I came to study Spanish here in Cuernavaca a short (but seemingly oh-so long) three years ago, and when I was on my way down here, never, not even in a million light years, would I have imagined that I would be living in Mexico three years later, having spent the last two working as an 8th grade English teacher and learning from several not-so-healthy relationships with Mexican men (with the emotional maturity of boys).
But alas, here I have been, and here I am.
Recently, I’ve had conversations with Mexicans in which with there has been discussion about Mexico. Less of a discussion, and more of Mexicans expressing their opinions to me of their native country. I have to say that when I came down here to study, I fell in love with Mexico and if I hadn’t been in love with Mexico, I would not have decided to stay here on my own for a full year after my first break-up. Of course there were aspects of Mexican culture that didn’t quite mesh with me, but the beauty outweighed the beasts in my decision to stay.
As I have these conversations, I find that many Mexicans are resentful of their motherland. One woman stands out as having a glowing perspective of this little-big city of Cuernavaca, calling it a “paradise” and admiring the fact that I didn’t let the violence issues of Mexico impact my decision to stay here for a second year. She has a peaceful, calm demeanor and a positivity and optimism that are comforting, reassuring that Cuernavaca is a beautiful place. She is also 100% gringo blood but born, raised, and life-lived in Mexico. Perhaps that presence and true optimism are part of her gringo roots, and maybe they aren’t.
But as I mentioned, in many of the conversations I’ve had recently with Mexicans about their tierra, there is a disdain and almost a feeling of resentment bordering on apathy in some way in regards to their pais. Obviously, no place is perfect, and there are problems wherever you go (U.S., don’t pretend to be all high and mighty and like you’ve got your shit figured out because it’s not all figured out). And these are just some of the most recent conversations or information-blurbs that come to my mind. As I hear these opinions, which are based on reality, I can’t help but agree with many things that people say, regardless of my love of Mexico’s culture, traditions, and history. Especially as my time as a teacher is coming to a close and I find myself ready to be done with school, I tend to confuse my readiness to be done with school with a readiness to be done with Mexico. But until the day I leave, I won’t be ready to say goodbye to Mexico. And I won’t be done with Mexico, not even when I leave Mexico. I will never be done with Mexico. I just need to move on right now so that later, I can come back to this home that I’ve created here, even if it is just to visit and not to live.
To shake myself of the negative aspects of Mexico so that they don’t add to my confused school/Mexico apathy/readiness for departure (but also not rid myself of the negative aspects so I can protect myself) and to remind myself of what I fell in love with originally about Mexico, I took a walk down Study Abroad lane to the blog that I wrote while I came to Cuernavaca for the very first time. And here are some things I learned about my 21-year-old self and re-learned about Mexico:
- My Spanglish is excelente, pero I mean fantástico.
- Mezcal is: delicious, not the same as tequila, and even more delectable when it’s free.
- I thought Teotihuacán was an ancient city of Aztec ruins. We even had a tour guide to tell us about Teotihuacán and I still thought it was a city of Aztec ruins.
- I can survive wearing the exact same clothes for three days (my suitcase got delayed in transit on my way down here).
- Mexican men are sexy when you’re a foreigner and you’re enticed by this language and country and passion, especially when it’s you’re smoking-hot, exotic-looking grammar professor. But watch out, because they may just have a fiancé living in Brazil that they don’t tell you about (not my own personal Mexican-jerk experience).
- I love comida, both as it refers to “food” and the main afternoon-time meal in which Mexicans stop time, slow down, and take their time eating and enjoying the company that is brought together by this meal time.
- I was wildly optimistic and perhaps a bit naive when it came to my perspective of other people down here. The world and the people around you have a way of hardening you, of making you take off your rose-colored glasses and trend toward focusing on the fact that people do what they are doing out of self-preservation and self-interest, and that people’s behaviors don’t go beyond that. Cynicism, they call it. In one post, I wrote about the most amazing champiñon (mushroom) quesadillas that we ate on San Jeronimo for comida one day. It was literally someone’s garage that opened up to someone’s home, and this impacted me deeply. In the post, I wrote:
“What was the most appealing thing about this place what that is was literally someone’s home that they had opened up so the outside world can discover the deliciousness of their cooking. Everything is open, out in the streets, asking for company and waiting for the human spirit to invigorate life into the air. Things are open, people are open, life is so much more joyful with a constant human presence, even if it’s just a passing smile and greeting of two strangers who both have the same open mind and open heart. I love my weather seasons in the states, but I am coming to realize how much more I love the constant presence of another human spirit.”
This perspective, of the good in people and the openness of the human spirit, this is part of my view of the world, of my (almost too hopeful) optimism about life and the people we encounter on our journeys. I take a taxi up calle San Jeronimo once a week, and I distinctly remember the garage door that people opened up to us so willingly. I always look at that garage door, to see if the quesadillas are there. And it’s not as much that I want to eat those mouth-watering, jaw-dropping, miraculous quesadillas, but more because I want to be reminded of the belief in people and humanity that one little quesadilla experience brought up in me.
Not once has the quesadilla garage been open, but this walk down Study Abroad lane reminds me of what I love perhaps the most about Mexico: it brings up my hope for humanity and the hope I have for myself to continue to view the world realistically, yet simultaneously keeping on my rose-colored lenses and seeing through those, as well.
“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in the magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl