Author: Thomas Hallock (page 1 of 4)

The Metro; or, A Quest for Deeper Understanding of Latin American Culture (Ana Lucia Cuevas)

I chose to take the subway to Mexico City’s great annual book sale as an attempt to save money. It was only a small sacrifice to make in the quest for a deeper understanding of Latin American culture. I was driven to the nearest metro station: Camarones. I lived in the suburbs and needed a car even to get to where public transportation began. Specifically, I was one hour away, in a place called Satélite, which as the name suggests, orbited close enough to the city but remained excluded of all its vibrancy. With the confidence of having already used public transport once before—in Canada—I walked into the station and stared at the map. I stared for fifteen minutes trying to find my tiny shrimp logo (literally, camarones) along the orange line and looking for another station with the Auditorio Nacional. Finally, a middle aged woman with harshly outlined eyebrows, blue eyeshadow and a gray tailored suit offered me some help. She held a chuckle back when I told her where I was going and told me I had to switch to the blue line after a few stations.

I was led to a rather elegant spiral staircase, through which I descended into a complex network of fluorescently lit tunnels that smelled like piss. The walls spoke with melted graffiti slogans. “Ni una menos,on one of the hallways in purple letters, protesting against mass female murders. Elsewhere; “Vivos se los llevaron vivos los queremos, demanding the return of the 43 students whom the government (almost certainly) disappeared in Ayotzinapa. Light appeared at the source of a tunnel to announce the arrival of my train.

The woman beside me was on her way to work as an accountant at an office nearby. She told me to stand close to the women’s car (supposed to protect us from sexual harassment) and I did. In the few minutes that we waited, I saw people gathering dangerously close to the edge of the platform. As soon as the train doors opened, the behavior became even more absurd, as rivers of people flooded out of each car, pushing the waiting crowd who, in turn, attempted to propel itself forward into the train.  The perfect recipe for groping and mugging. As a result, an inexperienced young man missed his stop and was forced to remain in the subway until we arrived at the next station. I was lucky enough to find a seat and then, off we went into the vortex.

As we moved through the dark maze of tunnels, I looked at the people around me and adapted a game that I also play at restaurants. Usually, I guess how people know each other and what they talk about, but here everyone rode alone and quietly, save for one mother and her baby. I tried guessing where she was going first. Given the large bag with a Winnie the Pooh illustration full of what looked like diapers, a meal and a blanket, I guessed she was going to drop her child off somewhere–maybe at her mother’s place before she left for work, or given that it was a Friday and she appeared to be a single mother, giving her baby for the weekend to the father. Next to her was a man about my age, wearing a wrinkled button-up shirt, headphones loud enough that I could hear a murmur of the rap he was playing, and a large backpack. He was either a university student, waiting to change the world, or someone on his way to a boring cubicle job. That is what I guessed from the passionate anger of his music and the items he carried.

On the next stop something rather surprising happened: a man carrying a gigantic speaker playing banda music jumped into the car and held out pirated music CDs to sell, but no one even looked up. One person, a middle aged man with a Chivas soccer team t-shirt did not wake up from his nap and I worried that he might miss his station—he didn´t, a few stops later he lifted his dangling head, opened his eyes and walked out as if he had never been asleep. I wondered if everyday passengers count stops restlessly in their sleep, like children are said to count sheep. The CD vendor moved from one car to the next, offering his music, and no one paying attention. Two stops later another young man walked in. This time, he was about my age but with a sloppy beard, ragged clothes and a notebook. He asked for everyone’s attention and introduced himself. His name was Juan Carlos; he was a philosophy student at UNAM and he was here to recite his poetry and wake the Mexican people up. But no one really woke up from the trance the journey had put them in. The woman tended her baby, now wailing at the disturbance. The man with a wrinkled t-shirt and loud headphones had developed a sweat spot under his arms and chest. And the sleeping passenger still had a few mores stops to count before he would be forced back into reality.

This reality was segregated from my private education and boring car rides. Nowhere was Latin American culture more palpable than inside our subway system. I was within the books I wanted to read before I had even reached the sale where I would buy them. That was exactly what I wanted. I’d imagined the books I wanted to buy as window from the isolation of my privilege to real Mexican culture.  Right there, Latin America lived and breathed beyond imagination. It transpired through the walls of the metro and consumed every single traveler’s expression. I was thirty minutes and fifteen kilometers from Satélite. I finally felt at home.


