Nacional: The history of Mexico’s National Meeting

By: Gabriela

Driving on a VW Combi to the 1st National. (By Gabriela Velázquez)

Though it had been less than 2 years since I had joined Couchsurfing, I still considered myself a newbie when I decided to attend the 1st National Couchsurfing Meeting in Mexico. It was a wild experience for me; I lived in Querétaro at the time, and the community there was very strong, they had become like a family to me and the idea of a National Meeting was a great opportunity to meet those “long-distance relatives” who I had heard so many great stories about. Ever since that November in 2012 there have been 8 different “Nacionales” across Mexico but where did all come from? Whose idea was it? Who determines where the next event will be held? Personally I’ve only attended 5 events, so I’ve started digging a bit into what “La Nacional de Couchsurfing” was for some of the organizers in order to get a better understanding of what can be expected of this.

Some couchsurfers were visiting “Los Azufres” in Michoacán in 2011. They were from all over Mexico, friends for some years who had an idea to start an annual meeting in Mexico. Somehow simultaneously, Marcela was walking with her host and talking about what a great idea could be to have a Crash in Mexico like they had in other countries, so when the word started to spread on where to host the Nacional, she proposed it to be León, her hometown, during the Festival del Globo. She had the help of other members like Agus, who happened to hear about the event and is now part of the history of “Nacionales” in Mexico.

The pioneers at Los Azufres. (By )

The whole weekend was super fun. We had several activities planned, including watching the hot air balloons lift into the air at sunrise. As the newbie I was, I felt very integrated into Couchsurfing. I got to make new friends from different parts of Mexico and a few international ones as well. 

A trip down memory lane… the development of “La Nacional”

It was during that meeting that the next city was elected. Omar, or Blue as his friends call him, offered to host the second edition in Tulúm. It would be perfect so we could get some warm weather in November. The main obstacle was that it was only him organizing; so the CouchCrash felt more like an invasion where friends from all around Mexico and some internationals explored the nearby places and got together at night to party.

2nd National in Tulum. (By Cesar García)

For the third edition there was an eagerness from different local communities to host the event. Having learnt the importance of a group of people organizing an event of such magnitude, in order to “submit” your city for the third National, you had to have a strong group of organizers. We went back to the voting process and Durango was the winner.

If you haven’t visited Mexico, and even if you have, it is unlikely you’ve heard about this state/city. It is one of the great states in Mexico, however being in the north, with warm weather and not much tourism, it is not a destination one would have thought of when thinking about where the next meeting would be. However this was what motivated Omar to get together with other local surfers and organize it there. It was a success! One of the key points was that they got back up from the city tourist office and offered a great event. Everyone was so happy with it; and in a way became the guide of what was expected for future meetings.

Organizing a “Nacional” was no longer just proposing a place and making it happen; it became a whole process. There needed to be a group of organizers, a proposal needed to be drafted with places to visit, an agenda to follow with detailed prices for tourist attractions or bus rides. This is where I got involved in the voting process; I raised my hand to organize the voting and ever since I’ve helped with this process.

Selecting the next location became a bit more elaborate and the next meeting was held in Oaxaca. Luis was excited about people enjoying the ways, food and views of his state. From Luis’ point of view:

a Reunión Nacional” is a gathering of national and international Couchsurfing community who share the traveling bug and like to share tips on this.

Luis, CSer in Oaxaca

Traveling back from the Baja Weekend (a CouchCrash in Tijuana), Oziel and his friends were talking about sending a proposal to host the 5th Reunión Nacional in Hermosillo. He thought that it was the best opportunity to get together with friends from different parts of the world in one place and it would be the ideal time to make new friends and meet the local couchsurfers. His experience as an organizer was like a roller coaster where you go from happiness to stress but with shared responsibility and with a great feeling towards the end to see all your effort translated in people having a great time.

