Living Like a Local in Bucerias, Mexico
Does travelling or living like a local make ones experiences sweeter? I think so. I think (for me at least) that stepping away from the resorts, travelling slow, and making an effort to connect with the locals gives me a greater appreciation for the place I’m visiting, and therefore enhances my travel experiences. And months later when I’m in a different place and thinking back on travels past, my local experiences are the ones that stand out the most in my mind. So, is it any wonder that I am having the time of my life living as a local in Bucerias, Mexico?
While I’m in Bucerias I’m staying with friends who are renting a house on the local side of town. On this side of town the roads are made of dirt, and as a result everything is covered with a thin layer of dust. The houses and yards look as though they are crumbling and need love, but the people who live in them appear to be happy and content. At night (and sometimes during the day) random music selections float through the neighbourhood, filling my room with songs from Shania Twain, to techno music, to some sort of Mexican polka. And the rooftop dogs are generally small, feisty, and want their boundaries to be respected – which means that your very presence requires them to bark loudly as though you’re being told to back the f off.
Our Mexican Neighbours
Living on the local side of Bucerias means there are plenty of opportunities to interact with locals. Which is great. One of the things I like to do here (and in every country I visit) is to greet locals in their language whenever I am within a few feet of them. And always with a smile. Which is what I’ve been doing with the older man who lives across the street.
Most days he sits on a plastic white chair in front of his house, watching the world go by. In the beginning I would say ‘Hola’, or ‘Buenos Dias’ and he would just look at me – or through me. I didn’t let it bother me though, and every time I see him, I greet him the same way, ‘Hola! Buenos Dias’, and smile. After a week he started to greet me in return, which made me smile even more. A week after that his return greeting turned into a smile and a wave whenever I speek to him. It’s an awesome feeling when you can connect with a local using a smile and only one or two words. Sure, learning more Spanish would be helpful (and it is my ultimate goal), but right now, having locals respond to me when I greet them is the greatest feeling in the world.
One of my absolute favourite things to do when I travel is to visit local markets. In my opinion it is the best place to get glimpse of local life. Plus, the food is usually extremely fresh, and cheap as well. In Bucerias I’ve found a couple of fabulous local markets to buy fresh produce, and fresh fish.
Casa Flores Fruiteria (which is where I met Big Tony) has become my go-to place for produce. Mondays and Thursdays are the best days to go as that is when the fresh produce arrives, plus where else can a girl buy 8 avocados, a bunch of cilantro, 6 apples, 2 onions, 5 tomatoes, 8 tomatios, 1 cantaloupe, and 15 serrano peppers for 150 pesos ($12)! All fresh. All delicious.
Mercado del Mar is the fish market I found thanks to a google search (as I don’t know how to ask in Spanish). It’s located in La Cruz, Mexico (not far from the house) and a great place for fresh seafood. The fishermen go out in their boats at night, and their catch is put on sale each morning. The selection is fabulous, shrimp, crab, lobster, fish… 1 Kg of Mahi Mahi cost 110 peses ($9), and 1 Kg of Shrimp cost 135 pesos ($11). The one thing I loved about the market was the fact that there was no foul fish odor. The fish was THAT FRESH!
Eating in a restaurant can be a transformative experience. The food can be absolutely amazing, and many cases the service is good as well, but it can also be expensive and standoff-ish at times. When eating in a local restaurant or with a street vendor the feeling is entirely different. There is pride in what they do, and in many cases the locals want you to feel as though you are eating in their home.
A couple weeks ago (after I first arrived in Mexico) I visited a taqueria and fell in love. It’s located about a 10-15 min walk from the house, and run by a family. On my first visit the husband, Armando, gave me cranberry water and tostada pollo mole to enjoy (free of charge) as I waited for my food order. As I sat there I watched as his wife and another woman made tortilla dough, flattened it into tortillas, cook them and then use them to make the tacos I had ordered. And they were the BEST tacos I have ever eaten. Not just because the tortillas were made fresh, and the ingredients flavourful (which meant the tortillas did not overpower the ingredients in the taco), but because the family was absolutely delightful. And now when I have a craving for Tacos Camarón or Tacos Chicharron, I go to the taqueria that is a 10-15 min walk from the house.
Experiencing local life takes on different meanings for different travellers. For myself, experiencing local life means I immerse myself in their world (unless we’re talking about language, I suck at learning new languages). I stay in neighbourhoods that are located away from tourist hotspots, shop in small local shops, and eat street food whenever I can. For me, living like a local is the best wat to experience a new country, culture, and people.