The Best Gifts, Souvenirs, And Things To Buy In Mexico
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big shopper but when I am in Mexico I can go a little overboard. It is the same way my wife feels about going to the United States. We are interested in things that are hard to acquire in our home countries and sometimes it is about availability but other times it is about price. When I am looking for the best souvenirs from Mexico, I look for high-quality original products directly from the producers to get the best deals.
This turned into a very personal list. I spent a lot of time crawling through old cell phone photos looking for pictures of that hat shop in Zitacuaro, old tile photos, and the restaurant pictures featuring Ojeda knives. I genuinely think these are some of the best quality souvenirs from Mexico that you can acquire. It is worth the effort to search out the best manufacturers out there. Quality Talavera and tequila will make you relive the travels.
Table of Contents: The Best Souvenirs from Mexico
- Food Stuff
- Kitchen stuff
- Folk Art
- Leather Goods
- Religious Momentos
Best Food & Drink Souvenirs To Buy In Mexico
Things you can eat are always at the top of my list of souvenirs from Mexico. Mexican food is widely regarded as one of the world’s great culinary traditions and you can buy really cool presents inexpensively in the grocery store or local market.
Mexico has a significant coffee industry but the quantity has long overshadowed the quality. Great coffee isn’t hard to find but you will have to look for specialty coffee roasters. An inexpensive 1 lb bag of specialty coffee will cost around $25 in the United States. In Mexico, you can find a bag of specialty coffee by world-class coffee roasters for less than $10 per bag. Of course, you can spend much more but all else equal, the coffee in Mexico is significantly less expensive than it is in the United States.
While in Mexico, go big. Read about the best coffee shops in Guadalajara and Mexico City. Find out who is growing unique varietals in regions that you didn’t realize grow coffee. I always love sharing a cup of coffee with a friend and telling stories about where it came from. I surf in Nayarit so gifting a bag of black honey from a small farm on the backside of a dormant volcano makes for a good story. It might even convince your friends to come and visit.
Everybody knows that Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chiapas grow wonderful coffee. Fewer people are aware of the exceptional coffee farms in Colima, Michoacan, Hidalgo, and Jalisco. Look for the best coffee roasters in the town you are visiting. Buy mail-order coffee from the guys who win the national awards. For a small fraction of what those coffees will cost in the United States, you will have treasures in a cup to tell stories over.
My Favorite Mexican Coffee Roasters
- Café Estelar in Guadalajara, Jalisco
- Cafeología in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas (best mail order coffee)
- Café con Jiribilla in Mexico City
- Finca chelín in Candelaria Loxicha, Oaxaca
- Cafe Passmar in Mexico City
My Favorite Coffee Making Methods
- Hario V60 Drip Coffee Decanter (700 ml)
- Hario V60 Paper Coffee Filters (size 2)
- Electric Gooseneck Kettle with Temperature Control
- Digital Food Scale
- Cusinart Coffee Grinder
- Manual Coffee Grinder
Distilled Agave Spirit Souvenirs From Mexico
The agave is part of the Mexican identity. The plant was called the marvelous tree by the original people because of all of the uses they came up with for the different parts. Today, the cooked agave hearts are really big business. Tequila still dominates the market but mezcal is one of the hottest commodities in hospitality. Then there are smaller, regional agave spirits like raicilla, sotol, and bacanora that can be hard to find outside of their respective appellation of origin.
I talk with lots of people online about visiting the Ruta del Tequila in Jalisco and I understand that some people love their Patron Tequila. Patron is a great brand name but you can find that tequila in nearly every country in the world. When you visit Mexico, I think you should look for the small brands that do not have international distribution and you can only find them here. Try something new and bring back a bottle that is not available back home.
A long time ago when I lived in Los Angeles, California I had friends from Jalisco who would travel back and forth regularly. We would get so excited to try bottles of tequila that you couldn’t find at any of the local liquor stores. There are a number of different methods for making tequila and it is fun to taste the different styles. A number of boutique distilleries are going back to ancient production methods to make tequila reminiscent of the tequila drank long ago before accountants and cost-cutting altered the old recipes.
