In October 2017 I flew into Mexico City and then spent two weeks in Puebla taking Spanish classes, followed by eight days exploring the state of Veracruz.

Itinerary

DayDaytimeNight
1Fly to Mexico City from USMexico City
2Mexico CityMexico City
3Mexico CityMexico City
4Mexico CityMexico City
5Bus to PueblaPuebla
6-19Puebla - 2 weeks of language study; Day trips to Tlaxcala and AtlixcoPuebla
20Bus to XalapaXalapa
21XalapaXalapa
22XalapaXalapa
23Bus to TlacotalpanTlacotalpan
24TlacotalpanTlacotalpan
25Bus to VeracruzVeracruz
26VeracruzVeracruz
27VeracruzVeracruz
28Fly back to US from Veracruz
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Over the years, I’ve attended five Spanish schools in four countries, but my experience at Livit Immersion Center in Puebla in fall of 2017 has been the best so far.

Why Mexico?

The streets of Puebla, Mexico are filled with gorgeous houses like this.

The streets of Puebla are filled with gorgeous houses like this.

As a fifteen-year-old, I spent a summer on a language exchange in Veracruz and fell in love with Mexico. These days, between drug-related violence and devastating earthquakes, the country receives more than its share of bad press. However, I believe travelers who do their homework can still safely enjoy this incredible destination.

My love affair with Mexico continues, especially with its gorgeous colonial cities, and I visit a couple of times a year. I’m fascinated by places like Mexico City, Guanajuato, Puebla, Zacatecas, Morelia, and Mérida, none of which feature on the US State Department’s no-go list. Of course, you should always do your own research on current conditions when planning your trip.

Mexican Spanish

Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico

Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico

Mexican Spanish is my favorite Latin American variant of the language. It was the accent I learned at school growing up in Texas, and for me, it remains the clearest and easiest to understand. Many other Spanish learners I know have commented the same thing. Additionally, the abundance of Mexican movies and TV shows makes it easy to practice listening comprehension at home. Mexican Spanish is rich in creative slang and witty double entendres. It also incorporates many words from indigenous languages like Náhuatl, adding to its color and diversity. Read More

Traditional candied fruits, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes for Day of the Dead, Tlaxcala

Traditional candied fruits, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes for Day of the Dead, Tlaxcala

Tiny Tlaxcala, the capital of Mexico’s smallest state, is often overlooked by travelers, but its relaxed colonial charms make it well worth a visit.

Tlaxcala is an easy day trip from Puebla. You can also visit from Mexico City, but the bus ride is closer to two hours one way. In Puebla, I took an Uber to the CAPU bus station. Upon entering the station hall, the appropriately green ticket booth for the Verdes line is on the left. Buses leave frequently. A one-way ticket is MX$26 (about US$1.40) and the trip takes around an hour. These are second-class buses with no toilets but perfectly comfortable for a short journey. Read More

Netflix recently started adding Mexican comedy specials to its lineup. Watching stand-up is a great way to learn Mexican Spanish since it’s full of colloquial expressions and pop culture references.

If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, I recommend watching with Spanish subtitles as studies have shown it enhances language learning. I also note down any interesting new vocabulary and add it to my Anki flashcards later.

Warning: Mexican humor frequently relies on ethnic stereotypes and is often extremely politically incorrect. I have omitted the worst offenders from this list, but still be prepared for some cringeworthy moments. However, if you can get past the occasional tasteless joke, you’ll be rewarded with cultural insights as well as cool slang to impress your Mexican friends.

1. Sofía Niño de Rivera: Expuesta (2016)

Sofía Niño de Rivera: Expuesta - Netflix comedy special

If you watch one Mexican comedy special on Netflix, make it this one. A pioneer of Mexico’s stand-up scene, Sofía Niño de Rivera’s brand of self-deprecating humor is darkly hilarious. A good opportunity to pick up common groserías and gain insights about Mexican culture like the mutual disdain between chilangos — Mexico City residents — and the rest of the country. Read More

Mexico is one of my favorite destinations; between trips, I pacify my wanderlust with Mexican travel writing. As an expat lit junkie, I especially enjoy the unique perspective provided by Mexico’s long-time foreign residents. Here’s a list of my favorite Mexpat lit: fiction and nonfiction books about Mexico written by expat authors.

First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st CenturyFirst Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century

by David Lida (2009)

A must-read if you are going to Mexico City. David Lida is an American journalist and writer who has called the city home since 1990. His writing offers enlightening insights into the Mexican culture and psyche. A fascinating series of chapters riffing on different aspects of life in the capital, from lucha libre to street food to strip clubs. Read More