Since I was young, I watched movies in which Mexico was shown as an enormous desert. There were people riding donkeys and others wearing Mariachi hats. I was left wondering: Is this my country? Why don’t I have one of those hats? Where are all the donkeys?

Mexico isn’t New York City, that much is obvious. But there was something so false about Hollywood’s version of Mexico.

Mexico was home to many Mesoamerican groups that were conquered by the Spanish, people who thought they were being abandoned by their gods at the time of colonization. They suffered a collision between what they believed and what another culture told them to believe. Syncretism created the Mexico we know today.

I’ve lived in Mexico all my life. Even though I’ve had the opportunity to travel and live in different places, there is nothing quite like home. I know people around the world have false impressions of Mexico, but I believe you can only know a country truly when you experience it in person, when you see for yourself that maybe not everything you heard is true. Your mind can change when you meet people, interact with a stranger on the street, or try a traditional dish for the first time.

During the past years I’ve had the opportunity to go to different states within Mexico, and I still have trouble describing my own country.

Mexico is so diverse — there are so many breathtaking sites that you would need more than a year to see to all of them. People come from all around the world to visit historical towns and witness the natural beauty. The first time I visited the blue water waterfalls, “Cascadas de Agua Azul,” in Chiapas, I felt like I was in a dream. Water shone in blue tones and birds hummed everywhere. I thought I was in the most magical place there was … until I took a small boat made out of cork trees by the locals around Pojoj lake. Its turquoise waters made me feel calm and I forgot about everyone and everything.  

Around these magical places there are towns where indigenous communities keep their traditions and languages alive. Local artisans make handmade objects to sell throughout the country. They are important — they are part of our culture, of who we are, and we all share history.

One of the things I love about living in Mexico is visiting the many archaeological sites. When I visited the land of the gods,  Teotihuacán, near Mexico City, I tried to imagine what it was like to lift each stone in order to form the enormous pyramid. I wondered how the inhabitants felt when they finished and climbed to the top for the first time and how all the pyramids looked when they still had colors on them.

Mexico City is full of museums, beautiful parks, and an innumerable amount of restaurants: Indian, Thai, Italian, Chinese, American, Japanese, Mexican (real Mexican!), with a view, with no view, pet friendly, with live music, for a Sunday meal, for breakfast on a Monday — you name it. I feel I only know 30 percent of them and try to go to a different one each time.

There are more than a few traditions in Mexico. Which is my favorite? “Día de los Muertos.” The day of the dead (November 1st and 2nd ). I wait all year just to eat “pan de muerto” (the dead’s bread), during October and November. It is a traditional bread with sugar and four extra pieces of dough on top simulating a skeleton.

During this holiday, it is believed that the dead come back to earth to be near to their loved ones. People make altars, on which a picture of the deceased is put among “cempasúchil” flowers, their favorite food, music, and candles. Families and friends gather in the cemeteries — sometimes they sleep next to the tombs, because only during this day can they reunite with those who have already passed away.

What I love about this tradition is that death is seen as something natural and beautiful. We know we will see our loved ones again soon, every November.

Mexico is riding a bike on a Sunday morning, having lunch with your family, going to parks, smiling at a stranger on the street, eating an ice cream, walking, trying new things.

Like many other countries, Mexico has something special and unique. I have traveled the world, and each of my experiences has left a mark on me. But my main source of inspiration still, and will always, be … my country.