Everyone in Hermosillo. (By Cesar García)

Morelia was the host for the 6th Reunión Nacional. Josue, Erika and Yani  were there from the proposal drafting and Puki joined them afterwards. They all agreed that it was important to work together as a team. So the meeting was no longer about showing others their city but creating bonds between their local community. 

The 8th edition was a bit of a surprise. The community in Merida was a bit of a dormant one; however Juan saw it as an opportunity to reinforce the Couchsurfing values bringing their members together. Daniel, who joined Juan with other members in the organization, saw this as an opportunity to awaken the local community.

Group photo for the 7th National Meeting. (By Cesar García)

The most recent Reunión Nacional, 2019, was also held on the beach; this time in Puerto Vallarta, where we also got a chance to meet a lovely town called San Sebastián del Oeste. The community there was as welcoming as could be; they showed us around the amazing places they have nearby and even had a cultural activity where we learnt how to make an Eye of God

We’ve had such great times in all the Meetings, and we’ll keep having them thanks to the hospitality of the Couchsurfers who are willing to put in so much time and effort into making things possible.

To sum up…

2011 – “Nacional 0” Los Azufres
2012 – 1er Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México León, Guanajuato
2013 – 2da Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Tulúm, Quintana Roo
2014 – 3ra Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Durango, Durango
2015 – 4ta Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Oaxaca, Oaxaca
2016 – 5ta Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Hermosillo, Sonora
2017 – 6ta Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Morelia, Michoacán
2018 – 7ma Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Mérida, Yucatán
2019 – 8va Reunión Nacional Couchsurfing México Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Last day official picture with the Couchsurfers in Morelia. (By Cesar García)

“Buckle up, Dorothy, cause Kansas is going bye-bye!” –

Agustín, León 2012

Organizing a Reunión Nacional has become a great deal. There are many communities eager to show couchsurfing members what their city and surroundings have to offer. Each year the hosting community surprises us; however as you’ve read the process has been polished over the years and certain criteria need to be considered in order to be considered in the voting process.

Couchsurfers in Morelia for the 6th National Meeting. (By )

Drafting a proposal

It all sounds so professional, but it’s important that the organizers are committed to using some of their free time for this. It’s not easy but it’s very rewarding. All members of Couchsurfing are welcome to vote for their favorite proposal, it could be because they think they have a great activity agenda, they have friends organizing it or they want to visit that place; so we want them to have all relevant information to decide for themselves.

  1. Venue. Where to next? Is it a city, forest, beach? Does it have an easy access, airports, bus stations? How will the people move around?
  2. Agenda. What will the activities for all 3 days will be? 
  3. Accommodation. We know there are many cities with limited hosts; so what are the alternatives? Camping? Cheap hotels? It is also deeply encouraged to grow the hosting community.
  4. Costs. Events in Couchsurfing are not for profit; however there are transportation costs or some venues for parties need to be booked and paid so what are the costs of this?
  5. Organizing team. Names and profiles of the team, who are they?

The latest proposals sent had an amazing format; pictures that invited you to want to go to that place. 

Picture with Couchsurfers in Puerto Vallarta. (By Israel Andalon)

Where to next?

The proposals haven’t been submitted yet, but local communities have started to get together to come up with the proposed agenda. We’re looking forward to reactivate the “Annual Meeting Project” Couchsurfing group. The period to send out the proposals is usually during January, with 2-3 weeks for members to vote for their favorite place and having the results before the cheap airlines anniversary (we need to find the best deals!). So stay tuned to find out where the next Reunión Nacional will be.

I won’t lie to you; it’s been quite a ride. All organizers will tell you it has been a challenge. There has been drama, from the sending of the proposals, voting trolls, friends having certain differences. But in the end it all works out and we all have a great time. The idea is to keep on encouraging ourselves to have an annual meeting where you can see friends from far away or can make new friends. It’s all about sharing your life, cuz that’s what Couchsurfing is all about.

So pack up your bags and whichever local community wins the next voting; you’re welcome to join us this November 2020 for the 9th National Meeting in Mexico!

By Diego Grandi/shutterstock
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