Check out my article on visiting the Tequila Valles Region
My Favorite Distilled Agave Spirits
- Cascahuin Tequila
- Siembra Valles Tequila
- Tequila Ocho
- Tequila Caballito Cerrero
- Anything from Pedro Jimenez’ line of Mezonte agave spirits
- El Jolgorio Mezcal
- Rey Campero Mezcal
- Sombra Mezcal
- Sal de Gusano
My Favorite Glasses
Real Mexican Vanilla
Vanilla is originally from the jungles of East Mexico and it is no wonder that some of the best quality vanilla still comes from the region. Grade A, top-quality vanilla is very expensive and can fetch up to US$500 a pound for uncut beans. The flavor is derived from an orchid flower and anyone who has ever tried to keep an orchid as a house plant knows just how difficult they are to raise. The flowers take at least six years to grow fruit (the vanilla bean) and have to be pollinated by hand.
If you want to go all out, I recommend buying some vanilla beans at the traditional market. If you just want a cheap present, buy a small bottle of all-natural, liquid vanilla. If you have anyone in your life who bakes, good quality vanilla always makes a lovely present. Make sure to get all-natural. The artificial vanilla flavor is gross.
Mexico has a relatively small wine industry even though there is a long history of fermenting grapes. I grew up in San Diego and even though the premier Mexican wine-making region is less than two hours away there is very little Mexican wine that crosses the border. In order to get the best selection, you have to go to Mexico.
You can find a little bit of Mexican wine in the major Mexican supermarkets or Costco but the real treasure is going to visit La Contra Vinos. They have the best selection of boutique, micro-lot wines that Mexico has to offer and a calendar of tastings, classes, and other social events.
One thing that you will notice is that Mexican wine is a little more expensive when compared to Chilean or Spanish wine. Those countries have much larger wine-making industries and some economies of scale. Plus, water is expensive in Mexico.
That being said, I love surprising my wine-loving friends with superb bottles of Mexican wine. My dad is a big wine drinker and the look on his face after trying Vino de Piedra was priceless as he turned to me and said, “That’s Mexican wine!!??”
Here is a little video I made about a couple of wines that I like.
My Favorite Wines
- Emevé (Shiraz) Valle de Guadalupe
- Finca la Carrodilla (Shiraz) Valle de Guadalupe
- Aborigen Blanco (Sauvignon Blanc) Valle de Guadalupe
- Adobe Guadalupe Kerubiel (Rhone style blend of syrah, grenache and mourvedre) Valle de Guadalupe
- L.A. Cetto (Nebbiolo) Valle de Guadalupe
- Vino de la Reina (Sangiovese) Valle de San Vicente
- La Trinidad Fauno (Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel) Valle de Guadalupe
- La Redonda Orlandi Semidry Sparkling Rosé Queretaro
- Casa Madero 3V Gran Reserva (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) Valle de Parras, Coahuila
Most of these wines can be found at La Contra Vinos. There are a number of wine stores throughout the country and if you live in Mexico, they will ship wine.
My Favorite Wine Gear
If you drink wine then you should know how to open a bottle of wine with a waiter’s wine key. If you really like wine, I might even travel with a nice wine key if you plan on visiting wine country. Buying a great bottle directly from the winery and heading to a picnic spot overlooking the ocean to drink wine and watch the sunset is one of life’s great pleasures. You are really going to want to have a wine key with you.
- Professional Waiter Wine Key with Rosewood Handle
- If you are going to sell wine, I like to have a nice wine key because it is part of the trade
- Wine Folly, The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette
Mexicans have a sweet tooth. There are a lot of different styles and brands of candies. There are industrial candies with marketing departments and funny-looking cartoons but here are also traditional candies with a lot of history. One of my favorite types of Mexican candy is the candied fruit section. There are dozens of new sights and smells that you might not be acquainted with.
