Traveling with Marina Aguirre, one cannot help but see the world with new eyes and an open heart, something she encourages and nurtures from the moment she greets you in the airport upon arrival. The theme of this trip was a riff on Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see.” Rather, Marina challenged us to “change the way you see.” She asked us to confront preconceived notions we may have had about the people and cultures we encountered. When at the end of our time in Chiapas she asked, “Where are you in this moment,” my response was, “I am in a very different place than when I began this journey a mere week ago.” Thank you, Marina, for the care and love with which you planned our time together as we explored the wonders of Chiapas and her people – past and present. Se lo agradezco mucho.- Con cariño,
Ann Lippincott & Ned Emerson, Chiapas trip 2019
Traveling with Marina Aguirre…
Come with an open mind and heart and Marina will fill both to overflowing. Imagine an extremely well educated, articulate earth mother, then add passion, poise under pressure, and a tender sense of humor. This is Marina and México is Marina’s world. Be prepared to share a sensual banquet with artists, indigenous peoples, and the adventurous group with whom you are traveling.
My husband and I enjoyed Marina’s Cultural Journeys to Mexico City and Teotihuacan in 2017, her Puebla and Oaxaca trip for Day of the Dead in 2018 and have just returned from her OUTSTANDING Chiapas tour in January of 2019. Our motto for the trip was “Change the way you see and see the way you change.” We did.
Sandy & Nick Javaras, Chiapas trip 2019
It is a challenge to know where to start in writing a testimonial about our trip to Chiapas with Marina Aguirre. Do I start with meeting her at the kitchen table of a friend where her open heart, infectious enthusiasm, and deep human and scholarly knowledge of the history and the people of Chiapas left me feeling I would not miss this trip for the world? Or with our arrival in Villahermosa where we were met at the airport for transport to the hotel and all arrangements had been taken care for us even though we had decided to arrive a day early? Or at the “beginning” of the trip, standing in a circle in the hotel lobby, giving brief but personal introductions of ourselves to the other members of the group? Truly, it doesn’t matter, because every step of the journey was based on developing relationships (with the past and present) and infused with the same spirit of adventure as that which I’d felt at my friend’s kitchen table.
As we lumbered onto the bus the first time, scoping out our preferred seats and not yet knowing each other very well, Marina’s first directive was “don’t get too attached to that seat you’re in because it doesn’t belong to you!” She set us up to mingle and get to know one another as we spent time travelling from one destination to the next. I learned of the tragedies in one life, and the joys of another. We spoke of our children, our parents, our past travels, and our current lives. Within a day or two, no longer strangers, we cared for and about each other, setting the stage for the experiences of Chiapas to be intimate and alive. Visiting archeological sites and touring pueblos is not what we did. We walked though time meeting the ancient ones, sleeping in the bungalows of their direct descendants, listening to the stories written on stone, and spoken of in the evening conversation with those who didn’t know the outside world until 70 years ago. Marina orchestrated this to be a personal journey, a weaving of past and present. Read More
Starting with a brief introduction to the “mother culture” of the Olmec in Villahermosa, we visited La Venta, a park established to preserve and protect the ancient Olmec colossal heads and other artifacts. From there we went to the Lacandona Jungle to meet the people of this region who had no contact during the Spanish incursion and remained an isolated people until the 1950’s. Their lives and customs may be the most directly related to those of the Maya who inhabited nearby Bonampak or Yaxchilan. Here we met and stayed with Enrique and his family, the leader of the Lacandon community. It was Enrique’s father who led the community when Getrude Duby and Franz Blom arrived as the first outsiders to interact with this community. Enrique was a child at that time and was witness to the life altering events that followed this contact.