The Place Where I Live is Magic (Nina Lotherington Miranda)

What defines Cholula? My town is iconic for its pyramid, volcanoes and its endless churches. (You will confirm that with a simple Google search.) The only pictures that will show up are of what I just mentioned; the iconic scene of the Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, lying on the top of one of the biggest pyramids in Latin America, disguised by the marvelous flora and fauna of my town, the popular volcano El Popocatepetl–standing still as it’s background is one of the most fascinating views you will see in your life. Notwithstanding where I live, churches are very popular.

There is this saying that there exists over 365 churches in my town, one for each day of the year. They are like 7-11’s in the United States: for every hundred meter you walk you’ll come across one.  You can tell my town is a bit religious.

But as I mentioned earlier, our most famous church lays on the top of a thousand year old pyramid. And yes you heard that right: there does exist pyramids outside Egypt too. In fact, Mexico have several around the country, but my town is famous for having a church on top, which makes it pretty unique.  It has become a signature of our town.  On clear days you will have the gift to see the fantastic view of el Popocatepetl (an active volcano), which I must say something in respect, who even thought it would be ideal to settle down by an active volcano (didn’t they hear about Pompei?).

But in the end it’s a perfect composition between churches, pyramid and volcano that make up one of the most breathtaking landscapes too evidence where I live. My favorite season of the year is October. As if the view isn’t mesmerizing all year round, when the Day of the Dead gets closer, it becomes a view to never forget.  The harvest of the traditional flower Cempasúchil on the many fields that surround the pyramid and the church is breathtaking.

Each day for the month of October I take the long way home; I usually have a shortcut and would skip these fields. But when I have bad days I stop by a coffee shop nearby, sit down (almost) every time in the same spot, order a hot pumpkin latte and sit for hours while I do my homework. Or sometimes just appreciate the beautiful view.  The whole town is painted in orange. What makes it even more special is what it represents in the end.

The Cempasúchil has a deeper meaning to our culture and religion. My town is unique. But for you to get the real essence of where I live, it’s just enough to walk down the streets of Cholula to understand it. The place where I live is magic .…

In a Relationship with Puebla: It’s Complicated (Luis Daniel Ramírez Macías)

Author “on top of the world”–Tlaxcala’s La Malinche volcano.

I am writing this after being stuck in traffic for an hour and a half. Who ever thought that closing a main avenue, from five lanes to two, must be the biggest son of … a good mother.

It was dark, I was tired, and I was trying to reach my home, after another day at the university. Cars all around me, full of frustrated people, without any consideration other than for themselves–this was the scenario that Puebla was giving to me. During that time, I didn’t have anything better do than think about a subject or some topic in which Puebla would be the best of the best.

Nothing comes to mind.

My dream has always been getting a job in a different country and just live there instead. I don’t even think I can live better in another place than here. But I just imagine myself walking down a street on a cold night, surrounded by huge buildings, illuminated only by the lampposts and the moon. That sounds so much better that being here.  In Puebla. There’s nothing wrong with this state but It doesn’t grab me.

Instead I was thinking how much better this place could be if there were some small changes. Something I love about the US is how all their electric cables go underground, so you can see the clear sky. Here you can’t even do that; you; see tangled cables everywhere. There’s a huge volcano and mountains on the horizon and we can see them between the cables. It’s like looking through a prison cell.  But nobody cares about it. Everyone is thinking about anything else and that’s okay, I guess.

We also have a river that goes through the city. A river, un pinche río. I can’t even imagine all the opportunities the river would bring if it was clean. This blows my mind. I don’t understand how it is so hard to clean up our streams? Why are people still contaminating it? Puebla would be more interesting with it.

It’s boring here. You want to go out? There are limited options between getting drunk, going for a meal or just watching a movie at a cinema. I blame YouTube for showing me awesome places around the world. I’m in a complicated position right now. I’m in the process of applying for an internship in the US. In the long run, hopefully, I can stay there after or get a job in another part of the world. I’m not really attached to Puebla, but it has taught me things I can enjoy elsewhere.

Most people may think that by leaving a place you’ll have a fresh start. That’s clearly a mistake. All the ideas, laughs, worries you had come with you in the form of your experience and shape the way you see life. Even if I move to the US, I will never leave Puebla behind.

