A Virtual Tour of Cultural Mexico (55+)

Did you know Mexico is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Americas? Mexico has inherited a magnificent cultural heritage from past generations. We will explore that heritage from a historical and cultural point of view, in a virtual voyage of discovery through the country’s diverse regions. Along the way, you’ll learn about Mexico’s ways of life, its art and architecture and its long history.

Each week will include a video that evokes the natural and cultural diversity of each region. We’ll also discuss the geography, history and syncretic nature of religion in the areas once occupied by various pre- Hispanic civilizations. You will gain a deeper understanding of Mexico’s subtleties, especially valuable if you’re a potential traveller interested in history and culture.

Note: Back by popular demand, from fall 2016.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Mexico City

Discover one of the oldest cities in the Americas. Mexico City boasts four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and well over 650 museums that appeal to all interests and tastes, from the renowned Museum of Anthropology to various buildings proudly displaying extraordinary murals by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. We explore the canals and floating gardens of Xochimilco, as well as one of the most powerful cultural centres in Mesoamerica, the Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan.

Week 2:  Central Mexico and Veracruz

We explore the 16th century monasteries on the slopes of Popocatepetl, Cuernavaca, the ruins of Xochicalco, the magnificent Spanish colonial architecture of Puebla, and Cholula and Tlaxcala. We then discover the state of Veracruz, which played an important part in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, led by Hernán Cortés. Here we explore the historical port city of Veracruz, Xalapa, Papantla and the magnificent Totonac ruins of El Tajin.

Week 3: Treasures of the Sierra Madre

A visit to the colonial cities of Mexico transports you to a world where traditions endure and romance thrives. We explore Querétaro, the 18th century Franciscan missions of Sierra Gorda, the city of Morelia, artistic town of San Miquel de Allende, lively Guadalajara, the agave landscapes of Tequila, the silver mining towns of Guanajuato and Zacatecas and the ghost town of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosí.

Week 4: Oaxaca

Oaxaca is the most diverse state in Mexico. We explore the Historic Centre of Oaxaca; the pre-hispanic archaeological sites of Monte Albán, Mitla and Yagul, the artisan villages of Ocotlan, San Bartolo Coyotepec, San Martin de Tilcajete, Santa Maria Atzompa, Santa Maria del Tule, Santo Tomas Jalitzea, Tlacochahuaya and Tlacolula. On the Pacific Coast we will discover the beaches of Huatulco, Puerto Escondido and Zipolite, along with Mazuynte, a centre for giant sea turtles.

Week 5: Lands of the Maya

The Maya are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica. We will explore the ancient Mayan cities of Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Cobá, Tulum, Kohunlich, Edzná and Calakmul on the Yucatán Peninsula and the fascinating ruins of Toniná, Palenque, Yaxchilán and Bonampak in the jungles of Chiapas. See the Maya people of today and how their traditional beliefs have intermixed with Christianity to provide one of the world's most unique samples of living syncretism in San Cristóbal de las Casas, San Juan de Chamula and Zinacantán in the highlands of Chiapas.

Week 6: The Day of the Dead

We conclude our course with a session discovering the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday celebrated in many parts of the world, typically on November 1, All Saint’s Day and November 2, All Soul’s Day. In Mexico, where the holiday has perhaps its highest prominence, the holiday has ancient Mesoamerican roots and is a national holiday. The emphasis is on celebrating and honouring the lives of the deceased and celebrating the continuation of life; the belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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