Being with Enrique and his family gave context to our visits to Yaxchilan (to which you must travel by boat) and Bonampak. The well preserved and brightly colored murals of Bonampak reveal the lives and the priorities of the people who came before. Pictures of commerce, war, and worship served as the source of dreams to one of Enrique’s daughters who giddily described her childhood dream of living in those times, scooping up brightly colored necklaces in her fingers. I have visited many archeological sites but these came alive with the stories of Enrique’s family. In addition, Marina’s approach to understanding archeological remnants is to understand people and their needs. Every site we visited was prefaced by examining the geography, thinking about what the people would need first, and how the architecture might meet those needs.
The journey to Palenque added to the story, displaying the grandeur of one of the largest “city-states” of the region and revealing more about hierarchy and systems of control and governance. From there we went to San Cristobal de las Casas, using this beautiful mountain city as a base from which to explore surrounding indigenous villages.
The trip is timed to allow visits to communities honoring their “patron saints” through ritual and celebration. Most of us had some preconceived notions of what this meant but had those notions shattered when we entered the church in San Juan Chamula to witness practices unrelated to any we’d ever seen. The senses overwhelmed with the scent of the pine needles covering the floor, of incense being burned in large overflowing containers; with the sounds of music being played on primitive instruments by people adorned in unfamiliar garb walking in a procession throughout and then out of the church; with the sight of candles burning on the floor set up in rows of differing number and sizes, allowed to burn down into puddles of burning wax, of objects such as Coca Cola, boxes of chickens and raw eggs lined up for use in the prayers being said for healing, for fertility, for release from jealousy. I could not help but recognize my mental pictures of “church” and “Catholicism” were not in the same universe as those I witnessed in this place.
Not only were we allowed to go into such public places of the community, we were also welcomed into people’s homes. In one community it was a family of weavers who first fed us in their home then demonstrated their weaving techniques with a backstrap loom that had been passed down through the generations. In another, again after being fed, we were shown the ceramic art production of a prominent artist from the area and allowed to try our hand at creating something of clay. In all places, the textiles were remarkable for their variety and their color, another way people tell their stories and recount their histories.
Bringing the trip full circle, we ended at the home of Gertrude Duby and Frans Blom in San Cristobal de las Casas. From here they launched efforts to preserve the life of the Lacandon people. There remains a museum and a library that continues to host scholars and artists interested in the world of the Lacandon.
So, do not take this trip with Marina if you wish to have a lackadaisical shopping trip in Chiapas, (though you will have the opportunity to buy representative pieces of art and artisanry throughout your travels.) Take this trip if would like to experience people and history as living, breathing, and unpredictable, and you’d like to be surprised! You will find yourself wanting to go back for more!
Travelling to Chiapas with Marina was indeed a magical journey filled with unique and memorable sights, sounds and experiences. Marina packs centuries of history and an incredible depth of knowledge into an 8-day immersion experience that expertly weaves together past and present in an exploration of the region’s culture.
I learned of Marina as a result of a previous visit to Mexico. After many years traveling extensively on my own and with friends, I was initially hesitant about joining a group tour. Ulltimately however, I found the trip description and reviews from past participants compelling. So with a bit of encouragement from Marina, I signed up. The trip exceeded any expectations I had and was a deeply rewarding travel experience.
Traveling with Marina facilitated encounters with local people and sights that would have not been possible alone. Fellow travellers were interesting and culturally curious explorers – wonderful travel companions who have now become friends. And leaving the logistics in Marina’s capable hands made it possible to be 100 percent focused on enjoying the experience.
The accommodations were clean and comfortable. The food, simple but delicious. I recommend Marina in Mexico to curious travelers who aren’t looking for a typical tour bus experience, but want to delve deep into local customs and culture and come away feeling enriched by the experience.
Betty Weiss, Washington, DC, Winter 2019
…words to describe this adventure are only slowly coming to the surface. It will take a long time to absorb and reflect on it all. The journey with Marina did not end in San Cristobal de las Casas. The nine days together were only the beginning of a journey – a mere introduction to the universe of the Maya from the Olmec culture to its present day iteration. A journey I never could have imagined, and one I am eager to continue in all its emerging and as yet unknown manifestations.
