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Spanish is the official language of Mexico. Mexico is an ethnically diverse country, with many people being descendents from both indigenous groups and European immigrants, though the southern part of the country has significantly higher levels of indigenous peoples than other areas. These southern and central regions are also home to several indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl and Yukatek Maya. Over 80% of Mexico’s population belongs to the Roman Catholic church, with attendance rates at about 47%. Many Mexican towns and cities have their own patron saints, which are celebrated with yearly feasts. Both Spanish and indigenous influences can be seen in art, architecture, and music. Mariachi performing groups (bands using singers, guitars, trumpets, and other instruments) regularly perform at festivals and restaurants, and many folk dances and traditional music are still practiced. Rock, pop, and other music styles such as norteña and ranchera are popular today. Soccer is the most popular sport in Mexico, though baseball is also popular. Lucha libre wrestling and bullfighting are also popular events. Mexican cuisine is based on the staples of corn, beans, and chili peppers, often used with meat, cheese, and other herbs and spices. Traditionally, the main meal is eaten during the afternoon. A soup is served first, followed by a meat dish with sauce and salsa, along with tortillas and beans. Street vendors are also quite popular, selling tacos, quesadillas, tortas, roasted chicken, and other dishes. Bacon-wrapped hot dogs are another popular street vendor food. Cuisine varies in different regions, with flour tortillas, burritos, cheese, and beef being more popular in the north, while tropical fruits and tamales are more commonly used in southern cooking. Seafood, morisqueta (a sausage and rice meal), and carnitas (deep-fried pork) are more commonly eaten in western Mexico.
The Church is not as widely known in this area as it is in other parts of Mexico. In the city of San Luis Potosi there are two stakes; in the city of Aguascalientes there are two stakes; in the city of Zacatecas there is only one stake. There are also a few branches scattered about the mission. The Church is growing in this area and the members are working hard with the missionaries to increase the amount of converts.
The food in the Aguascalientes mission mainly consists of chicken, pork, tortillas, beans and rice. Soups such as Pozole, a dish made of meat and chillies, and Menudo, a dish made with red chile, lime and beef stomach are also frequently eaten. Every day the missionaries are fed lunch by one of the families in the ward. It is also common for investigators or members to feed missionaries when they visit.
The main mode of transportation is by foot. Bus transportation is also very common in this area. Buses range from standing-room only to luxury seating. Typically when missionaries are transferred from one city to another, they take the luxury buses. Local buses are a great way to meet new investigators.
The Aguascalientes Mission is very safe. As long as missionaries obey the rules and use common sense, they can be rest assured.
Mexican culture focuses heavily on traditions. There are many Catholic holidays that are celebrated only in Mexico. These traditions may seem strange to foreign missionaries. It is important to be respectful to these customs and understand that Mexicans are very spiritually-minded. Mexican people also have a strong emphasis on the family and respecting their ancestors.
Within the country of Mexico there are many different dialects and phrases that are only used in certain states or cities. Within the Aguascalientes Mission you will find different words or terms used. Do not be afraid to ask what they mean.
Be sure to bring a light winter coat. During the winter months it can get a little cold in some areas. Fingerless gloves are great to use because you can write information in your planner without having to take your gloves off.
Start practicing Spanish before you get to the Missionary Training Center. A free phone app called, “DuoLingo” can really help you learn the basics.
Prolongación Adolfo López Mateos #98
Colonia Trojes de Alonso
C.P. 20116 Jesus Maria, Aguascalientes
What items were hard to get or not available? It was difficult to get peanut-butter. Since I was raised on peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, that was a necessity that was hard to come by. Chocolate sweets were also hard to find. Mexicans typically eat spicy candy instead of chocolate.
What did you eat the most of? Tortillas, tortillas and more tortillas. There are two types of tortillas: corn and flour. Typically in this mission you will be eating corn tortillas, although there will be times when you eat with people from the north of Mexico who mainly eat with flour tortillas. You also will eat a lot of jicama and papaya. Some American missionaries had trouble with these two foods. It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with them.
What is the craziest thing you ate? The craziest thing I ate is called Menudo. Menudo is a soup with red chile, lime and beef stomach. It is a meal typically served on Sundays and it is an honor to be served it at meal time. Whenever I ate with Mexican families, they understood that foreigners struggled with this meal and were not offended when some foreign missionaries didn’t like it. However, I advise you to at least try it. It really isn’t that bad once you accept how chewy it is.
What was most surprising about the culture? Mexicans are very friendly. Complete strangers will offer you food even when they do not want to hear your message. One of our neighbors in one of my areas invited us to their party once. It was celebrating their infants recent baptism in the Catholic church. My companions and I ended up eating with them and teaching them about the gospel during this party. It was great.
What advice would you give to someone going to this Mission? Immerse yourself in the language and culture. For the first year and a half I only spoke Spanish. I took every opportunity to ask questions to the Mexican people about their traditions, culture and language. Mexicans were always very kind and patient with my language capabilities. No one ever got angry at me for trying to communicate with them. You actually will gain the respect of many people when they see the effort you are making. You have nothing to fear. The Lord is on your side.
What do you wish you had known before you served? You do not need to buy the raincoat they suggest. Anytime it would rain, we just used an umbrella or a light coat. You will also be walking everywhere. Be prepared to buy new shoes. I went through three pairs of shoes throughout the mission. I also suggest reading and practicing the Preach My Gospel lessons now. Do not wait to start your mission in the Missionary Training Center. Every member is a missionary. Start now.
**Did you serve in the Texas Houston Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**