I'd been working on a science fiction novel about illegal biotechnology research and the villains who perform it. You know,
Frankenstein's Monster kind of stuff. My idea was to place the book in Mexico, where illicit activities might thrive better than in the USA, and where, in fact, some companies already perform research and experiments that wouldn’t fly in the US. For example, pharmaceutical companies wanting to explore genetically modified vegetables do research in Mexico. Who knows what else might be happening there in 25 years?
At the same time, Amy and I had been dying for a vacation. Except
for our trip to the UK that summer, neither of us had travelled internationally
for 10+ years. So! Off we go to Mexico, both for tourism and for research.
Hopefully we'd get to meet some real Mexicans and find out accurate facts about life south of the border, instead of only relying on our assumptions. Amy knows a little Spanish, and for the rest we planned to rely on arm-waving and our Spanish phrasebook.
The trick was finding a good place to explore that might work as a location for the illegal research in my book. Mexico City, the obvious destination, was right out because of travelers' advisories warning about theft. And we didn't think a resort place like Cancun or Tijuana would be a good setting for the book. We wanted someplace more remote and gritty, less touristy. We decided to go to Merida, located in the State of Yucatan to the southeast, and to Oaxaca city, in the State of Oaxaca to the south. Later on, I ended up going to San Cristobal in the State of Chiapas, high in the mountains between Yucatan and Oaxaca.
As one of the largest cities in Mexico, Merida might not seem like a place where my bad guys would be able to hide their activities. But the city’s location only about 35 kilometers from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, made it and the surrounding area a reasonable choice. The historical sites in the city and the beautiful scenery of the area were a highlight of our trip.
Oaxaca City relies heavily on tourism for its economy, but it’s far enough from the major tourist destinations that it fit my criteria for my book. Oaxaca City’s colonial-era buildings and proximity to major sites of historical significance led to it being named a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Later on, I ended up going to San Cristobal in the State of Chiapas,
high in the mountains between Yucatan and Oaxaca.