Foreigners might be a little shocked by some of the candies that people eat in Mexico. Sweet, sour, and spicy flavors are strong but absolutely delicious.
To start with, there is a La Rosa factory store in Zapopan that is Instagram friendly. The mazapán made by La Rosa is one of the most iconic candies ever made. It is a peanut candy that is really delicate and doesn’t travel well. The chocolate-covered mazapán is better than Reese’s peanut butter cups. They are absolutely amazing.
The party stores will have the best selection of industrial candies. The Vero brand chile-covered sour mango lollypop takes a little getting used to but is addictive once you get a taste for it.
My favorite Mexican candies are made from local fruits. There are fruit strips, fruit rolls, drops, animal shapes, and more shapes than you can imagine. Some of the fruits are incredibly acidic or bitter in their raw forms but once you add a bunch of sugar some magic happens.
The Guava roll filled with coconut cream is my favorite. The chile tamarindo drops are addictive. Do what you can to taste as many new flavors as possible.
My Favorite Traditional Candy Shops
- Mercado de Abastos (Guadalajara and Mexico City)
- La Gota de Miel (Colima)
- La Mariposa (Queretaro)
- Museo del Dulce De La Calle Real (Morelia)
- La Rosa Factory Store (Guadalajara)
Chocolate and Cacao
I know that somebody is going to point out that chocolate is a type of candy and should be included in that section of this article. I separated chocolate because the main ingredient, cacao, is one of the most significant ingredients that Mexico has given the world. It is hard to imagine how much this one ingredient has influenced the culinary world, everywhere.
The story goes that the god Quetzalcoatl took some cacao seeds from paradise and planted them near Tula. Quetzalcoatl got together with Tlaloc, the god of rain, and convinced him to create the correct climate to grow the cacao seeds. Lastly, he went to Xochiquetzal, the god of love and beauty, and asked her to give the plant beautiful flowers and fruit. It is enjoyable to listen to the folklore related to the history of this ingredient that has changed the world.
There are a lot of different ways to prepare and consume the cacao fruit. Chocolate is just one of the many uses for the plant. It is a really nice experience to visit one of the high-end chocolatiers where you can hear about harvesting the plant and all of the different product lines that exist. And if you happen to be in a cacao producing region, look for tascalate, pozol, tejate, or tanchuca beverages. You won’t be disappointed to try something new.
My favorite chocolate shops in Mexico
- La Broma de Teo in Guadalajara
- Cacao Central in Mexico City
- Mexicolate in Sayulita and San Pancho
Salsas, Spices, and Moles
The chile pepper is another ingredient that is native to Mexico. There are a lot of different varieties of chiles here including regional variations. In Oaxaca, there is a chile called a chilhuacle that is ridiculously expensive because almost nobody is growing it anymore. In the highlands of Jalisco, there is a class of chile de arbol that grows especially well in the area around Yahualica de Gonzalez Gallo. In Guadalajara, everyone just refers to it as chile Yahualica and it costs significantly more than the ones imported from China and India.
Again, going into the traditional markets in a small town is a lot of fun but you can also buy a lot of the best inexpensive souvenirs from Mexico. Salsas, spices, and moles can cost between one and two dollars for something really cool.
Little bottles of artisanal salsas are a great way to style someone out with a cool present. Unless you live in Southern California, you might now have an incredible selection of Mexican markets and quality Mexican products. My brother lives in Chile and they don’t eat spicy food down there. They don’t even call chile peppers chiles, they call them ají. Mark loves Salsa Tapatío and buys it by the liter-sized bottle.
Exotic salsas are one of the best souvenirs from Mexico you can buy for your friends and family.
