Spending time in Cozumel usually revolves around the water as the island is famous for having the world’s second largest reef – truly a wonderful place for diving. However after spending time in the water, diving near Cousteau’s discoveries at the beautiful Palancar reef, I want to see more of the local culture and traditions of Mexico, to enjoy and learn about Mexico’s true heritage. What’s the perfect place to go to? Let me tell you about Discover Mexico Park in Cozumel!
From downtown Cozumel my boyfriend and I take a taxi to bring us to Discover Mexico which we reach after about 10 minutes. The guide, Miguel who we can also call Mike, is already awaiting us at the park entrance. He brings us to the first part of our Mexican Flavors tour which starts with a movie. It shows many beautiful moving images of Mexico displayed on four different screens. While watching the screens some memories pop up in my mind as I see Mexican places where I have been before and places where I would love to go to!
After a few minutes of video we continue to the Discover Mexico museum entrance where we get to see many pieces of beautiful Mexican art. Mike explains us about the day of the dead with its colorful altars and how the famous Alebrijes from Oaxaca are being made. He also shows us Mexican pottery and different colorfully decorated textiles with flowers that once worn can show where someone comes from.
The devilish masks
Something I found very interesting was that the masks represent animals yet after the Spanish Conquest the Mexicans started making devil masks. The indigenous Mexicans only knew about the existence of a god of death, but learned about the devil through the Spaniards. The Catholic religion was new to them and so they tried to represent the Spaniards like devils during the conquest. There are lots of things to discover about Mexico in the museum and many impressive artworks.
A sweet history of Xocolatl
After the museum we head for the chocolate workshop where Mike explains us about the origin of the cacao bean and how it’s used for chocolate. Newsflash! Chocolate comes from Mexico! Did you know that this delicious treat was already known by the ancient Mexican cultures like the Mayans?
Making our own chocolate
Mike explains the traditional tools to roast and mill the cacao seeds into chocolate and lets us make our own Xocolatl! While we work on the mill and add some brown sugar and vanilla to our chocolate we are being spoiled by a chocolate martine/margarita and even get a hot chocolate to complete our thirst.
By the way, now that I got you thinking about margaritas, did you know that Margarita isn’t the name of some Mexican girl who got a drink named after her? Margarita actually is the name of a German girl who didn’t like Tequila, but got a drink made especially for her. That bartender was sure she would love it!
The traditional photo
Once we finish the chocolate workshop we get to take a traditional picture wearing Mexican Sombreros with a donkey. Perhaps normally this wouldn’t really be my thing, but we are already a bit buzzed by the Margarita and after eating all that chocolate – which releases endorphin into our brain – we are smiling widely for the picture!
Hearing the word Chocolate Workshop already made me happy while after realizing that there is a Tequila Tasting as well I knew I was going to dig into the Mexican culture today! After the chocolate we continue for the Discover Mexico exclusive José Cuervo Tequila Workshop.
100% Blue Agave
In a room with a quite different temperature compared to the outside (where it’s about 27 degrees) we get to sit down in a pretty fancy Tequila tasting set-up. The temperature always has to be 18 degrees Celsius inside the room in order to serve the Tequila at the perfect temperature. Mike starts explaining about the differences between good and bad Tequila and how to recognize a good bottle of Tequila. A proper Tequila should have the sign of ‘100% Blue Agave’ on the bottle – now here’s something to write down for the next time you go Tequila shopping! If it doesn’t have the sign than it might be a weird mix of alcohol that you really shouldn’t drink.
The next thing up are the differences between the Tequila Blanco, Tequila Reposado and Tequila Añejo. In front of us stand three special Tequila tasting glasses filled with all three kinds of Tequila. There’s also a plate with a cracker, lime, cinnamon and chocolate beans and a glass of water on the side. Mike tells us to pick up the first glass of Tequila Blanco while holding it only by the foot of the glass – that way the temperature of our hand doesn’t influence the Tequila. He asks us to look at it and to move it around a bit. A crown of oils appears on the sides and slow tears bring the Tequila back to the bottom of the glass. Mike explains that this is evidence of a good Tequila as it should contain oils.
No ordinary tasting
To continue we need to smell the Tequila and influence our senses by smelling a bit of lime or cinnamon in advance followed by the tasting. Now as you can already see this is no ordinary tasting where you simply wash the goods down, no sir! After you take a zip you keep the Tequila in your mouth for about 5 seconds. Once the time has passed you swallow the Tequila and blow the alcoholic vapors out of your mouth. This is to avoid the well-known headache that comes from those alcoholic vapors as we normally swallow them along with the drink. This is something I have never thought about and will remember the next time I’m drinking something stronger!
After tasting he Tequila it is lunch time and the Taco buffet is waiting for us. A kind señora called Mami prepares our plates with traditional Mexican food after we finish our third Margarita of today. A bit later this tasty lunch has made us ready to continue for the rest of the Discover Mexico park as we still have some more to see.
Walking through the past and present
A garden with lots of indigenous plants ant flowers used to exhibit miniature pyramids and villages gives us a closer look at the ancient civilizations of Mexico. Mike guides us through the gardens while explaining all the different pyramids. We can even see clear details on them which gives us lust for more exploring.
Once we have seen the past of Mexico we follow the road to the present and encounter Mexico City’s beautiful architecture and other landmarks.
Dare Devils of Papantla
The whole day is wrapped up with a show of the Voladores de Papantla whom perform a ritual rain dance that makes them look like true dare devils! Five men dance around an 18 meters high pole while one plays the flute for the rhythm. After a few spiritual seconds all five of the men climb the pole one by one and sit at the top while attaching long ropes from the pole to their waists. Except for the one man playing the flute who stays on top of the pole to provide the rhythm. When the other four men are all set they hang on to their ropes and gently launch themselves from the top of the pole, swinging downwards like birds flying circles. They wish to say sorry to the gods and ask for rain while making themselves the center of the universe with respect for nature.
Oh, and by the way! The Voladores de Papantla ritual ceremony is part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
During my visit to the Discover Mexico Park Cozumel I have truly broadened my knowledge about Mexico’s heritage and I got to discover everything in an interactive and fun way. The guide’s knowledge and service are fabulous and the same goes for all the other employees making the whole experience one big success. Very tasty food and drinks, an interesting combination of all the activities within the right amount of time and a unique concept! I can highly recommend a visit to Discover Mexico and when you go and you can spend some time book the Mexican Flavors. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as my boyfriend and I did.
Thank you Discover Mexico for having us as your guests!
Location: Cozumel, Mexico
Cost: $85 USD entrance fee per person for the Mexican Flavors tour.
transportation: take a taxi from downtown for 150 pesos maximum and if you need to come from Playa del Carmen than you’ll need to take the Ultramar ferry for 200 pesos. The same goes for going back to where your staying of course.
Tips: Do the Mexican Flavors tour if you have time to spend in the park. It’s the most complete tour! If you don’t have enough time, than you can choose to go for only the park entrance, the tequila seminar or the cacao workshop.
Have you ever been to Cozumel? Would you like to experience the Mexican culture? Did you know chocolate originates from Mexico? Have you already visited Discover Mexico?
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