I like to run, and this bring me back to the stinky river. In the last few years the government has created a path, where you can run alongside the river. It’s cool. You escape the city for brief moments and you run through nature; the only problem, however, is the smell of the river. The smell must be dangerous for your health. This experience took me back in time. It was the summer of 2018 and I was in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan–full of museums, history and parks. The best part of that beautiful city was the experience of walking alongside their river. That river was an invitation, full of options with things to do: people having picnics, talking, playing instruments,. I ran alongside the river in a hot day. When I got tired, I hopped into the river. The cold water was so refreshing and clear that I could see perfectly the rocky bottom. In the afternoon I went to a supermarket, got some treats, some alcohol, and later had drinks with friends beside the river. I’m pretty sure we sang some songs from Jose Jose really loud that day.

I wish I could do the same in Puebla, but I know there are other options around the world. I have been unfair to Puebla. My city has taught how much I value in hindsight. Running took me to one place in Puebla that isn’t the best but made me appreciate this kind of stuff. One time, I was running near my house when I found out a little lookout on a hill. It was surrounded by nature and extended a little on the hill. There was a bench in the middle of the corridor. At the end you could look out over Puebla, from the cathedral to the newest mall. I was amazed how I had never known this place existed, and how beautifully the city extended from East to West. There were volcanos in the background, with a sun that didn’t wanted to surrender to the clouds. Since then I have decided to not abuse the beauty of the place. I just go there when I need a time for myself. I been there three times.

This landscape motivated me to keep looking for amazing views to enjoy. I have only found two. The first one was in Kyoto. One day my friend who lives there told us that he was taking us on an adventure. At this point in the trip my feet were killing me from walking, but I couldn’t say no. The worst part was that we had to walk there for like an hour or two, and then we had to start climbing for like another hour. I remember when we finally made it to the top. I almost cried out of happiness. I was so proud of myself having achieved what seem impossible for me. I wasn’t in great shape. Everything was worth it after watching the sunset descend on the city of Kyoto.

The second landscape was near Puebla, in the nearby state of Tlaxcala. One day I was bored in class and I was thinking “I should try to climb La Malinche.”  I grabbed my phone, texted my friend and the next week I was 4000 meters over the sea. This summit was by far harder than the one in Japan. It took six hours to ascend and four to descend. I’m sure I had some heart attacks while climbing. I had been above the clouds, but it was worth every blister that I had on my feet. Everything started when I discovered how peaceful, rewarding and beautiful a landscape was.

I should be grateful to the city of Puebla. If the town did not suck so much, I would not appreciated as much that little hide out by the mountain.  Even if Puebla doesn’t have many places that I can say I love, it has taught me things that I can enjoy all around the world.

Thank you Puebla. See you in a year.

Vanilla Ice and Chili Powder (Karla Mariana Beggel Torres)

It all started on a sunny afternoon in the lobby of the NH, a fancy hotel in Mexico City. We were about to host our first foreign exchange student. My family was ecstatic, wondering what our new girl would be like. When Sofia first came downstairs with all the other Finnish exchange students that came to Mexico, I remember the dismay written on my mother’s face. My mom, a dark skinned Mexican woman, was worried on how we were going to make this Barbie looking, blonde, blue-eyed girl feel welcome and comfortable. They were both awestruck. My family spoke only English and Spanish at the time, and besides a little English she spoke only her native tongue of Finnish. Despite our language barrier, we were determined to make this girl who looked like a Scandinavian princess ours.

The first hoop we had to jump over when we got home was explaining Mexican greetings. Sofia came from North Karelia, a region known in Finland for its extremely quiet citizens who do not exchange small talk or interact with strangers at all if possible. They rarely even touch each other. She told us herself that the last time that her parents had hugged her or kissed her she was about eight years old. On the complete opposite, we have Mexico. While other countries shake hands, nod, bow or wave to say hi, Mexicans kiss once on the cheek. Sofia was horrified. Not accustomed to this, she honestly felt that every time that someone kissed her to say “hi,” it was sexual harassment. However, after she understood that it was just a greeting, she grew to love it. After a year in Mexico, she would FaceTime us, crying because she missed hugging and kissing. Latin America in general is known for its people being warm, friendly, and very in touch with their feelings and physical contact. For her, it was a huge milestone to integrate into a culture completely opposite from hers.

