We spent ten days in Mexico this past June. I had been to Mexico many times as I grew up in Texas and even backpacked through the country about ten years ago. I had been through Central Mexico as well as spent a summer traveling through Central America. I am very familiar with Hispanic culture, the history of the region and whatnot. This trip; however, forced me to see things from a much different viewpoint. Immigration issues, assimilation problems in the US, poverty in Mexico and wealth in the US. Living abroad, living in New York, visiting other nations gave me a greater ability to understand my heritage, my history, and understanding being American.
It’s easy to understand why Mexicans risk their lives to cross over to America to work and send money home. Many well educated individuals, young and old, did not have jobs. And when questioned, there were just no jobs available and those that were seemed to be very low paid. A friend told us he had been offered a great job with a great well know company but the pay was roughly $300+ a month. Mexico, as far as what we saw, wasn’t cheap. $300 doesn’t go far.
To see from American eyes the opportunities America provides to those and the lack there of for the average person in Mexico. From the small group of people we met, almost everyone seem to have or knew someone who was illegal in the United States or elsewhere. One girl, Minerva, even told us her brother’s girlfriend died in the desert crossing over. The many conversations had demonstrated the massive wealthy America has…
Yet why is Mexico so devoid of wealth? With all the natural resources, labor, and capital, why wouldn’t our neighbor to the south maintain a higher level of wealth for its citizens? Why do so many seek shelter in America? I can’t help but to wonder how NAFTA really helps any of us other than helping the shareholders.
Our trip took us to Mexico City via Houston (about 9 hours total from HNL) and we spent several days in that really crowded, polluted, yet wonderfully historical mega city. Flying over DF took an eternity…as if the city went on forever.
Crowds, noise, pollution. Red eyes, a bit of a wheeze, and a sore throat.
After a few days we took off to Oaxaca in the south and ate great, stayed in a really great hotel, and found a really nice peaceful life in that region. Locals moved at a different pace. Many were very used to tourists and many were also ready to give us a tourist price for goods in the market. Massive churches, beautiful squares, wonderful parks…Oaxaca has a great feel. I do like Guanajato better but Oaxaca was great.
There is political strife in the region and the city as the political group APPO is demanding the Oaxacan governor step down after the murder of over 25 people protesting inequality, land reform, and many other social injustices. This is a complicated issue and I urge you to research more on the Oaxacan issues. I’ve been told that many of the southern states were not conquered by the Spanish and the indigenous peoples of the regions feel very independent from the rest of the bureaucracy of Mexico City. Isn’t this why Texas fell in the old days?
In Mexico City, I contacted the Mexican rescue workers I met and photographed in Indonesia in 2005. Topos played an integral part of my work in Banda Aceh. The guys involved showed me such a different part of life I never would have expected. We stayed in touch and met (and drank way too much) with them in Mexico. We had a great time meeting and learning really bad words in Mexican (yes–Mexican as they said they were typically words Mexicans used.) My accent improved with every Negra Modelo and got really good once the pulque started flowing. Gracias Hector, Omar, Ramon and Juan Carlos…you guys touched us so much. We wish you the best in the future.
In the photo is Hector, Marco (that’s me!), Ramon, and Juan Carlos.
Here is pinche Hector, me, and el cabron Omar. –no mames wey!
Its just amazing that I photographed these guys doing this just a few years back. Recovering bodies from neighborhoods in Banda Aceh. Que vive!
We got to see Teotihuacán and one of the most impressive sights was the Templo Mayor. In so many ways it was hard to see the history of the Spanish conquest of the new world. Aztec warriors dressed as eagles and jaguars fighting Europeans with steel and horses–as well as disease. In my opinion, so much of that conquest filtered down into the masses, as to me, it seems that defeat has never left the Mexican conscious. I don’t know…I grew up American but I felt the defeat, the destruction of the once great nation, the massive Catholic cathedrals (European-Spanish temples) and oppression (religion, poverty, cultural, and racism) is so apparent to me.
Aside from all the social economic problems I mentioned…food was great, micheladas are wonderful, and people were really nice. It was difficult this time around but we did see lots of different faces and places. I did get to see a live futbol match on TV in the hotel bar. The locals couldn’t understand why I was cheering for Mexico over Panama but I guess they couldn’t see my heritage in my face. To them, I am just a gringo.
Fresh cabrito was unbelievable. It seems like I ate a whole goat at this one taco stand…
Church and religion had that old world feeling with the gild and glory…
and color seemed to be in everything. Americans don’t have the color and spice Mexicans have. With all that was lost I guess color makes life worth living.
All in all…the trip was successful and we came back with lots to ponder and weight to loose.