A margarita cocktail sits in front of a black book with traditionally styled calligraphy spelling Mexico and a copper vase with yellow petalled flowers

#Battersea Spanish on Tour: Mexico

Ben Hope (admin) Travel

#Battersea Spanish on Tour: Mexico

First night in Mexico City. We’ve abandoned the gridlocked traffic ( 20 million people and counting) to shoulder our way through surging, animated crowds in the Centro Historico, on our way to Plaza Garibaldi where the mariachi bands hang out. We shout at each other in a café where three mariachi bands play simultaneously at the decibel level of a jet engine. Outside might be quieter. Outside is just as riotously noisy. Welcome to Mexico.

Every morning I wake up, astonished to find myself here in another world with a different history, a different landscape, different languages – who knew people still spoke the languages of the Mayans and the Aztecs as well as Spanish? Oh, and we speak Spanish all day and in our dreams, thanks to Sara. What’s the word for “ overwhelmed”, Sara? Abrumado? Gracias!

Intenso, too. We shout at the masked villains of the Lucha Libre, just like the excited children around us. We get interviewed by Uruguayan TV outside Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. We gaze at ancient stone faces in the Museum of Anthropology and recognize the same faces in the living people on the streets around us. In the markets, sugar skulls, pumpkins, flowers, toys are piled in a Mexican palette of vivid blue, purple, yellow, pink and orange.

We climb the pyramid of the Sun and knock back margaritas in an underground cave. On the streets of Puebla, a splendid Spanish colonial city, trails of orange cempasuchils – marigolds – mark the shrines people are building for the Dia de Muertos. In Oaxaca overhead lines of cempasuchils flow to the cemeteries where graves have sprung to life in forests of flowers and candles. On the streets faces are painted into smiling skeletal masks, brass bands are animating the darkness, enterprising children act out scenes of murder and mayhem for pesos. Death and humour dance together but there is quiet remembrance and poetry too.

I didn’t expect to be moved but I am. I am moved by the gentleness of the people, by the love and respect with which heaps of flowers are turned into shrines, by the matter of fact duality which runs through Mexican life, art and history, life and death rolling into each other like night and day. I love the street music of guitars, violins, hurdy gurdys, human voices.

Seven hours of forested mountain roads from Oaxaca beach us in tropical Mazunte, eating fish fresh from the boats to the sound of the surf. We release tiny newborn turtles into the vastness of the Pacific. On our last night we have a Battersea Spanish party with our lovely Mexican guides from Exxi Mexico, write and read poetry, dance together. Gracias a Mexico! Hasta la proxima vez!


Lesley Garner

Writer, Journalist, Artist and member of Battersea Spanish

P.S. for the official soundtrack of the trip – here is the Spotify Playlist: #Batterseaspanishontour:Mexico