The week of 02/17-02/23 we had a three-day excursion to Ciudad de Mexico. I have dreamt of visiting the city for most of my life. It was a beautiful and breath-taking experience. It was more than I expected. We had a tight schedule! However, the Friday we arrived our plans for the day to visit el Palacio Nacional were canceled due to a protest happening outside of the palace. Nonetheless, our plans continued, we visited el Templo Maya and la Secretaria de Educacion Publica. We learned about the modern-day construction and development of the city as the Spanish built modern CDMX over the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec empire. We learned about the archeological work done to uncover the cities’ rich history and use its work to incorporate it into modern-day Mexico city. Later that day we visited la Secretaria de Educacion Publica there we were blessed with beautiful communist art by artists such as Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros, an orchestra rehearsing el Huapango de Moncayo (considered the second Mexican anthem) and to top it all we walked around a beautiful garden in the middle of the 20th-century architecture. The next day we traveled to Coyoacan to visit the Frida Kahlo museum and later visited the Mercado de Xochimilco where we got the opportunity to shop and eat a really good traditional meal. For our last full day in CDMX, we visit la Plaza de las Tres Culturas translated to the square of the Three Cultures. This square is surrounded by buildings and ruins that reflect three different periods of Mexican history: the Columbian, Spanish colonial and the independent nation periods. The most important part of that visit was acknowledging the deaths and suffering of many student activists that happened on October 2, 1968. Later that day we visited the city of gods Teotihuacan. There I climbed the pyramid of the moon and learned that those that lived there left nothing but the pyramids to help archeologists determine who they were. Thus, everything that is known of the city of gods is all based on assumptions. During the night time, my friends and I enjoyed the cities events hosted in the Plaza de la Constitution (el Zocalo), we danced, ate delicious food and looked at beautiful art. In sum, it was a privilege to visit and witness all that we did in a short period. Witnessing the usage of traditional indigenous culture for tourism attraction and the country’s economy was heartbreaking; nonetheless, witnessing the manifestation of angry peoples/activist (for a diverse range of issues such as Women’s rights, indigenous rights, and labor rights) on the streets and their political art on most buildings was empowering. The most memorable night in CDMX was when my boyfriend, Francisco, and I walked around el barrio chino and the museum of Memoria y Tolerancia on our way back to our hotel. As we walked back we saw there was a small photoshoot and decided to talk to the photographer and the model. The model was the photographer’s grandfather. They were both super nice and friendly to us and his grandson asked to take some photos of Francisco and me. He wanted to add our pictures to a set he was working on about nostalgia and love. We posed and got our pictures a few weeks later. It was a magical time and I hope to return one day.
This weekend I went to el Palacio de la Música museum (Music Palace) were I learned so much about the evolving phases of Mexican music. It was a very interactive museum where we got to participate in receiving a small lesson from a musician, playing with traditional Latin American instruments, read about music history and listen to traditional music. We were very luck to meet the musician that was giving us a small lesson on the traditional instruments. She not only taught us so much in a short period of time but also shared so much of her life and achievements with us as a percussionist. I left the museum feeling rejoiced and excited to continue playing the cello and the violin in the future.
I am fortunate enough to have been raised in a Mexican household that not only gave me the richness of the culture but also the richness of the music ranging from Mariachi, Rancheras, Banda’s to Corrido’s and Mexican pop music. Since my arrival to Merida everywhere I go I can hear/listen to the music my mother raised me with. In every corner, street vendor, store or car. When I recognize the song, the lyrics, the rhythm I feel so much happiness and comfort. It is much more than just understanding the lyrics and the song — I get a sensation inside of me that takes me back to the passenger seat next to my mother where we sing and shout at the top of our lungs to our favorite songs. There have been points in my life where I wished I had been raised with a different music style so that I could fit in with my generation’s music taste and culture a bit more. However, being able to actively share with my friends here my knowledge and love for the music I was raised with has assisted in making me feel more pride and confidence in my identity as a Chicana and my culture. At the museum there was a music timeline about Mexico’s history and am proud to say that the years 1987+ I knew of the musicians it spoke about. I had such a great time at the museum and look forward to learning more about local Yucatan music.