Do you remember that chile that I mentioned in the intro, the chile chilhuacle. Well, that is a chile used to make a historic version of the classic Oaxacan black mole. It is incredibly expensive and would be astronomical to buy at a Whole Foods in Los Angeles. There are a lot of mole pastes available at the traditional markets. You just need to mix them with chicken or vegetable stock and you have one of Mexico’s most iconic flavors. There are 7 classic mole flavors or colors, so try something new.
You can buy spices anywhere but if you happen to be anywhere in the south of Mexico, look for local achiote paste or the spices used to make cochinita pibil. It is an inexpensive and exciting souvenir from Mexico.
Corn Nixtamal for Tortillas
My sister and I both eat gluten-free. Corn tortillas are a naturally gluten-free food that helps to define the Mexican identity. There is a saying, “Sin maíz, no hay país” or without corn, there is no country. The quantity of heirloom varietal and unique types of corn that are grown in Mexico are a part of world heritage. The corn is absolutely amazing and a fraction of what it costs in the US if you can even get it. At a wonderful Mexican restaurant in La Jolla California with an heirloom varietal corn tortilla-making project, they charge US$2 per tortilla. That is US$6.00 for an extra of three excellent tortillas. You can get a kilo of perfect pink, blue or white ground nixtamal dough for $2.00 -$3.00 dollars at the fancy tortilla places.
If you like good tortillas there is nothing like perfecting the skill of laying a raw tortilla on a comal (or frying pan) and watching it inflate. Do you remember the first time you tried an heirloom tomato? The feeling of eating industrial, cardboard tasintg tomatoes your whole life and not realizing they were the worst-tasting varieties on the market. An heirloom varietal tomato tastes nothing like an industrial, hot-house grown tomato. It is the same thing with the corn tortilla. If you grew up eating industrial corn tortillas then a corn tortilla from a small village made with heirloom corn and ground with a stone metate could possibly change your life.
My favorite tortillas
- Xokol in Guadalajara
- Maizajo in Mexico City
- Cintli in Mexico City
- El Molino de Pujol in Mexico City
- Xub Maiz en Oaxaca
Sea Salt from Colima
You can think about the sea salt that is produced in the state of Colima as a condiment. It tastes different than the standard iodized table salt but more importantly has a softer texture that compliments most foods. Come to Cuyutlán, Colima where the salt is made, and eat some tacos in the plaza. The salt melts into the meat and provides little pops of flavor. There are a million uses for this granular sea salt but if you barbeque, you will really enjoy having the Colima sea salt nearby.
For some of these souvenirs from Mexico, you will need to have some extra space in your luggage. A molcajete for example is a huge piece of sculpted stone. The really nice tortilla presses are heavy blocks of wood. If you want to buy a knife, you will have to check a bag because you know the airport security drill. Carry on is not an option.
When you start making salsa with molcajete you automatically reach the next level of your culinary training. Cooks can be separated into two basic categories: those who use a molcajete to make salsas and those who do not. The molcajete makes the best salsas.
Now, buying a good molcajete is the goal. This is a large and heavy souvenir from Mexico that will have a significant transportation cost so you will want to get a good one. The cheap ones use cheap stone what easily turns into sand. It takes a long time to cure those molcajetes to use with food. There is nothing worst than sand in the salsa and a cheap, new molcajete will do that.
There is a region in the state of Guanajuato that is famous for making high-quality molcajetes. They even have a trademark for the name Molcajetes Comonfort which is considered to be some of the best in the country. They really are works of art. The volcanic stone is sculpted with chisels and hammers like in the old days. They come with intricate designs decorating the exterior of the bowl.
When you get a new molcajete you need to cure it with salt to help remove any loose sand that may have been dislodged during the fabrication process. Take some Colima sea salt and grind it with the pestle. You should get a helper to continue the process for the length of your helper’s attention span. You don’t want sand in your salsa, trust me.
If you say that you like cooking Mexican food then you should have a tortilla press at home. There is nothing like entertaining and whipping out the tortilla press to show off and make tacos with tortillas fresh off the comal. If you flip your tortillas with your hands rather than a spatula, you have graduated from the introductory level.
