How to pretend to be in Riviera Maya, Mexico, today

While your travel plans are on hold, you can pretend you’re in a new place for the night. Around the World at Home invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture, all from the comfort of your home.

It is a land of mangroves along the Caribbean Sea, home to some of the earliest astronomers, and a day trip back in time to ancient towns like Chichén Itzá, a Unesco World Heritage.

Known as the Riviera Maya, the ever popular vacation corridor south of Cancun to Tulum draws legions of revelers to its white sand beaches. Gatherings, of course, are not secure these days, but with a little imagination you can savor the culture and cuisine of the region.

Like many travelers who first visited the area when it was quieter and less crowded, I was wowed not only by its natural beauty – the lush jungle, chasms filled with turquoise and green water called cenotes that some Mayans thought they were portals to the underworld – but also with the remaining traces of a society dating back thousands of years. It was the Riviera Maya that instantly caught my eye, the coastal gateway to a great civilization that throughout Mesoamerica built pyramids and followed the movements of the moon, gave the world striking hieroglyphic writing and left a legacy of captivating myths. And it turns out that these enduring aspects of culture are particularly suited to exploring from home.

Nowadays, I virtually visit these ancient ruins and dazzling cenotes. You can also. And while you’re at it, you can dive into epic quests with gods and mythical creatures, dance around your house to traditional music in Folklorists and cook the irresistible flavors of the Yucatán Peninsula. Suddenly, the Riviera Maya is just a book or a recipe away.

One of the region’s most popular dishes is cochinita pibil, roast pork in the stone. The Netflix series “Taco Chronicles»Devotes an entire episode to it. Lack of pit? Do not despair. A heavy-lid casserole dish in the oven does the trick in this New York Times kitchen Recipe of Maricel E. Presilla, culinary historian and chef, and Diana kennedy, the author of cookbooks like “The essential cuisines of MexicoWho has spent decades studying culinary styles across the country and who received the Order of the Aztec Eagle of the Mexican government. Even if cooking is not your thing, the documentary “Diana Kennedy: Nothing extraordinaryAbout his life in Mexico, could be – it’s kind of a meditation to find your life’s work.

Add the chef to your shelf Margarita Carrillo Arronte‘s “Mexico: the cookbook»For a journey into the country’s culinary history and over 650 recipes, including slow-cooked pork and other delicacies from the Yucatán Peninsula.

In search of Mayan cuisine beyond the cochinita pibil for a New York Times item in 2012, journalist and cookbook author Mark Bittman visited the Yucatán Peninsula, where restaurateurs demonstrated how they make tamales, tortillas, salsa and huevos en torta. Mr. Bittman asked to make polkanes, which he describes as Maya Hush puppies. Who could resist? Discover his recipes for polkanes, eggs in cake and tomato and pumpkin seed salsa.

Add to your Quarantine Reading List Lila downs, the Grammy Award– winning musician who sang in Spanish, English and several natives languages ​​like Mayan, Zapotec and Mixtec. Mrs Downs, who wrote on her mother being from the indigenous Mixtec group, has “many voices”, like Jon Pareles, the chief popular music critic at The Times, Put the, “From an airborne quasi-falsetto to a straightforward alto and a sensual and emotional contralto.” Her NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert will thwart any hope you have of working – even if it will make you dance.

Keep your feet typing with Los Folkloristas, a band of Mr. Pareles once described as “enthusiastic conservatives”. Their traditional music originates from various parts of Mexico. Fortunately, you can stream their albums wherever you are and witness their lively performances. on Youtube.

In and around the Riviera Maya are remarkable ancient ruins like those of Cobá, Tulum and Chichen Itza, which in 2007 was selected as one of the “new Seven Wonders of the World(The original seven had shrunk to one: the pyramids). The monuments of Chichén Itzá are “among the undisputed masterpieces of Mesoamerican architecture”, like Unesco described he. Would you like to see for yourself? You can. Visit the ruins virtually with The Times’s “Seven new wonders in 360“video. And explore older Mayan sites with the John Lloyd Stephens classic,”Travel incidents to Yucatán”, First published in the 1840s.

The vast Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum is a Unesco World Heritage Site, with tropical forests that are home to vulnerable and endangered species like the black-handed spider monkey, Yucatan black howler monkey and Central American Tapir. From your laptop, it’s a snap to get there. Discover the waters with West Indian manatee and nesting sea turtles on Unesco websiteand dive into the blue cenotes of Sian Ka’an in another world video.

“From shark diving near Playa del Carmen to the reefs near Tulum, the whole area is a divers dream,” said Oscar Lopez, press assistant for the New York Times office in Mexico, where he is born. He has since dived all over the world, but the Riviera Maya is still one of his favorite places. “And that’s right at sea – inland you can dive deep underground, sink into cenotes to explore one of the world’s largest underground river systems, swim past stalactites, or float gently in. a cloud of smoky hydrogen sulfide before rising to the surface and walking. back through the jungle.

The early Mayans were accomplished astronomers and mathematicians. And you? Find out everything you know about the sun and the seasons with Games and videos on the Smithsonian Institution’s Living Maya Time website National Museum of the American Indians.

Climb into a hammock or plunge into a comfortable chair, imagine yourself on the Caribbean coast and listen to researchers in anthropology and archeology delve into the history of “Mayan civilization. Who are the people who built the great cities, now in ruins, to which visitors flock year after year? Discover in this episode of the long BBC Radio 4 program, “In our time. “

How will you channel the spirit of the Riviera Maya into your home? Share your ideas in the comments.

To follow the next articles in this series, subscribe to our At Home newsletter or follow New York Times Travel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Find out more Around the world guides at home here.

Stephanie Rosenbloom, author of “Time Alone: ​​Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude” (Viking), has written about travel, business and styles for The Times for almost two decades. Twitter: @Stephronyt. Instagram: @StephanieRosenbloom

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