Another challenge we had with Sofia was understanding the Mexican space-time continuum. The biggest challenge was the magic word ahorita. This was Sofia’s greatest conflict: how on Earth could one word mean “right now,” “in five minutes,” “later” or “never”? With a strong Finnish RR, she asked me: “¿Pero porrrrr qué? Why can’t I just say not right now?”

The simplest explanation is that Mexicans are pros in using our language like a linguistic bubble wrap. We have pleasantries and unspoken rules, a complicated dance invisible to the naked eye, with the sole purpose of making everyone feel comfortable and avoiding harsh edges and truths. Sofia learned quickly that ahorita is like the linguistic snooze button, and ended being quite proficient at avoiding immediate tasks  by saying she would do it ahorita. In the eight months that followed, she mastered Mexican pleasantries and time. (She even managed the incomparable Mexican trilled rr).

In spite of everything, we made it. Despite all the faux pas, the confusions and tears, Sofia became a sister to me and she was a Beggel too. She finally got through customs, loaded with Mexican presents and showered with love, hugs and kisses. She walked with tears in her eyes, but her head held high, our ice princess turned Latina. She had done it all, and understood that more than beyond any custom, unconditional love and humor are what it takes to belong to a Mexican family. When Sofia boarded the plane to Finland and turned around to throw us one last kiss, we knew deep down that she was now Mexican and most importantly, part of the family.

Author’s Note: On December 20, 20109, Sofia will be coming home to her Mexican family!

Left to right: Maud (Netherlands), the author (Mexico), Sofia (Finland), Max (Mexico), Andreas and Marleen (Germany), Carlos, Aldo and Nicole (Mexico).

The Evolution of a Town (Paulina Morán Méndez)

The author’s chicken Güera, or Blondie, who provides the animal noises she longs for–and, of course, the eggs.

I live in the same place where I was born: Puebla. More specifically, my town is called San Andrés, and my neighborhood is Concepción la Cruz. My father moved there when he was around seventeen years old. He has eight siblings and he is the oldest one. They are a big family. My grandfather took advantage of that: he had chickens, horses, and cows. Hence, my father and his brothers all took care of the animals. My grandfather sold milk to the neighborhood. He had a truck which he used to carry his milk in the back of it and go from house to house shouting “¡La leche!” I remember when I was little that he would go to my house at night to give us milk. Fresh milk was the best. My mom would boil the milk and then make atole or just the hot milk with a piece of sweet bread was the best dinner I could ever ask for.

When I was a kid, my neighborhood was small and we knew everyone there. When we left the house and walked in the streets my dad said “hello” to almost everyone passing by. I liked that, it gave me a feeling of belonging. I knew this was my home and I felt safe knowing who everyone was. The streets weren’t paved so when it rained it turned to mud. Therefore, it was extremely difficult to walk, and it even flooded. My street is on a slope and at the bottom crossing the adjacent street, there’s the river. So, when it rained all the water poured down directly to the river. It was like another river appeared. However, the government started to pave our streets and soon this problem disappeared.

There were enough stores for the essentials. Bakeries, stationary shops, grocery shops, stores where they sell chicken and meat, a hair salon, a public library, and three public schools: a kindergarten, a middle school, and a high school. Those were all small business owned by people living in my neighborhood. So, every time I needed something, I only had to walk a block or two to get it. However, as any other place, it started to grow and new people came in to live here. They came from other cities looking for jobs. Moreover, close to my neighborhood the city started to develop: buildings, supermarkets and malls appeared. New and young people arrived. Then, with big stores like Walmart there wasn’t a need for buying fresh milk from my grandparent’s cows. Also, my uncles grew up, got married, had kids and found jobs. So my grandfather had no help with the animals. Hence, he sold the few animals he had left. This happened not only to him but to other families that had the same business close to us. With new people coming in, my neighborhood got bigger and not as safe as before. We stopped trick or treating and playing outside.

