Jackie Kennedy in Yucatán, 1968.

What is the image you think of when thinking about a Former First Lady? Perhaps it is the image of a prim and proper woman fashionably dressed sipping tea. Jackie Kennedy was a fashionably dressed woman that did not just sit and drink tea, however. Newspaper clippings show her as an adventurous woman who defied Former First Lady stereotypes by trying to understand other cultures. She was known for being a fashion icon during her time as the First Lady and afterwards. There are also documents stating that she went to Mexico in 1968 for vacation purposes, and during her tour she went to Mérida, Xtepén, Uxmal, and Cozumel within the Mexican region.

A little background information on Jackie Kennedy will explain her character for the average American. Jackie Kennedy was not originally her name it was Jacqueline Lee Bouvier that she was born as on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, New York. Originally her parents were married, but her mother remarried Hugh D. Auchincloss who was heir to an oil empire. She went on to attend three different colleges while spending a year abroad in France ending with a degree in French Literature. Not long after getting her degree she met John F. Kennedy and married him in 1953. Seven years later, John F. Kennedy decided to run for presidency while she was pregnant with their second child. It would be at the age of thirty-one that she would become the First Lady and be put in charged of state dinners, diplomatic relations, and other projects. “As First Lady,” she “traveled extensively in both public and private spheres,” and “was known for a keen interest in other cultures”[1] due to the various languages she spoke. It would be after her husband’s death and before she remarried that she would decide to take a vacation.

Kennedy's first major stop on her tour was the touristy and history-filled city of Mérida, which shows she was invested in learning about foreign cultures. Mérida “was founded in 1542 by Montejo y León,” [2] and there are monuments to “La Cruz de Gálvez,” for his work as a “progressive constructor of roads." [3] Furthermore, Mérida was rich in historical culture due to the colonial conflicts that occurred between the Spaniards and the Mayans. Stepping off the plane, she was immediately met with Fernando Barbachano. He was considered an, “pioneer of tourism in Mexico”[4] due to him honoring Yucatan history and traditions. He took her to his house for a visit and later created a private dinner party for the former First Lady and her group. While attending the dinner party hosted by Barbachano, she chose to wear a “boldly printed halter evening dress.” [5] After the party, Barbachano took her on a car ride to see a “passing cathedral, the Municipal Palace, the Casa Montejo, the Parque Hidalgo, and the Monumento a la Bandera." [6]

Earlier, it was mentioned that Kennedy met with a businessman who was knowledgeable about traditional Yucatan sights and history. Later, she would meet with other experts on Yucatan history as well as engage in adventurous activities. All the while, she maintained her fashion sense. She left the Barbachano House and stopped at Xtepén, Uman. “Xtepén es una pequeña localidad del municipio de Umán en el estado de Yucatán, México. La población está ubicada a una distancia de 20 kilómetros al suroeste de Mérida, la capital del estado y a 6 km al sur de la ciudad de Umán.” [7] This translates as, “Xtepén is a small town in the municipality of Umán in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. The town is located at a distance of 20 kilometers southwest of Merida, the state capital and 6 km south of the city of Umán.” Xtepén small sized town provided a perfect opportunity for the Former First Lady to see a “typical rural farm" [8] After the stop, they moved on to Uxmal, and Jackie decided to visit the ruins of Castillo del Adivino with archaeologist Victor Segovia Pinto. Victor Segovia Pinto was a renowned archaeologist known for using “archaeology-astronomy” restoration techniques on Mayan Hispanic sites. She compared the Castillo del Adivino ruins to Cambodia ruins thanks to Victor Segovia Pinto. The Castillo del Adivino ruins were known as, “the Pyramid of the Magician in Uxmal,” [9] and was originally built “as a training center for shamans, healers and priests.” [10] Astonishingly, she did the tour wearing “close-fitting white trousers, a blue knit shirt, and high, heavy walking shoes.” [11]

Once done, with the ruins tour, she retired to the Uxmal Hotel for the afternoon, and spent the rest of her day eating in the dining room and swimming in the pool. Following, some quality time with her companions she retired for the night. “The world’s oldest Hacienda Hotel”, this historic resort was built on May 12, 1683 “as a hostel for explorers, photographers, artists, scientists, and adventurers.” Located close to “streets of traditional Yucatan-inspired homes rich with stylized mosaics and bold colors, the lavish living of Yucatan colonialism is apparent.” [12]

Finally, Kennedy decided to visit one last historic spot that was rich in Mayan culture called Cozumel. Cozumel is “resort island” it is 190 square miles long, and its located “in the Caribbean Sea off the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula” which is known for “its beaches and coral reef.” The island was originally “inhabited by the Maya before it was visited by Spanish explorer Fernández de Córdoba (1517) and by conquistador Hernán Cortes in 1519.” [13] So, it is hardly surprising that she decided to go to the island of Cozumel, and stayed at Caribe Cozumel, a property of Fernando Barbachano. “En 1959 inauguró el Hotel Caribe Isleño, uno de los primeros en la isla de Cozumel. Cinco años más tarde, en noviembre de 1964, fue inaugurado el Hotel Cozumel Caribe, primero de cinco estrellas en el Caribe Mexicano.” [14] This translates as “the first hotel built in 1959 called Hotel Caribe Isleño, and five years later the Caribe Cozumel Hotel was built in November 1964 which had a five star rating.” While there, Jackie went on a taxi tour that ended with her buying a huipil. A huipil is “a straight slipover one-piece garment” [15] that looks like a long tunic shirt with designs. These huipils are a common part of the Mayan culture for women to wear.

Later that evening, she was seen eating “tropical fruit, broiled lobster, salad, cake and coffee,” [16] which is a standard Mayan staple. She was seen returning to her room around eleven o'clock at night where she met up with Sr. Barbachano for a tour of the hotel. Following her tour, she went to the hotel nightclub which “was the only nightclub on that island” [17] and had a few drinks. Additionally, she went to the nightclub “wearing white pants, a dark T-shirt, white scarf on her head and several chains with medallions," [18] along with no shoes on. The white scarf on her head and the silver chains with medallions is not a standard American garb. Rather, it was more in line with the culture she was emulating. The last day in Cozumel, she ate in her room and finished the day by going fishing.

It is amazing how she managed to visit all those places in Mexico while being stalked by the press. Moreover, she seemed to be enjoying herself so much that she eventually relaxed enough to wear the local clothes that were fashionable in 1968. In addition, she was able to experience more of the Yucatan and Mayan culture in those few days than she would have had she been a Former First Lady. These spots she visited are well known tourist attractions that became even more popular after it was known that the Former First Lady had gone there.