Hi folks, this week in Merida my friends and I celebrated my birthday and participated in a day in solidarity with hunger strikers in Boston, Massachusetts.
As an activist my interest revolve around advocating for marginalized folks in and outside of my community and engaging in harm reduction and rapid response work to assist those in urgent situations. My passion for social justice through the abolishment of oppressive systems intertwine with who I am; a Chicana, low-income, first-generation college student, and inform what I aspire to do in the future. I believe that I live and breathe these values every single day. However, being abroad for two semesters has made it difficult and has led me to question in what ways I am serving and helping my community while abroad. I have had many points of regret and shame for having left the cities and communities I work with to find myself.
However, I work hard to carry the importance of community engagement and community organizing with me in every new community I enter. I am currently working to finding my space here in Merida in which I could support and volunteer the community that has kindly welcomed me into their home.
The grassroots organization Movimiento Cosecha in Massachusetts lead a three day hunger strike protesting the states refusal to support their immigrant communities with licenses.
For the last fifteen years the immigrant community in the state of Massachusetts has been fighting to pass HB3012, a bill that would grant licenses for undocumented immigrants. 75% of immigrant detentions come from state and local police arrests, and driving without a license is one of the most common charges. As long as immigrants cannot get drivers licenses, ICE has an easy way to separate families and communities. If it had not been brought to a vote by February 5th, the bill would have died in committee. This bill has passed in 15 other states, plus DC and Puerto Rico, allowing thousands of undocumented folks to drive to work, drive their kids to school, take care of medical needs, visit friends and family, and have access to important resources.
As a volunteer and activist with Movimeinto Cosecha I decided to participate in fasting in solidarity with the immigrants and allies who did the hunger strike to win driver’s licenses for all. I was very lucky to have friends who also participated in the 24-hour long strike and even took time to make posters and take pictures to share with Cosecha Mass. Instagram page.
Many questioned whether our striking would actually do anything to support the movements campaign and strategy. I believe that supporting the movement in any way possible whether it be striking in solidarity, donating to the cause or creating awareness within one’s community helps the movement. I will not devalue the methods that my peers and I took in supporting the movement. Additionally, were not the only ones participating in the 24-hour long solidarity strike and I know that folks that were striking for three days at the state house felt our support.
In sum, this experience allowed me to participate in the movements lucha in a distinct way than I am used to doing so. During my time abroad, I have supported my friends on the ground emotionally and tactically. This experience ones again reiterated that in order to solve and press social and political issues el pueblo must rise and seek their demands through direct action no matter the location and space it happens in. I aspire to continue working with Cosecha and organization’s like these as I understand the power and strength that the people in these movements hold to demand social change no matter my location.
This week was a rollercoaster dealing with and adjusting to my host family’s conservative catholic values. My constant attempts to not argue with them would often lead to me becoming frustrated and or overwhelmed by the dynamics of our conversations. What tends to lead to such conversations usually has to do with whatever my host family is watching on television (usually Mexican soap operas or talk shows). While watching a talk show during breakfast this week I became irritated because the host were analyzing and critiquing an artist for coming out as lesbian. I explained how ridiculous it was for this show to take a huge portion of its time on the air to analyze a women’s sexuality. My host parent proceeded to explain to me how the catholic church accepts people like her (the artist) but does not accept, and is happy it does not accept, their right to marriage and adoption. I was in complete shock at how they truly believed that they held the right to accept someone or not for their sexuality. I attempted to push back on these statements but realized it was becoming an argument and decided it was not a productive conversation.
This is one of many problematic conversations I have held with elderly folks here in Merida. The city holds a rich history in its catholic roots that continue to prevail till this day. The eldest cathedral built in the Americas during the 16th century is located in downtown Merida. As I mentioned in my last post, many Mayan worshiping locations were destroyed and replaced by churches. Additionally, Merida’s local government is conservative which reflects the type of community/citizens it is representing. Coordinators from my study abroad program are very much aware of the different levels of conservative thought that the host parents in the program hold. They provide them with workshops and trainings regarding new social and cultural change, but this can only do so much.