Christina Cowan, Chiapas trip 2019
Marina’s catchphrase is “Follow me, you are going to love it!” And we did!
Marina’s passion for the history and culture of Mexico is only exceeded by her depth of knowledge and ability to educate us across time from pre-history through today’s Mexico.
Marina designs her trips to include archaeology, anthropology, art, architecture, music, food and cultural objects – something to interest each and every one of us. It didn’t seem possible, but each day was wonderful and still better than the previous one. It is hard to choose a favorite day, but if pressed, I would choose the day we visited with Tiburcio Soteno and his family in his home, followed by a visit to the magical Cosmovitral. Marina arranged for us to share a meal of delicious homemade mole and to converse with Tiburcio as he recounted stories of Diego Rivera, how Tiburcio’s mother created the original Tree of Life sculptures, and how the family has continued that tradition which has made the Sotenos famous around the world. We watched him make a sculpture as we ate! A unique and very special experience!
I look forward to following Marina on a future trip – I know I will love it!
Barbara Shapiro, Amigos Group Mexico City trip, January 2019
We recently went on our first trip with Marina, which also was our first trip to Mexico, other than to a resort in Cabo. The trip and Marina herself far exceeded our expectations. Marina is very knowledgeable about art, architecture, archeology, and everything to do with Mexican history. She also is warm, enthusiastic, accommodating in every way, and a delight to be with. She is always thinking of additional things to do to add to the experience.
Although we stayed in a lovely hotel in Mexico City the entire time, we took some very interesting day-trips outside the city. We came home feeling like we really learned a lot. When we booked the trip we also were interested in a trip she is leading later in the year. We figured if we liked the first one, we would book the second. And guess what? We did!
Ellen and Steve Hoffman, México City trip 2019
Thank you for the eight day tour to Mexico City in February 2019. Walking through downtown MC, visiting the murals of Diego Rivera at the National Palace, stopping to discuss those huge paintings depicting the culture and history of Mexico from pre Columbian times to the Spanish conquest was very informative. Discovering local markets, stopping for lunch at outstanding restaurants and attending local events were all memorable adventures. Marina, your love for Mexico is reflected in your enthusiasm for every activity, whether it be climbing a pyramid at Teotihuacan or hiking a mountain trail in Malinalco, the small pueblo magico. We learned so much from listening to your expert descriptions of the art, archaeology and history of Mexico. We appreciated your organization of the transportation, tickets to museums, galleries and architectural ruins, so there were no lineups. You guided the ten of us in the most caring & considerate manner. This was our 3rd trip with you, and all we can say is mil gracias for another unique and memorable tour.
Sus amigos, Cathie Zarfas & Tom Thorsteinson, México City trip 2019
You certainly provided us with more knowledge and information than our brains could probably hold. 😊
I truly enjoyed every part of your itinerary. If one day seemed fantastic, it always seemed the next day was even more fantastic.
You are clearly passionate about your country and its culture and all of this came through in your excellent tour.
You made the history come alive!
You have a gift for educating and you have a great sense of humor as well!
I say Muchas Gracias for such a wonderful experience.
Joyce Pully, Puebla & México City trip 2019
Marina in Mexico gave our group the best tour of Mexico City ever. She is enthusiastic about her presentations. She is able to take the past of 3000 years ago and tell the story through archaeology and history. And help us understand the living culture of today. She taught us to appreciate art, architecture, history, the food etc. with a caring enthusiasm that inspired learning.
Berta Sarracino, Amigos Advisory Group, Albuquerque, México City trip
A belated thank you for all your planning, organizing and directing a GREAT trip to Mexico. I hope it wasn’t too obvious that I’m not a museum guy, but I really enjoyed and appreciated seeing and learning more about the history and culture of Mexico. As you may remember, Blanche and I have traveled a little in Mexico and really love the country, but it was fascinating to get so much from Marina that we never got on our own. She is really terrific. I purchased a copy of the Linea Del Tiempo De La Historia Cultural, (time line of cultural history) at the Museo Amparo and am in the process of framing it now.