Now I can’t really say I know even one third of the people living there. People started moving out and left their houses for rent. Others built new apartments or designated spaces in their own homes to rent to others. Then, new people came to occupy all these places. Seeing new people started to get normal. Crossing the streets and not greeting everyone was also normal. My neighborhood was my favorite place. It had everything I needed. Walking through the streets on my way to the stores I loved the sound of chickens, roosters and turkeys coming from my grandparent’s backyard and also from other people’s house. My neighborhood was quiet, but the only sound was of animals. The sound of animals was then changed for cars and people shouting in the streets in the middle of the night. I used to know every sound there was and that made me feel at ease. I knew every street, every store, every family, every house. This was my place, my home. However, the change wasn’t fast, it started one street at a time. I was late to notice it until most of it was gone. While I enjoyed having supermarkets close to me, I failed to realize how the small stores in my neighborhood started to change. I was happy that our streets were paved now but I didn’t realize that a whole street disappeared. Where that street was, is now a large boulevard. It feels like the city is trying to force its way in. Still, my neighborhood hasn’t given up completely. I am happy that we still maintain some traditions: like having a feria to celebrate the patron virgin of the place and having big parties where you invite almost everyone. The feria is a big festivity. It is on December 8th in the streets surrounding the church. Everyone goes to mass, then to eat street food, play in the games and see the fireworks. Also, small stores owned by the residents are still being open. Many food stands are still there and doing well. We still have several tortillerías and when I go, I can still taste a fresh and worm tortilla with a pinch of salt while waiting in line for my order to come out. The church’s bells still ring when a resident passes away.

I like this. It still feels like we are a tight community that cares about each other. It now seems that we are the last spot of land that represents a rural neighborhood left in the area. I am scared for the future, but I have high hopes that traditions are hard to erase completely. So, even when I do miss the quietness from before and how safe it used to be, I know that changes are inevitable and we need to learn to live with them and be grateful for what we have now.

Daily Life in Mexico City (Marco Antonio Delgado Montero)

Mexico City is known for its enormous size and for the variety of stuff you can find there. Mexicans from around the country come to the capital, to find better job opportunities, attend university, buy things wholesale for their business, and so much more. Mexico City is also where I grew up, and where my family and friends are. I have gone through a lot of things–rides in my bicycle, house-parties, long conversations while sitting in traffic. I cannot hate my precious hometown. Nevertheless, I dislike many of the things that happen every day in the big capital. For example the corruption of the government, and within that the corruption of police officers, which causes insecurity in the streets. Many, if not all of this, comes from the shitty mentality that most Mexicans have.

Corruption is defined by the abuse of power for personal benefits (Secretaría de la Función Pública, 2013). We can see this phenomenon at different scales. On a large scale, corruption lies at the high levels of the government as a distortion of policies. This allows government leaders to benefit at the expense of the common good. On a small scale, corruption comes from public workers of medium-range or police officers, who have contact with civilians. The type of corruption that I have more experience with is the corruption of police officers. Police officers abuse their power against the population, especially the young population, because they think we are easier to scare.

One of my friends in México City had a problem with the corruption of police officers. He was going from his therapy to his university, and as he was waiting for the bus, he spotted a police operation a couple of blocks away from my house. He asked a police officer what were they doing and asked permission to take some pictures for a school project. The policeman agreed and everything seemed cool. He was taking some shots of the scene while he was on the bus stop when suddenly, a police officer approached him with a camera and started taking photos of him. His immediate reaction was covering his face, because he felt afraid of the police (like most Mexicans are).

The bus arrived but my friend was surrounded by cops, who started yelling “He has drugs! He has drugs!” He was terrified because there are several cases of young people being kidnapped by police officers, so he started to ask desperately for help. The cops grabbed, hit and handcuffed him, regardless of anything he could say. They got him into the patrol car and they threatened him with planting drugs on him. They took his phone to delete all of the photos he took and told him that he will never take any more photos of a police officer. They asked him to calm down; otherwise, he would have to pay the consequences. After he calmed down, he gave an apology to the cops (even when he hadn´t done anything).

They let him leave, but not without saying that he shouldn´t talk to anyone about anything of what happened. He walked a couple of blocks when the people that saw the scene asked him what had happened. He told them the story and they waited with him while his mom was coming. The police officers came back and started to harass him again, saying “we are going to take you to the Public Ministry.” The people defended him and didn’t let the police officers take him. The people waited until his mother arrived and they left. This is something that happens in Mexico a lot: there are many cases where authorities abuse their power for personal benefit. Fortunately, my friend is ok and he is able to tell his story, but not all of the times this ends the same.

