Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mexico Overview (23 Oct to 7 Nov 2007) Written 8 Nov 2007

I wonder why I'm having such a hard time writing about Mexico in Mexico. Is it just laziness or is there just too much going on and I am having trouble processing it?

I arrived just over 2 weeks ago, and it seems that I have seen and done so much that I feel as though I've lived here already. Everyday is such a sensory overload of smells, tastes, sounds, and sights that by the end of the day I'm exhausted, ready to pass out yet at the same time totally rejuvenated and energized. It's refreshing to be in a country that does this so fully.

Toluca was a good start to my trip as I got to rest and recuperate from Cuba, and I was with some beautiful people there. My first taste of Mexico City was exactly how I imagine it must be for most first-time visitors; lots of people, overwhelming, fascination, tantalized. I only explored the Zocalo and Condesa at night, but I was hooked.

I then embarked on my one-week mad trip around the Center. I first went to San Miguel de Allende, an old beautiful colonial town, in my opinion being neo-colonized by gringos...for some, a dream town where you can speak English and get this gorgeous picturesque Mexican surroundings, for me, not so much. I quickly moved on to Guanajuato. This college town far exceeded my expectations and I happily wandered around the enchanting labyrinthine streets and alleyways.

Then I headed to the real destination: Michoacan. Here the Dia de los Muertos is still carried out traditionally, with all night and all day vigils in tiny pueblos dotted around the Lago de Patzcuaro. I started by visiting Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, because there were some contacts I wanted to meet there, and this pink sandstone city is worth visiting in its own right.

The town of Patzcuaro I must admit, I didn't get to see much of, nor do I have any real impression of it. In the days preceding and following Dia de Muertos, hordes of Mexicans and foreigners invade the city, wanting to witness the serene, spiritual event...or wanting to get wasted and have an excuse to party.

What I do have a real impression of, however, is the lake itself, and the pueblos surrounding it. The real highlights for me were Arocutin at night, its small but beautiful panteon lit up and a jovial yet not too destructive ambience, and Santa Fe de la Laguna, an enchanting pueblo that brought tears to my eyes.

I returned on Saturday to Morelia to get my things that I had left with a friend, and by luck of a number of coincidences, had a ride back to DF (Mexico City). We stopped to try and see if the monarch butterflies had arrived, but no luck...just a few here and there. In Mexico City I went to a Japanese teacher's party, where I was reminded of the ugly side of Japanese people; cliches, gossip, judgment, closed-mindedness. I went out dancing with a girl friend of mine, though, and it was great. I had only danced salsa in Mexico with either people that had lived in Cuba or know how to dance Cuban salsa...and the first guy I danced with at the club we went to was Cuban. Therefore, not having any idea that Mexican salsa is a whole different thing, I was unpleasantly surprised but oh well, there's always something new to learn and even better if I can provide such entertainment for people.

Sunday was a rest day, Monday Octavio and I explored Zona Rosa, including some tasty Japanese food, and Tuesday I came down to Yautepec, Morelos. There's a guy here I thought I'd definitely get along with and it's true. We've spent the past few days exploring tiny pueblos around the state, checking out volcanoes and hot springs, and although we're only an hour and a half away from the chaos of Mexico City, I feel much much further. It's great.

So my impressions of Mexico. It must be so greatly affected by me coming from Cuba, comparing it to all that is in Cuba. The people here seem to me so shy and humble...but of course that sense is heightened in comparison to the gregarious, excessively loud Cuban people. What I do know for sure is that the variety of landscapes in Mexico has impressed me greatly already. Although I have only explored the Center of the country, I have seen deserts with towering cacti, lakes so large I can't see where they end, evergreen trees, deciduous forest, tropical palms, and green mountains.

The food is also definitely a strong point, with so much variety it's impossible to try everything. A clear difference is seen between handmade things and store-bought things...more than I realized. Hand-made tortillas are simply divine. I haven't gotten sick yet, which I've also been happy about, considering the amount of street food I'm eating.

Colors, colors, colors. Every street is packed with color and life. It's like the Mexicans are actually alive and living and enjoying it. There is no dull monotony, no boring moment. For this, I am falling in love with Mexico. I feel completely comfortable here; the people are interested and friendly towards other cultures, yet recognize that they are Mexican and this is something to be proud of, and they want to share this with others. I have found another country I would like to live in, which I didn't really expect.

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