Again, thanks for all your efforts in giving us some great memories (and pictures).
Len and Blanche Scharf, Puebla & México City trip
Best México trip ever! Marina is a real professional, a superior guide…she was especially enthusiastic, knew the areas very well and she made every effort to engage all of us depending on our needs and desires. ¡mil gracias! Marina for a wonderful adventure…looking forward to future trips with you…
Judit and Richard Janiak, Amigos Advisory Group, Albuquerque, México City trip
Dear Marina, This little note is to share with you a few of my memories of the amazing experience with you and the Amigos group in Mexico City and close areas. Our adventure started in the dazzling National Museum of Anthropology. We were honored to view the exquisite Malinaltepec Mask and listen to the story of the famous archaeologist, Porfirio Aguirre, your grandfather, who found the Mask. Hearing the profound story of his career and the mask’s significance was deep and chilling; a story I will never forget. Experiencing the beauty, the people, the history you showed us was truly remarkable.
One of the most rewarding opportunities was visiting the Soteno family in Metepec. We were treated like invited, honored guests as we ate the delicious lunch they had prepared and learned about their art and talent as the premier Tree of Life sculptures. The book we were given about Metepec and the Sotenos is an unexpected treasure.
And oh, Teotihuacan, the pyramids, the sun stone, the deities and the stories! I told you that I am naming my next treasured pet Xochipilii, after the god of art, music, poetry. And who can forget Tlaloc, and the story of his arriving at the museum in a torrent of rain in the middle of a drought!
Visiting Toluca and the beautiful Cosmovitral with the stained glass and botanical gardens late in the afternoon light was like being transported to a fairy tale palace. Your timing, taking us there just when the sun was just at the right angle, was perfect.
Marina, I could write so much more about our adventure. I just want you to know that It was truly a trip of a lifetime. I don’t know how any other trip can match this one. The fabulous trip was all your doing.
Helene Chenier, Amigos Advisory Group, Albuquerque, México, City trip
Our two-week trip to Oaxaca and Puebla with Marina was an incredibly interesting journey into the culture of Mexico. Marina is very generous in sharing her wealth of knowledge about Mesoamerican history, archeology and above all the people and culture of Mexico.
Most notably, we had such rich experiences as we talked with remarkably talented folk artists, watched them demonstrate their skills and techniques, and learned about their families’ histories as artisans. Those opportunities were only possible because of Marina’s deep connections with regional artists.
Bruce Macon & Diane de Ryss, Puebla & Oaxaca during Day of the Dead
My Dear Marina,
Where to start?
I tell my friends, “This was a culturally-rich” visit to Mexico in order to learn about and celebrate the Day of The Dead with local Mexican families. I came away with a special warmness in my heart for the beautiful way in which these families value and celebrate their ancestors and heritage. When we visited the many important artists and they so graciously invited us into their homes to share a meal and their unique craft, I was touched by how humble each one was. Also, I felt I was in the company of their ancestors because their photos, their art and their spirits were present.
When I asked one artist how she felt when recognized as a ‘national treasure’ for her work, she replied, “I was happy, but also a little sad. Sad, because I want all my friends to be recognized too.” How beautiful is that? And this was how our visits went with these beautiful people. One artist changed the lives of his entire community and his sons and extended family honor him every day with blessings and continue to share the trade with others so there are benefits for an entire community.
A highlight for us was visiting individuals in the cemetery on Oct 31 where they were honoring their family members with music, light, food and masses of flowers. Reaching out and touching these people in this way was difficult but also beautiful as they reached back in order to relate as human beings. We need more of this in our world.
Marina made this experience so incredibly rich. Her genuine warmness, her immense depth of knowledge, her organizational skills, her eagerness to please and her ability to love each and every one of the people we met is impressive and heartwarming. This was our second “Mexico immersion” trip with Marina and we cannot wait for the next amazing journey!
Hannah & Mark Friedman, Puebla & Oaxaca during Day of the Dead