This disgusting series of aspects of México City is something that can only happen here. That’s because, as I said at the beginning, there is this shitty mentality in almost all of the Mexican population. What I mean with this shitty mentality is how Mexicans always want everything the easy way; they just don’t care about what happens unless they are harmed. In the corruption story, for example, we can see how police officers wanted to take my friend´s money by just lying and abusing their power. In the other example, we can see violence against women and how men think it’s easy to just grab or just kidnap and rape someone. Sadly this is something that happens every day in Mexico and something that distinguishes it from other places. To stop this series of horrible events we must start taking conscious of what can our actions do. What I mean with this is that if you bribe a police officer. They will see you as an income source. These actions will contribute to corruption and insecurity. We should focus the education on the younger generations, who are our future.

A Celebration of the Dead (Diona Serrato Solano)

Usually when we talk about death in Mexico, what first comes to mind is the traditional Day of the Dead. But in my case, and in my annually celebrated festivity, what is honored is a tradition that takes place in the Yucatán Peninsula that sadly is not as acknowledged as the Day of the Dead, it’s called Hanal Pixan.

The portal of life opens and the souls of our loved ones are preparing to cross over to the world of the living, following the lights of the candles and guided by the smell of their favorite food. They are welcomed and it is time for the ceremony to begin. Every year around the end of October and the start of November, in the Yucatán Peninsula, the greatest fest is celebrated between the earth and the spiritual world.

The local community, deeply rooted in ancient Maya traditions, prepares for the Hanal Pixan, which roughly translates in English to “food for the souls,” a ceremony that has been carried on for centuries.

Hanal Pixan, like the Day of the Dead, originated from the old pre-Hispanic cultures that believed there was life after death. The Mayas, my ancestors, like any great civilization of the early ages, believed in the underworld, and therefore were very concerned about the future of their souls.

During the Hanal Pixan, it is believed that the souls travel through snake-shaped paths that connect the nine underworlds below the earth, as well as the thirteen heavens above it with the world of the living; over the course of a week, these spirits have an opportunity to return to their loved ones who are still alive. This explains why on October 31st, November 1st and November 2nd, we set up altars and go on with the ceremony: to make sure the deceased find the light needed to be guided through their journey from the afterlife to their homes here on earth.

The first day of the celebration, best known locally as u hanal palal, or “food for the kids.” It is the day when the spirits of the children are welcomed with candies and toys. (In my personal opinion, this day is the most nostalgic and heartwarming out of the three-day celebration.) The 1st of November is known as u hanal nucuch unicoob, when adults are celebrated with cigars and liquor. The last day, hanal Pixanoob or misa pixan, is the day where a mass is dedicated to the souls, usually in the cemetery.

Around the Hanal Pixan there are also some peculiar traditions. In the states of the peninsula, for example, it is customary for children to use a red ribbon on the right wrist during these days; these ribbons protect children from the spirits, since they can be “taken away” by them. In my experience, once when I was around nine years old, my stepdad decided to place the ribbon on my wrist a week before the celebration because he felt a “different vibe and harmony” inside the house, I did not question his intuition, since it’s common within my family to believe in these superstitions.

Another peculiar tradition is that the animals of the house and the cattle are tied, because they are able to see the souls and can prevent them from going to the altar in a peaceful way.

One of the most characteristic elements in the celebration is the Mukbil pollo; “mukbil” means “the one that must be buried” and “pollo” is chicken. It is a kind of big tamale, filled with stew made with meat and various spices, mixed with Kol (meat broth, cornstarch and achiote or spice); they are put together until a thick mixture is obtained.  This food is cooked inside a hole made on the land, with a limestone base built into it. The base is heated with firewood, and then the mukbil is deposited and covered with the soil that was dug up and also leaves that do not have resin as to not affect the flavor. The cooking is completed by the heat of the limestone bed. This whole process represents the action of burying someone as a combination of what his/hers life was, and then bringing it out after a few days as a whole new and different soul.

This cooking preparation was explained to me a few years ago by one of my aunts, while I was helping her prepare a mukbil in her home. I remember clearly how she explained every single detail on how you are supposed to do each of the steps since there’s a lot of respect and love involved into this part of the celebration, and how I should be proud of being able to learn how to do this food.

The Hanal Pixan is a beautiful vestige of Mayan cosmology and an evidence of my “mestizo” roots. In spite of being a celebration of Mayan origin, the customs underwent changes with the arrival of the Spaniards and the missionaries, who adapted this old tradition and gave it a more religious aura. Still this customs continue to change, but that does not mean it is any less ours. I am proud and happy to mention that I am from the Yucatan Peninsula and that I still honor this tradition; thankfully my stepdad and his family introduced me and my brother to this ceremony, giving us this knowledge since we were really little, therefore we get to maintain this dying and unknown celebration.

