Travel & Teach - Mexico
Mexico achieved its independence from 3 centuries of Spanish rule early in the 19th century. But before this it had a history of advanced civilization, the remnants of which can still be seen today in the pyramids of the Aztecs. Bordered on the north by the United States, to whom it lost some of its territories early in the 20th Century, it has always been seen as the impoverished neighbour of North America. To the south lie Belize and Guatemala and the rest of Central America. Mexico is the start of what is sometimes called the ‘Gringo Trail’ leading down to South America.
This fascinating country joined NAFTA in the early 1990’s and this has seen a general improvement in conditions in the country. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 did throw Mexico into economic turmoil, and started a recession, but the country has made good progress in its recovery. But ongoing economic and social concerns include low wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. This latter was one of the principle reasons behind the Zapatista uprising in the 1990’s in the state of Chiapas.
Mexico is a delightful and welcoming country with a wealth of teaching opportunities. Although there is a slight preference for American English, this is not overwhelming. The key requirements are often native speaker ability and simply being there. As we noted above, in the past Mexico has experienced turbulent economic times which have meant that pay has not always kept up with spiralling inflation. However, this has calmed down over the past few years, although you are still likely to be paid in the local currency, Pesos, rather than American dollars. But do be aware that their value is limited outside of the country.
Mexico City is exciting and full of history. For example in the main central square (Zocalo), you can visit the National Palace and admire the paintings and architecture on one side or take tea high up on the 7th floor of the Hotel Majestic overlooking the square. To your left you can see the remnants of the ancient Aztec pyramid, which Cortes and his conquistadores dismantled to use the stone for the spectacular cathedral built next to it. However Mexico City can be quite dangerous and it is very polluted. There are many other beautiful towns, cities and villages where you are likely to receive an equally enthusiastic welcome. English teachers are awarded a high status and there is likely to be demand in even the furthest outpost for your services. You should note that the rainy season lasts from May to October, and when it rains, it really rains. The electric storms over Mexico City as you travel home on the bus at night are spectacular!
However warm and welcoming, violent crime, particularly in the big cities is a daily fact of life. Not obviously blending in can make you a target. Women too should be aware of the famous Latin machismo that exists throughout the region.