The Real Mexico

The Real Mexico

I often find myself pondering the “real” in life in this age of instant gratification and digital everything. During my recent trip to Mexico, I pondered this a lot. What is the real Mexico?

As a photographer, I still find myself thinking that shooting on film is real while all these digital images we take are, well – less real. I learned to be a photographer by using 35mm film and developing it myself in a darkroom. When I encounter younger photographers who have never shot on a roll of film, I cry inwardly. I curse technology. Of course I try not to judge, as I happen to be in love with some of technology’s accomplishments like the “Hipstamatic” app on my iPhone.

A similar mindset applies to my travels. I’m always searching for the path that is now [or has always been] least traveled, older, more authentic.

During my recent trip to Mexico, I was given with the opportunity to stay in the all-inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios. It was an easy transfer from CUN to the Riviera Maya with Cancun airport transportation and then we were enjoying the resort. Which was great. The property is a sort of eco paradise. Tres Rios is gated and separate from the rest of the Riviera Maya and certainly far from the towns inward from the ocean. On many levels it doesn’t strike me as being, “the Real Mexico.”

What’s “real”?

Everyone, of course, defines that differently.

Perhaps real is racing through the jungle sitting on the back of what can only be described as the world’s-oldest-still-operational-dune-buggy. Or maybe real is a small pueblo where tourists don’t usually venture. Real might be a group of women who manufacture their own soaps and bath products still mixing ingredients by hand. Might it be a simple meal cooked by a woman who speaks no english on the side of a road under a thatch roof hut, not in a resort kitchen with all the modern conveniences of a 5-star restaurant in New York City?The Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaThe Real Mexico - Kirsten AlanaWhether my second day in Mexico was representative of “the real Mexico” or not, is debatable. However, it was my favorite day to photograph. It was also the day I felt the most out of my element, in all the very best ways.

Many thanks to Jesus who guided us through a few of the many projects Kanche supports. We paid for our tours, and you can do the same by visiting Yucatan Holidays. However, I’d instead highly recommend skipping the tours themselves and simply giving your money directly to the cooperatives that this NGO supports in Mexico. The tour is long, there is a lot of waiting around involved and at certain times of the year – like the dry season Mexico is currently experiencing – aspects of the tour are not even operational, so the typical tourist may find themselves disappointed. Yet, I strongly believe in what Kanche is trying to do in Mexico and stand behind their mission. I would happily give my money to support their work directly.

  • February 15, 2011

    Great pictures! So these were taken with a film camera? I’m still begging my mom to give me hers, but she won’t let go. I find it, that pictures from a film camera are more dreamy and magical – and there’s a lot of art behind it. I still remember the excitement of when I brought films to be developed. Now there’s no excitement anymore. You she what you get.

    By the way, I love the way the colors come out on your pictures… I think the bicycle one is among my favorites!

  • February 15, 2011

    I think the places where clearly there’s that juxtaposition between ‘authentic’ and ‘modern’ is in the developing world. I’ve seen it in Beijing where you’ll find a traditional neighborhood hiding behind a modern office building…and I also saw it recently in Mexico. With so much of the world becoming homogenized I think it is important to capture the ‘authentic’ – whatever that means to you. Great pictures!

  • February 15, 2011

    Great post & beautiful photos Kirsten! Bravo for spending time away from the resort and mixing it up with the people. IMO, that’s the only way to go and truly represents what Mexico has to offer in terms of how people live their day-to-day lives. That experience can never be captured just hanging out with fellow tourists in gated facilities! Happy & safe travels to you! 🙂

  • February 16, 2011

    Thanks for the “real” tour. I’m glad you got to experience the precious gated paradise, but also wandered to see what else it out there. One of my best experiences from a trip to Cancun was taking a bunch of buses to get to a Wal-Mart on the “other side of the tracks.” We saw a side of Cancun that wasn’t a resort or the main drag and it was really the first time I felt like I was in Mexico!

  • February 16, 2011

    Totally agree on it not being “real” mexico. We are going to an all inclusive in a few months and I think, for me, those places for just relaxing without feeling like you have to explore. However, since I like exploring-I can really only handle a few days of that before I start getting restless!

  • February 16, 2011

    love love love the pics! my fav is the one with the bicycle!!

  • February 16, 2011

    I have always enjoyed your photoessays and have been reading about authenticity a lot recently. Some will even argue that authenticity in travel as a myth and what is authentic is what most “resonates as true to us and the experience we want to have.” Your thoughts have nuanced my own views on authenticity, so thank you for the beautiful words and images.

  • February 21, 2011

    I absolutely love your pictures. They are so gorgeous. I wish someone could teach me to photograph like you.

    And I completely agree on seeing the “real” Mexico. You can go to a 101 holiday resorts and stay in fancy hotels but I think it’s kind of a wasted journey if you don’t see at least some of the reality of the country.

  • February 22, 2011

    Some great pictures there! Gonna spend 3 months in Mexico now, so really enjoyed the post!

  • March 12, 2011

    Lovin’ your photoraphs, especially the final one in this series. The colors are beautful. When I am out of my element is usually when I end up with some of my best shots as well. I look forward to seeing more of your work. Cheers!

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