How to Identify a Poblano by his Voice (Marco Antonio Alonso Lima)

Puebla is a cultural and historical city, also known as “Puebla de los Ángeles,” or the capital of the Baroque. It is located in East-Central Mexico. Because of Spanish influence during the Colonial period, this city has amazing architecture and culture. Puebla is also a state with many universities, making it a reunion point for people from all over. Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) is a very good university and one of the most important in Mexico. It’s common to see students from different states and other countries in this institution.

Identifying a Poblano by his voice results in a challenge for newcomers, but in fact, all people from Puebla have similar ways of speaking. Poblanos have their own style when they communicate to each other. It is well known that these people use many diminutives while they have a conversation. Another characteristic that not only Poblanos have, but also Chilangos (or people from Mexico City) is the singsong in their tongue. This accent is common in people who live in the center and south of Mexico.

The representative way of speaking from Poblanos is part of their culture. This common accent is called acento cantadito, and it is something that most Poblanos cannot notice, but it lets people around the world identify them. According to Professor Edgar Alberto Madrid Servín, a specialist in linguistics from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (AUM), this unique way of speaking relates to a process called “circumflex intonation.” This consists in a rising pitch accent, associated with the nuclear accented syllable followed by a fall at the end (Madrid, as cited in Martínez, 2017). In addition, Poblanos use the circumflex and downward patterns in different situations, while they speak in a common conversation.

Evidently, during Colonialism we acquired a new language, and this has evolved for several years. For sure, Mexicans learnt new words and vocabulary with the influence of the Spanish. Before the “conquest,” our indigenous cultures already had their own languages, but these were influenced by Spanish. On the other hand, each culture and country has its own tone and accent; that is why our Spanish in Mexico is different from Castilian.

Another characteristic distinct to Puebla is the use of diminutives. I live in a town nearby called Huejotzingo. Local people in Huejotzingo and other regions near Puebla City tend to use diminutives. Instead of saying a name as it is, they add an “ito/a“: for example “Pedro” beomes “Pedrito,” or “Rosa” to “Rosita”. They also use expressions like “maestrito” for teacher, “niñito” for a child, “mamita” for mother. The use of diminutives is very common, and it is not related to a social class; they use these expressions as a way of affection and respect to someone.

In the City of Puebla, meanwhile, there are some people who tend to speak fresa, or snobby. This is common in private schools, where high society students go to receive an education. Fresa language is not always impolite, but it is a trait of rich people. It consists in the use of expressions like “osea” or “wey,” a word that is used to refer to someone. “Wey” can be considered a swear word in other contexts, but in snob style, it is not offensive. It depends on the zone you visit to hear the snob style, but most of this language is used in fancy parts of Puebla–like Angelópolis or Sonata.

Nowadays, in some parts of Puebla, mostly in rural and indigenous communities, people preserve their native language. These indigenous languages are Nahuatl, Totonac, Otomi, Popolaca, Mixtec and Mazateco. Natives use their own language, and they also speak Spanish. One interesting thing is that some governmental institutions have been working to conserve indigenous languages. For example, officials are trying to educate children by having them taught in their original languages. Evidently, not all teachers speak indigenous languages. In that case, they learn the local languages, or they teach in Spanish.

As I have explained, Puebla has a mix of cultures and communities. Since indigenous languages, snob style, or the use of diminutives, all these styles are essential for Poblanos. I would say that the most representative characteristic is the singsong. This results in a variety from Spanish, which differ in contrast to other parts of Mexico. I am pretty sure that to understand all these peculiarities from Poblanos, people should listen to conversations. It becomes more interesting for other people who come to Puebla to visit or study. In the end, students who come for an exchange, get words and expressions for their own language. This is why multiculturalism and diversity are essential in a global community, with citizens with a global vision and critical thinking.

Mr. Paradise (Shinnosuke Takeda)

Cancun is a city located in southeast Mexico on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s a beautiful place, colored by soft coral sand and deeply imprinted by Mayan culture. Visiting Cancun is an experience of a lifetime. Watching the blue shaded water come into view while sipping on a margarita in a restaurant next to the sea? Priceless.

