to experience the life and culture of Mexico or really anywhere around the world, but it doesn’t make it impossible. I want to share some simple things you can do to engage with the local culture a bit more this Spring Break, even if you are staying in a resort. Because, while there is nothing wrong with a week dedicated to beaches, drinking, and friends, all of those things will be enriched if you truly take advantage of the fact that you are in a foreign country.
When you choose to stay at an all-inclusive resort in another country, there is a high chance the only real conversations you will have there are with people of the same nationality. Aside from receiving service from resort staff, you could easily go to Mexico without speaking to a single Mexican.
Similarly, you could go without trying any authentic Mexican cuisine. Resorts cater to Western tastes. This means the menus will almost always offer American cuisine and the Mexican cuisine offered will include dishes Americans are familiar with such as chips & salsa, nachos, and tacos (Sample Menus).
Eating the food from another country or speaking to people from the place you are visiting are two of the simplest ways to experience another culture. Even when staying in an all-inclusive resort there is no excuse for not at least trying to do these things. Since you are likely spending a lot of time near the bar, why not strike up a conversation with the bar tender? Whether the question is “What’s your favorite drink to make?” or “Where did you grow up?”, it will establish a human connection with someone from the country of which you are merely a guest.
As far as making the effort to try authentic Mexican food while in Mexico, here are a few traditional dishes to seek out that you won’t find on most American-Mexican restaurant menus: Chilaquiles (a breakfast dish), Mole (a rich sauce often served over meat), or Chiles en nogada (a mix of chopped up meat, fruits, and spices). Even if these dishes are not offered on any resort menus, the resort staff will be more than happy to recommend local restaurants and even arrange transportation to and from them. Some resorts even have a list of local restaurants readily available on their website.
Taking these small extra steps to interact with Mexican culture on your trip will only enrich the overall experience. Engaging with another culture never has to be a chore, but rather an experience that will expand your view of the world without taking away from the other planned fun on a school-free week.
The fact is, students that travel to another country without interacting with anyone from there on a personal level are missing out. If you get the privilege of traveling to another nation but don’t engage with any of the local culture, be it the people, the food, the music, etc…..then you haven’t really been there.