Travel Journal: Mexico
It was explained to us that during their ceremonious rituals, when they would pray for, say, the rain to fertilize their fields, they would pray to both Jesus and “Chaac,” the Mayan rain god. Hernan showed us his garden full of fruit, vegetables, and herbs used for both culinary purposes, and medicinal ones. A fruit that’s commonly found here is the “naranja agria,” a green and bitter orange. Apparently, when you have an ache in a muscle, you peel the orange, cut it in half, squish one half on the part that aches, and suck on the other half—it’s a natural painkiller. Our guide Davíd (himself of Mayan descent) made it a point to us that people who lived traditional Mayan lives lived much longer, on average, than their modern Mexican counterparts—a phenomenon he attributed to the lack of pesticides, high fructose corn syrup, and modern medicine in their diets. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up Oreos and Advil quite yet, but it was definitely something that made me think.
It’s a theme we’re seeing a lot in the Yucatan—the muddling of a strong Mayan past and the Colonial influences in daily life. Sometimes when you’re talking to a Yucatecan native in the market or at a restaurant, they’ll throw in a Mayan word in the middle of a Spanish sentence. And in almost all the government buildings we’ve toured (not to mention random stores and restaurants), all the writing will be translated into English, Spanish, and Mayan. It’s really cool to see how a people with so much pride in their rapidly-modernizing society, at the same time still strongly holds onto their native heritage.
I think we’ve been here long enough to at least have some sort of grasp on the Yucatecan culture. And while there’s a lot that’s different from our culture, there are also many things that are the same—the importance of family, spirituality or religion, and a sense of community and national pride. The cultural differences have at some times been very difficult, but having the opportunity to observe and participate in those differences is imperative in understanding why they exist. It’s a pretty cool experience.
We start classes this week and I’m ready...I think. Taking a bus from my house to school in a separate part of town will be interesting, to say the least. We all get strange looks when we climb on the bus with the locals—mostly because we’re American. But there are a lot of fruit stands on my way that I haven’t explored yet and my host mom loves to tell hilarious stories during meals. I wonder what the professors will say if I tell them I was just running on “Mexican time.”
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