Going to the beach and relaxing for the day is always a good option if you’re travelling to Cancun, but it sure isn’t the only one you’ve got. Cancun is a city that, regardless of commonly held assumptions, has a lot of culture to offer as well as a wide biodiversity spectrum. The underground rivers and ruins are a must when visiting the Yucatán peninsula and its surroundings. These rivers are said to be the world longest network of underground rivers in the world. Imagine that! Heads up, the water is freezing! ​

Jungle tour. Drive your own speed boat through the mangrove jungle of Cancún and spot some interesting species in the area. The jungle tour is a perfect tour since it won’t take all day! This excursion consists of 45 minutes driving a speedboat, 30 minutes snorkeling before heading back to the shore. An amazing experience. You won’t regret it.

For all the inner globetrotters, who are dying to enjoy my city’s beauty, imagine yourselves waking up into some fresh and soft bed sheets with the sight of the sea right on the other side of your window. There is nothing to worry about, except for the breakfast buffet that has everything you want from a toast with butter to eggs with bacon and breakfast sausages. Breakfast is done, time to go and have little swim in the pool where a guy named Jesus will serve you a margarita while you enjoy some quality time with your friends and family. Three o’clock rolls around and a van is waiting for you in the lobby. Jungle tour time! After this, you are exhausted, you lead yourself to your shower and come out as a baked potato. Put on some fancy clothes and go to have dinner at an Asian restaurant.

Cancun has many activities that can’t be done elsewhere in the world as seen previously; but let´s not forget the food. Cochinita Pibil (pork cooked underground for six to eight hours around plantain leaves), ceviche, fried fish, and more can be found on the small island of Cancun. All these mouth-watering dishes are, with no doubt, one of the most relevant reasons why I live here. Here are some famous restaurants in the city:

Los de pescado: Fresh fried fish in a corn tortilla for a dollar and fifty cents? Los de pescado is a restaurant well known by locals for its delicious flavor and accessible prices. Just like a McDonalds dollar menu– but better!

Hanaichi: The very best. Real Japanese cuisine. Located in the hotel zone, Hanaichi will always be the best choice when having Japanese whim. With a not so cheap price, this restaurant will cost you around $30-50 per person, but trust me, it’s worth every penny.

El Pueblo Mágico (Geomara Guadalupe Silva Novelo)

Chapel of the Virgen de los Remedios, watched over by the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl.

I learned in my few first months here how much meaning this town has to my life. Cholula is a word that derives from the Náhuatl, Cholollan, meaning the place for the ones that ran away. To my surprise, I moved to a town full of magic and history, and everything that represented this town was so significative for me. I can tell that the ones who come to this town will be provided with a place to call home.

My mother always says that the only constant things in life are changes. Living in this town had made me believe about what she says. Cholula is always in constant change, and mostly its weather.

Every day I wake up at seven to get myself ready for the day. I am in love with looking through the window of my apartment. I live on the fourth floor. I get to see the spectacular view of the two volcanos–Popocatépelt and Iztaccíhuatl–with that yellow church on top of the pyramid which gives me comfort somehow. And as I look through my window, I try to figure out what the weather might be for the rest of the day.

My first hint is the Popocatépetl. I start by observing it and to see if it has been covered with clean white snow or if it kept that natural brownish color. For example, if only the peak was reached with a touch of snow, it will let me know that my morning will start very fresh. In that case, I should take a light sweater with me, but not a heavy one because in some hours I will not bear to wear it anymore.

My second hint is in the clouds.  First, I look at the color. It will give me enough information to figure out how the rest of the day will be. If the clouds are spongy and look gray and heavy, it will be most likely to be a rainy day. Then, it means I should be aware, and try to decide between taking my rain boots or risking myself into taking normal shoes.

But the clouds could appear to be spongy and big, like a cotton candy with a nice white color. It will give you the hint that it will be a nice sunny day. In that case, the bright Cholula will allow me to take out my favorite green sandals or maybe some really nice shorts. That also means the day will turn out to be very windy, so if you are sensitive to the cold fresh air, a light sweater might be needed.

But it could be tricky. The clouds sometimes will move through the sky during the day, so nothing appears to be like it seems to be at the end. In my experience living here it does help us pay attention to the clouds because. If you do not, you will have a bad day, because you have ignored Cholula’s weather signs.  Is all about observing carefully. As a third hint, finally, it is important to not pay too much attention to the seasons. Four years of living here has led me to believe that Cholula has its own heart and mind. The weather has its own feelings and thoughts–always changing.

« Older posts