The tortilla is one of the most important ingredients to a taco. If you have bad tortillas you have bad tacos. A good tortilla is the basis for a good taco. It is the foundation that everything else is held together with.
Chocolate Whisk or Molinillo
The wooden whisk that Mexicans use to whip the hot chocolate is one of the coolest souvenirs from Mexico you can gift your friends. The brutal truth is that they will probably never use it. Those single-use kitchen utensils just take up space in the kitchen drawers. They probably have more value to your friends as a decorative piece than an actual kitchen utensil.
Knives Ojeda from Sayula, Jalisco
The knives from Sayula are famous throughout Mexico. It is a real status symbol in Guadalajara to have unique steak knives at high-end restaurants that say Sayula, Jalisco. The knives were originally for hunting but they have moved into a more culinary direction. They are absolutely beautiful.
Mexico is famous for ceramics. It is a big country and there are distinct regional styles that have developed over the course of a thousand years. While I was researching this section I read that pottery is the practice of making containers or vessels by heating something non-metal like clay. Ceramics is a broader category that includes art and decorations.
You can buy cheap ceramics just about everywhere. I recommend flipping the pieces over and making sure there isn’t a made-in-China stamp. Look for something signed by an artist, a cooperative, or a region. No description is usually lower quality.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are modern and traditional styles of ceramics. You can find the traditional Talavera designs being made everywhere. There are also a number of modern collectives making beautiful modern ceramics for high-end restaurants. You can order a dining set or you can plan a mural, there are a lot of options.
Talavera from Puebla and Tlaxcala
Once you get a taste for Talavera, you will want to start tiling everything in your house. My mom absolutely loves Talavera and we have been collecting for some years. My step-dad was in Puebla a while back and visited the Talavera Celia factory. This is where we ordered our fine tableware. It was shipped to our house in the United States and took a little over a month to make and ship.
I love putting tile accents everywhere. I took an old table that my mom wanted to get rid of and covered it in tile. She kept the table for another ten years. Many of the small paintings are premade but if you are willing to wait, you can custom order a picture of your choice. My mom took her favorite photo of her favorite beach to Tijuana and a month later had a beautiful tile mural of La Jolla Shores.
My favorite Talavera shops
These are some of the finest ceramics producers in Mexico. Their pieces are expensive but meant to last for generations.
You can find inexpensive Talavera-style tiles all over the place but I really like Lomeli Tile in Tijuana. We have bought several custom pieces and all sorts of tiles from them. Once you learn how to use the tile cutter you will want to start covering everything in bright colorful tiles.
Black clay from Oaxaca
Black clay ceramics or barro negro is typical of San Bartolo Coyotepec and Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca where they have been making it since ancestral times. The pieces have come to be regarded as extravagant in their style. The clay pieces are polished by hand after firing in the wood-burning oven. If you are in Oaxaca, you should pick up something nice for your mother.
Traditional and Modern Pottery from Jalisco,
Jalisco has a traditional style of ceramics characterized by green and red earth tones. In Guadalajara you can find spectacular examples of high-end, traditional ceramics at the Instituto de la Artesenia de Jalisco in the Agua Azul Park.
In addition to traditional ceramics, Jalisco is famous for its modern styles of ceramics. Tlaquepaque has been a potters’ village for centuries and they never stopped evolving. Ceramica Suro makes murals and large-scale, avant-garde ceramics for restaurants and infrastructure projects across the globe. Ceramica Avalos makes some of the most beautiful tableware that you will ever see. These aren’t the types of galleries where you can buy pieces off of a showroom floor. You need to months, or in the case of Ceramica Suro, years to take a project from concept to completion. At Ceramica Avalos, you can look at examples but getting a complete table set fired will take at least a month. If you want to see their pieces, head to palReal Café. I bought a pair of espresso cups that I use with my Moka Pot coffee maker. It made the pandemic a lot more tolerable. I went over a year without a real espresso but the Moka Pot and a nice cup get you pretty close to the coffee shop experience.
