Tag Archives: Latin America

Paradise, Found

16 Mar

There are some places in the world were words can not convey their beauty and the magic of being there. Tulum is one of those places.  I could write forever about the million shades of blue in the water, the perfect white sand that stretches for miles in either direction, the palm trees blowing in the wind, the gorgeous boutique hotels and cabanas that line the beach…. but what I really want to do is just show you how amazing this place is.

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A weekend in Honduras!

24 Nov

In Honduras, cowboy hats and machetes are required attire for men.  In fact, if you’re not packing a leather case with fringe slung across your back for your machete, you might as well not be masculine.  While I was only in Honduras for 2 nights and 1.5 days, I loved soaking up the machismo, eating baleadas, and chilling with some really cool American girls who are spending a year volunteering at an orphanage (including one who I met a year ago in Cuernavaca, Mexico!).

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A weekend in Belize!

13 Nov

BELIZE!!! 077

This weekend I jetted across the ocean to my neighbor and the only country in Latin America populated with English speakers, Belize.  I stayed in Punta Gorda, which is a small town in Southern Belize on the ocean full of easy-going locals, creole, and some really expensive beer (ok well at least compared to Guatemalan prices it was outrageous).  I had the good fortune to be staying with a crew of young Belizians who were more then happy to show me around their home town.  Punta Gorda is a lot Livingston, except a bit more developed.  It is still dirt-poor, but they have a university and an airport (ok it’s really more like a strip of dirt and a trailer, but still… they have daily flights!!).

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Independance Day- are we really free?

23 Sep

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A few days ago, Guatemala celebrated it’s Independence Day.  It falls on the same day as Mexico’s, but unlike last year which I spent shouting and dancing in the Zocalo (VIVA!), this year’s was spent watching school children parade about the tiny town of Livingston.  Some of the girls were quite sassy, and wearing colorful uniforms and shaking it about town.  Others looked more like delicate little flowers, wilting in the brutal sun.  And yet as all the children danced about town and all the men got wasted in the cantinas, I couldn’t help but wonder- are we really free?  Or is this fiesta just a grand cover-up for some of the massive injustices and inequalities that continue in Latin America?

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I later learned that most of the schoolchildren in the parade came from private schools, and that their parents had to pay for the uniforms and the instruments, which were pretty pricey for the average family here in Izabal.  Quite a few kids watched with jealous eyes from the sidelines, although one little guy found his own unique way to join in.  He just wants to play too.

Izabal 019smallerAs for me,  while I certainly enjoyed watching the most exciting thing I’ve seen thus far in the sleepy town of Livingston, the day seemed bittersweet.  While I raise my beer to Latin American independence from colonial rule,  I’ll celebrate with joy on the day that I’ll little children can afford to participate equally in any parade they want to, can eat all the rice and beans their little bellies can handle, and can swat away a mosquito without trembling in fear that they might fall victim to the latest wave of dengue fever that has been killing scores of young people in the area recently.

On Machismo

26 Jan
Machismo, always there when you don't want it, never there when you do.

Machismo, always there when you don't want it, never there when you do.

Oh Machismo, the bane of my existence in Mexico.  Machismo is a complicated word, but I find it most commonly used to excuse all sorts of ridiculous behavior on behalf of men.  “No te preocupes, es solo el machismo,” they tell me, as if that somehow makes rampant sexism ok.  Most of the time down here I find myself playing the ardent feminist, trying to avoid slang words that I find inherently sexist, playing soccer with boys and surprising them with how good I am, complaining to every Mexican women I meet about how incredibly backwards their country is and how much work they have to do to move forward.  Yet I will admit that sometimes, just sometimes, I want a little Machismo.

Take, for example, today on the bus.  It was one of those impossibly crowded bus rides, stuffed to the gills with people desperately grabbing on to the bars that line the ceiling for support as we sped through traffic.  I happened to be carrying all my books from school and, to top it off, wearing heels.  Big mistake.  It’s times like these that a girl just wants the men to be gentleman, or caballeros as they say down here.  In most of the subways and buses I’ve ridden around the world, men tend to give up their seats to women.  Yet in Mexico, this never, ever happens.  Men rush to grab the first empty seat, pushing women who dare to get in their way, and then remain there even if a helpless old lady with a cane limps past them.  Seriously.

Part of me knows it is because the public transportation in Mexico City is more intense then anywhere else in the world- it’s crowded, it’s hot, and you’re usually going to be on there for a long time.  We’re all praying in sheer desperation that somebody will get off the bus so we can rest our weary legs and catch a quick nap, guarding the seats near us like hawks, watching for any indication that someone may be getting up soon.  Yet part of me just wants to be treated like a lady, for once.   Deep down inside, as much as I try to deny it, I just want the big, strong men to stand so us girls can sit down.  Is that so wrong?

Un Recuerdo de los pobres…

29 Jul

In Mexico City, the vast number of the urban poor here work informal jobs on the black market, running taco stands and selling pirate DVDs, washing car windows and cleaning houses. They do what they can to eek out a living and although they are everywhere, on every street corner, I have come to see them as almost a part of the cityscape, another face in the throng. Like the homeless in New York who blend into the garbage bags and become almost invisible, the workers in the street have become less human beings to me and more just another part of this pulsing, vibrant urban swirl.

Yet today I finally came face-to-face with the ignorance of this point of view. As I was stopped at an intersection, a young man approached me and asked me to take his picture. He was a part of a large crew of gritty, hardened window-washers who swarmed the cars during red lights and tired to earn a few pesos. I had my conspicuous camera round my neck, working on a project for my photo class, and so I willingly snapped a shot of him and then a few of his smiling friends.

As the light turned green and I started to walk across the avenue, he yelled after me to put the picture in a big frame, and keep it as a memory of los pobres, of the poor and impoverished people who live here in Mexico City. I don’t exactly need a giant picture on my wall to remind me of the abject poverty the vast majority of the chilangos live in, yet his comment was sobering and was a well-needed wake up call.

I have been here a little over a month, and yet I have barely left my comfort zone. I have already become a chica del barrio, and hardly ever leave the city center and my lovely little colonia, La Roma. Yet the middle class, tree-lined neighborhood I live in is very different from the harsh reality of the rest of the DF, and it’s a reality I’ve been both avoiding and ignoring.  While it is all to easy to walk past the grimy hands that reach up from the sidewalk to ask for a moneda, or shake my head when the old man tries to sell me candy on the metro, after today I will no longer be able to do so with such an empty conscious.