Merida, Mexico — When we met with Marina Aguirre at a Centro cafe, her enthusiasm came through immediately. We understood right away why she switched careers, from corporate banking to hosting small tour groups throughout Mexico.
Marina started her own company, Marina in Mexico, Cultural Journeys with Marina Aguirre, to get other people as excited as she is about the land of her birth.
“My main purpose is to share with you my love and my passion for my country and to introduce you to historical places and mystical people that are part of the soul of this glorious country, such as the folk artists, the dancers, the traditional cooks and the healers,” Marina explains on her website, marinainmexico.com.
“They will bring to you the stories, encompassing thousands of years, that are behind their incredible paths and souls.”
Marina’s English is not only impeccable, but she also has a way with words when describing Mexico’s rich history and traditions to English-speaking tourists or residents.
No mere enthusiast, her lively spirit is backed up by scholarly knowledge.
When she quit banking, she moved to Mérida to formally study archaeology, earning a master’s degree in ethnohistory, the branch of anthropology concerned with the history of peoples and cultures, especially non-Western ones.
Marina is a Ph.D. candidate in History. Her dissertation, “The roots of religious festivals in the indigenous peoples of Chiapas in the 16th & 17th centuries,” has given her the opportunity to learn the traditions and mysticism from the local people. Travelers on her tours will have the opportunity to enjoy these colorful celebrations with her, and much more.
She has also shared her research in several international workshops in Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize and has been a university lecturer in Campeche, México City, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Mérida.
Our coffee chat was serendipitously interrupted by an expat exiting a yoga class next door. She had taken Marina’s tour some time ago, and she wanted to tell her how she even still has fond memories of the trip. We learned that it is not unusual for her to be approached on the street or in a cafe by a former client, still brimming with excitement about their experiences.
Marina has worked with various museums and galleries from United States to Israel. Among them: The Folk Art Museum at Santa Fe, the Spanish Colonial Art Society at Santa Fe, the Hispanic Cultural Center from Albuquerque and the Israel Museum.
She has also led National Geographic photojournalists on trips through Mexico, highlighting the country’s most significant points.
Indeed, Marina’s tours tend to linger in her travelers’ minds.
“Almost a month has passed since the conclusion of our trip to Michoacán, and my head is still awash in the sights, sounds and flavors,” said one traveler who posted a review online.
Marina is proud that many of her clients are repeat customers. Perhaps they enjoy the small size of each group, with no more than 16 travelers on each trip. They also tend to be more engaged than travelers just passing the time.
“This was the most interesting, well-educated and accomplished group of travelers with whom I have ever traveled….But even more significant was the very evident curiosity and desire to experience new and unexpected things,” a travelers posted online.
Marina’s own background, combined with her education and mindset, make her a perfect bridge between foreign-born travelers and authentic experiences.
“Marina, not once during this wonderful trip did I feel like a stranger or intruder when visiting indigenous villages or meeting the people. I think this is one of the greatest gifts you gave us on this trip – to feel at home and at ease with other people and cultures so different from my life,” a former tour member wrote.
Diane and Bruce took a tour of Oaxaca and Puebla with Marina and say it “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,” Diane said. “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.”
The Day of the Dead was another opportunity for travelers to benefit from Marina’s inside-look at the celebration.
“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,” said a tour member. “We need more of this in our world.”
Including four archaeological sites festivals in honor of St. Sebastian and St. Ildefonso in three indigenous villages, the visit to Chiapas will be nine days and eight nights, from Jan. 15 to Jan. 23.
Costs are surprisingly modest considering they include so much. This one is US$1,350 per traveler, based on double-occupancy.
Following that is a nine-day, eight-night visit in Mexico City, starting Feb. 16. Naturally, the trip will encompass the ancient and the modern.
Participants will visit buildings and the murals that represent one of the 20th century’s most important artistic movement. They will also follow the footsteps of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and learn about many more important artists who are less famous, but worth knowing about.
Visit Teotihuacan, the most important Mesoamerican city in pre-Hispanic times, and learn about it from its colorful murals, fascinating neighborhoods and cultural expressions. Visit other important archaeological sites like Malinalco and the Templo Mayor. You will be amazed by its architecture and incredible beauty. Use all your senses to explore one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
The trip costs US$1,450 per person, double occupancy.
Just days after this tour ends, Marina will host another group in Michoacán to visit the Monarchs in three butterfly sanctuaries.
The colonial city of Morelia, renown for its museums, galleries and its remarkable historic center, is also on the itinerary as are five Pueblos Mágicos – Pátzcuaro, Angangueo, Cuitzeo, Santa Clara del Cobre and Tzintzuntzan.
This trip is priced at US$1,350 per person, double occupancy, and like the others, will probably fill up fast because it’s capped at 16 travelers.
Marina will be the Merida English Library’s featured speaker at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28.