While these difficult conversations were happening on my free time I attended a few ball shows, and other LGBTQ+ events for the first time and I loved everything about it. I was hit with a huge culture shock and was amazed by local next generation leaders (around my age) and their leadership in hosting and/or participating in such events. During the week I heard of spaces that my friends and I wanted to return to that were shut down without any clear reasons. I could make assumptions and tie these situations to the cities attempt to control the culture. Nonetheless, these folks persist and always find new spaces within the city to oppose hate crimes and conservative social structures. I am continuously seeing and attending events hosted by the community.
This week I became worried about the time I still have left here in Merida under a conservative household. Nonetheless, after many conversations with coordinators and advisors I have come to terms with the fact that I will always have to deal with folks whose values I completely disagree with and I cannot let them shape my experience here.
This experience has led me to acknowledge my privilege of being raised in non-conservative spaces and continuously living and surrounding myself by folks who live and think as I do. I believe that the folks who have been brought up with or within the culture of conservative catholic church values here in Merida have a lot of work to do to survive and I applaud and stand by their side in their fight.
Hi folks, this past week was all about adjusting to Mérida and the classes at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (UADY). The city and the people have been very welcoming, and I have learned to get around the areas I will be spending a lot of my time in while in Mérida.
Because I am a Chicana and am a fluent Spanish speaker I have not felt a strong sense of culture shock. Many of the conversations and foods are similar to what I am used to being surrounded by when at home. Nonetheless, I have found it a bit difficult adjusting to the very strong religious values some folks live by. Personally, I do not agree with Catholicism standards and expectations and have found it difficult to relate and not feel uncomfortable when conversations about important topics are intertwined and compared to the catholic church expectations.
Aside from that, this weekend we had our first excursion where we visited Chichen itza a world wonder an hour away from Merida. We also visited the beautiful yellow city of Izamal and went swimming in the astonishing cenote Xlacah, Dziblichaltun.
When we entered Chichen Itza I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stands and shouting I was being hit with to purchase souvenirs. However, I recognized that the locals were the ones making a business of the world wonder which made me feel better. While at the cenote I enjoyed the natural beauty of the area and the cleanliness of the water. However, after finding out that cenotes are Lugares Sagrados (Sacred Places) I became very uncomfortable and saddened that I had not known this and willingly enjoyed my time in the cenote.
It was such a privilege to visit these locations and learn about their history and how they shape the local community today. There I witnessed the duality of religion within culture: these structures (the pyramid, the church) that appear so beautiful have been used as tools of imperialism and oppression. I would like to acknowledge the lives that were lost and persecuted in the process of creating and establishing these structures and both religious and cultural values.
Most of Chichen itza was built by slaves while churches built in the XVI century were done so with the purpose of spreading the catholic churches ideals and the Spanish kingdoms expansionism. These power sources led to the massacre and attempted erasure of the local communities. Churches in the area for example the Monastery of St. Antony’s of Padua (in the picture) were built on top of Mayan sacred temples.
This excursion was a huge reminder of the importance that is to recognize history and my own privilege while taking space in different communities, cities, cultures etc. Also, the fact that the Yucatan Peninsula capitalizes of off its colonial image creates a weird dynamic were natives to the land have normalized it and with that, I believe, have accepted the erasure of their identity.
Hola a todxs, this spring semester I will be studying abroad in Merida, MX. I am Chicana from San Jose, CA there I was raised by my mother where I had the fortune to learn and know the smells, tastes, mexicanisms in sum I was raised with the culture and the Spanish language. In the U.S I am identified as Mexican but in my visits to Mexico I am looked as a estadounidense not as Mexican. I live in the crossroads of my identity. This is why I am so excited, emotional and ready for Mexico. Being able to study in Mexico the land were my ancestors come from means the world to me. My goals while in Mexico are to become more centered with this part of my identity. In order to make this happen I aspire to learn more about Mexican politics, its history and also learn about local issues, practices and identifiers. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me every step of the way up to this phase in my life.