Mexico has a long history of making quality glass products. The Guadalajara cathedral was commissioned in the 16th century and required a number of skilled tradesmen to migrate from Spain to the new world to assemble the stained glass windows that were being imported. Many of then stayed. Not just in Guadalajara but wherever there are spectacular churches there will be glassmakers needed to assemble and repair the magnificent pieces you appreciate in the churches.
Guadalajara has both simple blown glass and elegant cut glass factories. You can find drinking glasses next to a shop that specializes in stained glass windows and chandeliers. Remember, glass is very fragile. Make sure that you are traveling with enough luggage to accommodate properly packed glassware.
These are some of my favorite pieces.
- Blown glass drinking glasses – 10 oz tumblers
- Blown glass drinking glasses – 14 oz blue spiral
- Margarita Glasses – 16 oz aqua swirl
- Wine glasses
A close friend of mine has been collecting Mexican soccer jerseys since he was a little kid. He lent me jerseys to wear when we would go to games or just to go to lunch in Baja. I was always amazed at how many people would stop me and say how much they loved the jersey when I was wearing it. Every time that my dad wears his Charros de Jalisco baseball hat to a game in the US he is stopped several times by people complimenting it.
It is pretty common knowledge that soccer is a big deal in Mexico. Recently, baseball has been growing at leaps and bounds. Me personally, I like to buy shirts from local surfboard shapers. There are a lot more sports than you might realize so keep an eye out for an event that you are interested in.
Mexican Wrestling Memorabilia – Lucha Libre
Before going any further I want you to rewatch Nacho Libre and tell me that you don’t love Mexican wrestling. I just read an article in Mexico Desconocido about the retro, plastic luchador figurines that just about everyone in Mexico had as a kid. They are iconic.
A few years back I had a layover in Mexico City and came across a Lucha Libre memorabilia store. They had tons of clothing like t-shirts and lucha libre masks but I picked up a few DVDs of classic, 1960s lucha libre movies. El Santo and Blue Demon have some great stories to tell.
Mexico is a large and culturally diverse place with artisans in every city and town. I am going to have to keep working on this section because I am just barely scratching the surface of amazing artisan villages across the country. Near Guadalajara is a village that makes equipales tables and chairs. Tlalpujahua makes spherical glass Christmas tree ornaments and Paracho makes guitars. Mexico is easily one of the world’s favorite destinations for traditional folk art.
Alibrijes from Oaxaca
Alebrijes are like cartoons that have climbed out of the comic books. They are fantastic animal-like creatures that were dreamed up by an iconic artist names Pedro Linares. Originally, he made them out of paper mache for the likes of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo but he got together with some carpenters who had a long tradition of making carved animals. The only difference is that the alebrijes were imaginary animals with mix-matched parts like a bird with horns or a big cat with the head of an eagle. You can take tours of the factories making the figurines on the outskirts of Oaxaca City.
Otomi María Dolls
These María dolls or simple rag dolls are probably a victim of their own popularity. They are made by traditional artisans and multinational companies alike and I would bet that at least some of them are being made in China. In the town of Amealco de Bonifil, Querétaro there is a community of Mazahua and Otomi women who still make the dolls the old-fashioned way with a sewing machine and by hand. They hold a handcrafted doll festival every year and it would be a good place to see people making the dolls.
In addition to clothing, you will find ample examples of traditional Mexican embroidery. The southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas are famous for their styles of embroidery. In Sayulita, we met a young woman from Chiapas who was selling stuffed animals that she makes with brightly colored yarn embroidery. The traditional artisans in Mexico are some of the finest in the world. You will fall in love with their styles.
Day of the Dead Figurines
Experiencing Day of the Dead in Michoacan, Mexico City o Oaxaca is a life-changing experience. The modern imagery for Day of the Dead was started by artists like José Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera but has continued to evolve and grow across the planet.
