Travel Journal: Mexico
What do you think of when you think of México? Gang wars and drug trafficking? Mariachi bands and burritos? Tequila factories, illegal immigrants, and cheap labor? Maybe you think of sunny, white beaches in Cancun or American college students partying hard in Cozumel? Unfortunately, these are things that are commonly associated with our neighbor to the south. And to be honest, consideration of these stereotypes and the thought that people might view my experience negatively because of them, were reasons for my hesitation when considering this study-abroad program. But like all stereotypes, they’re meant to be shattered.
Last night on TV back in the States, I saw a commercial for the México Taxi Project—hidden cameras are placed in taxis carrying recently-returned travelers to México that record the “driver” asking them questions about their stay, safety, if they’d return, etc. And while it might seem a little cheesy and staged, I think it shows just how many people are intimidated by their preconceived notions fueled by popular media.
But all myths have to have their truths, right? So what is México’s truth?
This past term I was surrounded by the wonderfully rich history and culture of a people eager to show me their way of living—a slower, more relaxed way of enjoying life, family, and the things given from a higher power. My "mama" was so excited the first time I taught her to make Kentucky Derby Pie, or when she, in turn, taught me how to crochet or make her infamous frijoles con puerco. She insisted on taking me to her daughter’s house to meet her grandsons, who were practicing their English, and feed me her daughter’s wonderful Christmas bread pudding.
In every city we visited, street vendors, waiters, tour guides, and shop owners pored over us to ask where we were from, what we were studying, and how we liked “their México.” I remember a Mayan man and his wife in Palenque who were welcoming enough to open their home to us, share their children’s craft making skills with us, show us their garden, and how they grew everything they ate. The man showed us his garden with so much pride, you couldn’t help but smile. And even though what he had was modest by our standards, he was proud of what he had provided for his family and what he could then share with us—it was really touching. I fell in love with a drum the husband had made and named after his youngest son, Cayom, whose name was the Mayan word for drum. Reflecting on this now, how lucky am I to have a drum crafted from the clay and animal hide of this man’s farm—a drum named after no one less than his own son? That is the kind of thing I will never forget.
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