Haha so I said I’d try and get this post up by “the end of the week,” almost a month ago! Well…lots has been going on and let me try to fill ya in…
Guachimontones. An ancient, pre-Columbian site about a half hour West of Guadalajara. It has some of the world’s only round pyramids—most have a square-base shape like the Egyptians, Sumerians, Mayans, etc. Here, they are rounded, with a stepped-formation to the top. There actually isn’t a name for the people that lived there, because the whole site is such a recent discovery (10 years ago) that not much is known about them. Unfortunately, when the highway was built some years back, it was reported that there were “stepped” formations in the ground, but it was paved over due to haste and a lack of knowledge of the site. So, another of the pyramids is probably under the highway, not to be recovered. Anyhow, it was a beautiful site, and a great time, and since I didn’t take any pictures, you can check it out on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guachimontones) or just do a google image search.
Family is central down here. And I knew that before coming down here, but I hadn’t experienced that, you know? It’s almost as if my aunts and uncles are surrogate parents, my first cousins as big brothers and sisters, and my “nieces and nephews” (2nd cousins) are like the little brothers and sisters I never had. Really. It’s very different, but very homey. And I never would have anticipated it would change me like I feel it has. My family really has “grown” down here, and I feel as though I’ve grown in proportion to it—each new brother and sister, each new parent, each new niece/nephew has become a part of who I am.
The fiestas here. The days of last month are referred to as “las fiestas de Octubre.” (I’m not going to translate that…because…all you do is switch the “r” and “e” in Octubre.) There are different holidays for different towns, different saints that are celebrated, combined with regional and national celebrations during October. Monday the 16th was Columbus Day, and man do they celebrate the heck out of the day. The day that marked the beginning of the genocide of native peoples on two continents, their subsequent rape, exploitation of their land, death by foreign disease, and enslavement. I asked my Tia where are the Native Americans to “celebrate” this day. She pointed to the small group of Indians on the TV, and I responded by joking the government paid them off. Columbus was a product of his times, in part: the age of imperialism. He was following the model of his predecessors in other parts of the world: enslave and exploit the locals. Anyway, this where you tune out because the “college boy” is going on a rant borrowed from authors and professors, so I’ll stop myself.
Back to the fiestas. Here in Zapotlanejo, the whole town turns out for them. The other week was 9 straight days of fiestas, where a bunch of taco and snack stands were out, “Banda” bands walking around playing for whoever pays them, and fireworks. All this takes place mostly at night, centered around “the plaza” here: the open space downtown, with a little gazebo where everyone congregates. I’ve already started to see people I know from school or mutual friends when I go to the plaza at night—it’s a fairly small town. All in all, it was pretty fun. Except for the fireworks at 5am each morning. That was enough to make me want to walk outside my house with a bat in search of the culprits.
What’s also been good is the realization of the world that travel brings. Being a sheltered American not having been to Mexico for 10 years before moving here, I had stereotypes and preconceptions about this place before coming here. I’ll confess: I thought it would be a bigger version of East LA with its whole aesthetic: the cars, the fashion, the language, the culture—but I am glad to say my naïve understanding was utterly proven wrong. Those are just aspects and products of Mexican-American culture. Once I travel I remember/realize that the cultures I’m used seeing, and the view of the world I’m used to having is obsolete, for the reason that it is uninformed.
Here, this place is a completely different culture from those in the U.S.—it is a separate country. It is a different Mexican culture than any Mexican culture I was familiar with in the States. And I have loved realizing this; it has been a similar awakening experience as when I lived in Ethiopia. The world is bigger than our preconceived ideas and limited experiences. (Or at least mine.) One reason why I bother talking about any of this at all, is that I’m hoping it’ll inspire some of you to travel, and realize that some assumptions are off-base until those experiences are had for ourselves.
Just a warning: I might get a little soap-boxy, or rambling sometimes (one of the meanings behind The Rambling Nomad) about my opinions…but if you know me, then you know that that’s how I get sometimes.
I do have much more written, just not “published” yet…so I’ll try and be more prompt about getting that up on here soon! Coming soon: Day of the Dead, Learning a language and teaching a separate one, and a list of "First-Time" Experiences in Mexico!!
I’ll wrap up with two quotes I really like right now:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” –Mark Twain
“Deje el mundo cambiarle y usted puede cambiar el mundo.” (“Let the world change you, and you can change the world.”) –Ernesto Guevarra