As I was passing through the airport, I saw these beautiful porcelain Day of the Dead statues. When I arrived at my Mom’s house I noticed that she had a set. She bought the man and wife Day of the Dead statue when she was returning from my wedding, at the same airport souvenir shop that I saw them at.
Clothes Made in Mexico
One thing that I learned about Mexico is that getting dressed up with some style is important. You will notice that different events require different dress codes. There is a designated outfit for weddings, fall in the pueblos magicos like Valle del Bravo or Tapalpa, and the hippy-chic beaches of Tulum or Sayulita. Picking up a nice shirt, sweatshirt or hat is a nice way to remember how much you love Mexico.
The huipiles is an embroidered blouse or tunic. Some have a cut to match a woman’s figure and some are rectangular but they all have elaborate embroidery. Many of the styles of embroidery are historically tied to certain regions while others are modern. South and southeast Mexico have some of the best examples of fine embroidery that big-name designers like Zara and Carolina Herrera plagiarize their work all the time. Do your best to buy from small artisans.
Jerga Sweatshirts were my favorite souvenirs from Mexico as a kid
Jerga is a type of course cloth like a terry towel. That towel-like cloth is a common material to make simple hooded sweatshirts called jergas or jergas sweatshirts. This is a particularly popular style of sweatshirt for young California surfers who have made their first couple Baja surf trips. I loved my jerba sweatshirts when I was in middle school because I got to tell people about Baja California surfing and camping trips. Mexicans find it ridiculous that brand name designers like Michael Kors have appropriated the style selling thousand-dollar sweatshirts made out of terry towel material.
Guayaberas and embroidered dress shirts
A lot of people say that the Guayabera style shirt originates in what is today known as Cuba. However, the history of this iconic shirt goes back to the Spanish era when Cuba was just a stop along the Manila-Acapulco trade route. There are Philipino, Yucatan, and Cuban influences in the different styles of embroidery, pockets, and pleating. Today, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to a well-developed industry of artisans who make these shirts in a diverse array of styles.
The joke about Guayaberas is that young guys wearing Guayaberas look like a valet while old guys wearing Guayaberas look like a governor. Honestly, this is one of my personal favorite souvenirs from Mexico.
Hats are Fantastic Souvenirs from Mexico
I’m kind of a hat guy. I have a collection that goes back years. Hats are very utilitarian. The sun is strong in Mexico. If you want to spend some time outside when it is hot, a hat is a very good idea. One of the cool things about Mexican hats is that each region has its own style. My father-in-law is from Michoacan and bought me a beautiful woven palm hat typical of the region. I have an oversized sombrero that I call my gardening hat but it doubles as a beach hat. The midday sun in Colima is intense. If you want to spend any amount of time outside on a sunny day it is important to have a good hat.
You will find quality hat makers across the country but I really like Zitacuaro, Sahayo, Tepatitlan, and Colima. Small town hat shops and big city artisan fairs are great places to look for hats. If you are headed to the agave fields in Tequila, you will see plenty of hat vendors along the road. The style in Tequila and the other pueblos magicos almost requires you to have a cool hat for that Instagram-perfect picture in the agave fields.
Now that you have read this section about souvenir hats I want you to pay attention in the airport. You will often see people traveling through the Guadalajara International Airport with multiple hats on their heads and fine hats in big boxes. Hats are easily one of the best souvenirs you can buy in Mexico.
Toys From Mexico
If you are going to be traveling through Mexico for a little while then a good quality hammock is nice to have. Sometimes you get to the surf spot or the restaurant on the beach and the hammocks they have for their guests are limited or not in the best condition. When I am hanging out on the beach I like to have my own hammock. In a jam, I have camped on the beach with nothing but a hammock. I probably wouldn’t do that again without a mosquito net but it is nice to know it is an option when the waves are going to pump.
