I’ve pointed out before that contrary to Hollywood’s depiction Mexico is full of variety in food, culture, music, art, climate, biospheres and many other points. If you wanted to take a tour of even a brief taste of some this country’s variety and beauty, you would be looking at spending a couple of thousands of dollars and a few months of your life. It would most certainly be well worth the time and money.
However, there is another option. Go to Xcaret.
How to See Mexico in a Day
Within a day, you can get not only a “glimpse” but also a real taste of Mexico as a whole. Mind you, it is a very long day. To fully enjoy Xcaret I always suggest going back for two visits; but most people who have been there have no issues with going back for a third or even fourth.
Xcaret is a theme park with a focus on Mexican culture, history and nature. This is done through museum-like displays – but much more interactive – , workshop-style stations and shows which take place in a very real setting that envelops you and draws you in more than just being on a stage to be seen in front of you. The entire park, along every path has something not only to see, but also to do.
Culture and History
Everything that’s not nature in Xcaret is a very authentic reconstruction of a certain era in Mexican history or a region of the country. This covers everything from the hut villages of the Mayans to the grand “haciendas” (plantation estates) where most of the items Mexico is famous for were produced in the past. There are colonial-style buildings and even a reconstruction of a traditional Mexican cemetery. There are items which you can see accurately re-constructed that you may not even have access to in travel.
Nature and Wildlife
The park is full of nature. It was very carefully designed to preserve the majority of the the sub-tropical jungle which defines the Yucatan Peninsula. Within this setting, a large variety of wildlife has been introduced which can be seen first hand, such as colorful birds and wildcats. It’s kind of like a zoo, but you don’t feel like you’re walking by animals that have been “boxed in.” On the contrary, you feel like you’re the one who’s stepped out of your world and into theirs. It’s truly sensational to see such beautiful animals so close-up, so first-hand.
Throughout the park there are little reenactments of everything from day to day life in secluded villages, to the production of common goods, to ancient rituals. These happen right before your eyes in reconstructed buildings and scenes which you can enter and move around in; you feel you are more a part rather than just seeing it on a stage.
There is also the “grand finale,” the main show which offers a overview of the history Mexico, starting with the ancient migrations and rituals, through the Spanish Conquest, Independence, the Revolution and the modern century. It includes music, costumes and dance from each era, spectacular lighting and re-enactment of important historical events and turning points.
Xcaret is also a place ideal for walking and relaxing on the beach. Which so much to see and do in a day, even if you arrive early in the morning, you might not feel you have much time for this. Yet, at the end of the day, after walking so much and experience so much, you might jsut be ready for a nap on the hammock before going to see the main show (which takes place at sunset, just before the park closes.)
But is it the real thing?
Some people turn up their noses at the fact that the whole park is re-enactments and re-constructions. However, there are three points to remember. One is that they are amazingly good re-enactments and reconstructions. The “real thing” is hardly better. Secondly, as I said, to see all of this traveling around Mexico, you would need a few months and a few thousand dollars – just to see the same amount – not even more.
Finally, many of the items you simply wouldn’t see. For example, seeing an authentic Mayan ritual (not a re-enactment by middle-class Europeans) is very difficult. They exist, but not in the places where most travelers can easily get to (or would want to go to.) And these enactments are by people of real Mayan and other indigenous decent. Xcaret is both easily accessible and as close to the real thing as it gets.
What’s Next …
This is such a brief overview of Xcaret, it is like peaking your head into the gate for 5 minutes and stepping out again.
Although it still won’t do the park due credit, I’m dedicating the next week (starting Monday) to sharing pictures and descriptions of the various aspects mentioned here. I hope you enjoy!
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