Traveling around Mexico as a 30-year-old, rather than a 20-year-old, is indeed different, although less so than I had expected. First of all, there are the economic changes a developing country usually experiences in a ten-year span, such as much-increased cell-phone and internet use, and profoundly uneven distribution of wealth between regions, families, and individuals, resulting in significant cultural differences. Oaxaca and Veracruz, geographic neighbors, illustrate the extremes of the Mexican wealth spectrum. In short, Veracruz is uber-industrialized, the culture more consumption-based, and the population's purchasing power collectively higher. Oaxaca, on the other hand, is an agriculture and tourism-based state that generates far less income for the country and seeks to maintain its cultural roots. Thus, many other Mexicans perceive it to be overly traditional, and even backward, as they say Oaxacans are not a progressive people.
From a foreigners' perspective, it is simply a different kind of economic development that is happening in Oaxaca. It is slow, careful, and small-scale. Repressed by the government, and placing little faith in the 90s concept of heading north to find work, intellectual youth are forming cooperatives to support each other, learning to grow their own food and establish local sustainable businesses, all the while running their own radio stations, news websites, workshops and national conventions to stay informed in the face of extreme political corruption on many fronts.
As a 30-year-old woman traveling in Mexico, I expected folks would constantly ask me when I wanted to have kids, and all the details about our family planning. I expected to be perceived as a borderline senior citizen! I was profoundly mistaken. There has been a huge cultural shift here in the last decade, resulting in many educated or professional people our age having fewer or no kids, or just beginning to think about expanding their families. Not only have we been referred to as "muchachos" or "jovenes" on a regular basis, people aren't that surprised that we don't have kids yet. Many are surprised we bothered to get married! (Also a cultural practice on the decline.) There are the usual American stereotypes for me to fight against, but being perceived as "old" has been happily erased from my list of concerns here in Mexico.
I should note that we are approaching our one-year anniversary on Monday, June 18. Yay for us! We will celebrate in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, a place I visited ten years ago and have been dying to re-experience. At this point, I feel well on my way to developing the relationships, experience and knowledge I will draw upon in future years as I become more and more connected to this incredible country and people. I will now share some of my favorite unpublished photos from our two-month stay in Mexico.
Not having seen each other for thirteen years, Harold and his father compare the structure of their feet.
In a photo that is both cute and morbid, a dead pig head is perfectly framed by other cuts of pork in the market. Oaxaca City, Oaxaca.
Dressed in a traditional huipil, or embroidered tunic, Harold's mom, Lupita, leans against a cathedral pillar in Suchilquitongo, Oaxaca. Traditional garb is frequently donned in these parts, often in combination with such modern trends as skinny jeans and wedge heels. Makes an awesome postmodern look!
A few days after our April 12 arrival in Oaxaca, Harold, cousin Carlos and I met up with our friend Brayand's brother, Milton, and his wife, Raquel, for a lovely afternoon exploring a fancy suburb of Oaxaca City, called San Agustin.
A street scene in the historical neighborhood in downtown Oaxaca City.
I enjoy a coffee at Chocolate Mayordomo, a Oaxacan company famous for its personalized chocolate and mole, as I plan some sightseeing for our second week here in Oaxaca. Note the contrast between my tanned hands and ghostly, SPF 50-slathered face.
Raw cacao beans. I have yet to visit a coffee plantation, something I have been eager to do on this trip to Mexico.
The photography museum, complete with a reflecting pool! I admit I don't really understand reflecting pools, but I know they look pretty fancy.
Depictions of the Last Supper hang in many a Mexican kitchen. This one, involving some politicians and a representative of the Mexican telephone monopoly, Telmex, was plastered on the side of a building in downtown Oaxaca City.
Harold tries on a dreadlock wig on the patio at his mother's house.
Another street scene of buildings primarily housing cafes, crafts stores and hostels.
A succulent leaf.
Harold drinking a "vampiro" juice, which I ordered, consisting of celery, pineapple, beet, carrot, orange and apple juice. I swear I don't hate myself... it's really tasty, and makes me feel so healthy!!!
The Palacio del Gobierno of Oaxaca City. Quite elegant. Latin American colonial architecture rarely fails to impress.
I am getting a little tired, so I am going to watch a couple of episodes of "Two Broke Girls" online before presenting you with more photos and commentary. Our departure to Juchitan, Oaxaca, tonight has been postponed to 4am, due to heavy rains and dangerous driving.....