I use my surfboard tie-down straps to hang the hammock. You can use the rope but that usually takes a while to hang if you aren’t really good at tying knots. The surfboard tie-down straps are fast, strong, and have enough length that you can set just the right amount of arc.
Blankets Are Great Souvenirs from Mexico
When I was a kid, Mexican blankets were my favorite souvenirs from Mexico. I have used a Mexican blanket as a part of my bedding for most of my life. Sometimes the blankets are meant to keep you warm but sometimes they are purely decoration. There is a really funny comedian named Pedro Flores that has a video about being Mexican but nobody believes you. He uses a Mexican blanket with the tigers on it to help prove that he is, indeed, Mexican.
My mom uses the brightly colored serape blankets as table clothes for parties.
There are a lot of specialty leather goods made in Mexico. If you are into horses, you can find incredible examples of fine saddlery and everything that you could imagine for equestrian culture.
Leon, Guanajuato is famous for making boots. And not just leather but exotic skins like ostrich, cayman, and python.
I am really interested in buying an embroidered belt (cinturón piteado) but the good ones are expensive and I haven’t decided on a design that I like yet. You can find them at the equestrian store or at the local prison. It is common to teach the inmates a trade and belt embroidery is one of the most common trades taught in the prisons.
The red handbag in the above picture is one of my favorite souvenirs from Mexico that I have purchased. The quality is incredible. I asked my mom why she wasn’t using it and she responded that it is so nice that she is afraid of damaging it. She only uses it for special occasions. We absolutely love the boutique Yeo Diseño en Piel in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco (the Guadalajara Metro Area) but you can find fine leather products all over the country.
Religious Articles make Wonderful Souvenirs from Mexico
Mexico is a very catholic country. Those beautiful churches are more than just tourist attractions. They still hold mass, and lots of people attend. Then there are the religious celebrations. Baptisms, first communions, and weddings all have their respective rituals. In Downtown Guadalajara, there are a number of different religious stores selling rosaries, baptism and first communion clothes, candles, religious art, jewelry, imagery, and much more.
In Guadalajara, the section of Calle Pedro Moreno next to the Calzada and across the street from Mercado San Juan de Dios is a lot of fun to walk. It is a pedestrian street with lots of stores for events and special occasions. Some of the designs are gaudy and some are very high-end. Personally, I love the formal Guayabera for formal events. You can get matching father and son sizes for that baptism coming up.
In Mexico City, you will find a lot of religious articles for sale around the Basilica de Guadalupe.
Books are Great Souvenirs from Mexico
Visiting Guadalajara’s book festival will make you realize that books are some of the best souvenirs from Mexico. I have been collecting cookbooks of places that I love. I started with an encyclopedia about tacos and quickly moved into regional Mexican cookbooks. My grandmother was the one who got me started collecting cookbooks. She would read cookbooks like they were travel guides. If you want to know about the culture, you can read a cookbook.
If you are from a country with a broken health care system and pharmaceutical industry, you may want to buy your parents some blood pressure medication while you are in Mexico. Mexico has a world-class pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and you can buy drugs for a small fraction of what they cost in the United States.
Costco has many of the exact same medications for a fraction of the price they cost in the United States. Costco doesn’t have the largest selection of meds. If you are looking for less common drugs you might try Farmacia Guadalajara or Benevides. The nice thing about going to a chain pharmacy is they can look up the inventories of nearby stores.
I don’t think it will surprise many people that pharmacies along the US/Mexico border do a lot of business. For as long as I can remember, my parents took advantage of a Mexico trip to buy medications for their parents. Now I buy for my parents. It is something that a large percentage of the population has to buy anyway but you are doing it for a massive discount.
While I was writing this article I was getting ready to make a quick trip to the United States. I was sent for coffee and tequila. Try not to go back empty-handed. It is always a lot of fun to share the treasures you found abroad with special people back home. Mexico is a wonderful place and you can learn about culture, history, and culinary arts with your favorite souvenirs from Mexico.