We experienced some of Mexico's finest flavors and friendships without having to leave our own backyard.
Think Mexico is nothing but beaches? It’s time to take a second look - and I got to do just that without leaving my hometown of Ottawa by attending the Experience Mexico pavilion. The three day exhibition, hosted by the Mexico Tourism Board, was part of the Canada 150 celebrations honoring the anniversary of Canadian confederation and paying tribute to Canada and Mexico’s long friendship.
While no doubt some of that friendship is rooted in important trade deals and international agreements, I can’t help but think it’s because Mexicans and Canadians are so much alike. The pavilion reinforced this time and time again. Both countries love nature and wildlife. Both are growing their gastronomy scenes by leaps and bounds. Both love arts and artistic expression - both the old and the new. And both countries take pride in hospitality. While the pavilion immersed me in a different country for a few days, I couldn’t help but feel very much at home. Here are some of my favourite memories:
It’s true: Good times ARE built on tequila!
Bottoms up!! Mexico may be famous for margaritas - and Experience Mexico was offering up exquisite samples - but I soon learned there was so much more to discover. Like how tequila comes in so many different varieties and styles. Or that Mexico is embracing cutting edge mixology methods - both in the local bars and the resorts. I tasted one concoction that had lime and mint and tasted like garden-fresh cucumber. It was delicious - and just a bit dangerous. Meanwhile, Ryan took his research responsibilities seriously and dutifully sampled nearly a dozen different kinds of tequila. Don’t worry - they were just samples! Travel responsibly folks!
A different kind of “green” travel
Kermit the frog may have famously said that it isn’t easy being green but at Experience Mexico, green was the winning color, thanks to an endless amount of Mexican avocados. Talk about delicious! I feasted on traditional guacamole (topped with a light amount of queso fresco), appetizers like sliced avocados on toast, seasoned with sea salt, cilantro, and hot sauce, and a yummy avocado smoothie that I am definitely going to replicate at home. There were even samples of avocado gelato. (Green means it’s healthy, right, even if it’s ice cream?) Coming a close second was some tangy salsa verde, which Ryan devoured on freshly made pulled pork tacos along with pickled onion, cilantro, and pico de gallo. The combinations of sweet, salty, and smooth, with spice, sharpness, crunch, and chewiness had us craving more.
Putting a smile on everyone’s face
How does Mexico make you feel welcome? So many ways! Everyone was grinning, both the guests and the hosts. So what put everyone in such a great mood (aside from those tequila samples?) For some lucky visitors, it was being part of a wonderful cooking demonstration (with tasty treats, of course). For others, it was the amazingly infectious spirit of the musicians, whose soulful songs energized all who heard them. And for the kids, it was the excitement of pinata making. You’ve never seen so many colorful designs and all the kids were having so much fun.
Fine feathered friends, felines, and colorful fun
The pinatas weren’t the only colorful charm at the exhibition. Guests from Oaxaca brought along alebrijes - beautiful, brightly painted wooden carved animals with special spiritual significance. For me, the alebrijes embodied all of my favourite things about Experience Mexico. They were energizing and intriguing, quirky and unique, capturing a talent and a feel found nowhere else. They’d be at the top of my list for a Mexican souvenir!
Mexico is a dream - a “Waking Dream” that is.
During the event, I heard a lot about “Old Mexico” and an emerging “New Mexico”. Those terms seemed to mean different things to everyone I spoke with, but one trend emerged, that of presenting Mexico in a new, diverse way to reach new, diverse travelers. I can’t think of a better example of this than Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico”.
I LOVE Cirque du Soleil’s extraordinary style and breathtaking performances and it was an absolute treat to see a preview of “Luzia” at Experience Mexico. Inspired by the monarch butterfly’s annual migration between Mexico and Canada, the performance symbolizes the friendship between the two countries, as well as honors Mexico’s avant garde architecture and style, Aztec mythology, and the natural elements. It’s a fantastic combination of the old and new and it really defies description.
Canada and Mexico may go way back, but I’m going forward.
Close to two million Canadians visit Mexico every year, the majority to escape our challenging winters and to soak up some sun on the beach. But during Experience Mexico, I heard Canadians talking about everything BUT the beach. People were buzzing about birdwatching and textile art, admiring handmade silver jewellery and lining up for churros, studying international university programs and clamoring to hear concerts. Just like Cirque du Soleil predicted, we’re migrating like butterflies and we’re just as eager for the avant garde as we are for the Aztecs. It looks like the next 150 years will be as sweet as the last.
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Thank you to the Mexican Tourism Board for partnering with me on this post. All research, writing, and opinions are my own.