Mexico lures visitors onto a new age tourist trail
“It’s about letting it all out, the illnesses, all the bad stuff, and bringing me pure positivity.”
With its restorative rituals, yoga retreats and psychedelic experiences, Mexico has become a magnet for spiritual tourists seeking an alternative vacation away from the troubles of the modern world.
While many visitors head straight for the beach, a different type of tourist chooses the village of Tepoztlan, a paradise for artists and intellectuals an hour’s drive from the capital.
Some of its inhabitants once came for a short stay and found it difficult to leave.
“I love the vibe here,” said Ania Bitiutskaia, a 31-year-old Russian living at the foot of Tepozteco Mountain, the legendary birthplace of the Aztec feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl.
“People are more relaxed, more spiritual,” she added, browsing an organic market where the sound of folk guitar and drumbeats filled the air.
“I don’t see a lot of news. I almost live in the mountains,” Bitiutskaia said, adding that she preferred to know as little as possible about the war in Ukraine.
Special vibrations have a price. Costing more than $50 to $60 a night, hotels in Tepoztlan are more expensive than those in many parts of Mexico, which welcomed nearly 32 million foreign tourists last year.
Visitors can also stay at holistic centers offering yoga and meditation.
“Since the pandemic, many people have come to live in Tepoztlan…foreigners as well as people from Mexico City, who realized their energy would be blocked,” said Alizbeth Camacho of Luz Azul (Blue Light) Holistic Center.
Camacho offers clients “aura images” to visualize their energy, their karma. and chakras.
New age tourism in Mexico dates back to the 1970s, when anthropologist Carlos Castaneda sold millions of books on the teachings of an indigenous Yaqui shaman.
Pre-Hispanic traditions also inspired Miguel Ruiz’s 1997 self-help bestseller The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.
For some visitors, a Mexico vacation wouldn’t be complete without another type of trip: hallucinogens.
American author Robert Gordon Wasson led the way in the 1950s by uncovering the secrets of a traditional healer, Maria Sabina.
Peyote sampling is still possible with indigenous communities such as the Wixarika, who use the mind-altering drug derived from a cactus in their religious rituals.
And in the mountains of Oaxaca, guides like Pedro Ramirez offer the chance to try magic mushrooms at over 2,500 meters above sea level.
“It will be an inner journey,” Ramirez said, leading a group of Mexicans and foreigners to a clearing in the village of San Jose del Pacifico. “You might be scared at first, but after 10-15 minutes you’ll laugh and maybe cry a little.”
Araceli Perez said she decided to try the mushrooms following the death of her husband, a doctor, from Covid-19 in 2020.
“I’m looking for answers and acceptance,” she said. “I want to live and no longer just survive as I think I do.”
Another major attraction on Mexico’s New Age tourist trail is the temazcal, a kind of Mesoamerican sweat lodge that guide Nicolas Lopez says can “awaken our spirit, our soul.”
Near the Mayan pyramids of Palenque in the southern state of Chiapas, visitors enter Lopez’s heated chamber filled with the aroma of incense and dance to the sound of a tambourine.
“It’s something sacred, something pure,” said Valeria Landero, a 30-year-old Mexican tourist, after attending the smudging ceremony with her husband and teenage daughter.
“It’s about letting it all out, the illnesses, all the bad stuff, and bringing me pure positivity,” she said.
Story by Samir Tounsi, photos by Pedro Pardo for AFP.
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