Viva Mexico!

A flower market in Mexico City

So I have to admit that I haven’t quite felt like I have been in Mexico. Juarez is definitely not the U.S. but it isn’t quite Mexico either. It is a bit of an amalgam so although I have lived in Mexico for almost 4 months now (where does the time go?!!), I still haven’t felt like I have really experienced Mexico. Part of that also has to do with the fact that Mexico is big, really big, and so I imagine that it is pretty diverse in terms of culture much like the U.S. Last weekend though I finally trekked down with one of my fellow Juarezident’s and A-100 classmate to Mexico City for a sort of a 148th Team Mexico reunion. We had a pretty good representation of the 148th’s team Mexico. Our class sent people to every post except Nogales and we had 148thers from Juarez, Mexico City, Merida, Nuevo Laredo, and Hermosillo rthis weekend! Mexico City was fantastic and incredibly different from Juarez. For starters our sushi was not deep fried and there were people out walking around the city. It was also a little disconcerting to see the Federales just being ordinary police, meaning wandering around in much smaller numbers and without their semi-automatic weapons out and ready at all times. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my time in Juarez but I’d forgotten how nice it was to just be able to walk around a normal city.

We started our weekend by walking around the Zocalo and tromping through a few of the markets in the city. Since the Mexican

Chile en nogada in honor of independence day

Independence day is next week the whole city was decorated for the celebration. Juarez unfortunately had to cancel the festivities because of the violence, though I have seen a few of the commerciantes out on the street corners selling flags and mustaches regardless. Interestingly enough I found that in Mexico City it was a lot easier to get by with English than in Juarez; I would have thought there would be more English speakers here given the proximity. I also saw my first mariachis! The two drunk guys with guitars that “serenaded” us at the local burrito shop last week in Juarez didn’t quite count for me. Since the city was decked out for the upcoming holiday I decided to embrace the spirit and try Chile en Nogada which is a seasonal specialty in honor of Independence day. It is a poblano pepper stuffed with beef mixed with raisins, apples, and walnuts and then covered with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. The dish is has all the colors of the Mexican flag. It is an incredibly sweet dish. It was actually a little too sweet for me and I have a pretty healthy sweet tooth, but I was glad I tried it!

The cave restaurant near Teotihuacan. The food was tasty and the atmosphere was certainly unique!

We absolutely embraced our inner tourist this weekend and went to Teotihuacan and Xochimilco, both classic tourist sites. The pyramids were pretty amazing, especially the carvings. One of the highlights of our pyramid trip was our lunch at a restaurant that was inside a cave. Despite the fact that our hired guide tried to convince us that we should go to a cheaper buffet down the road, we stuck to our guns and it was well worth it. We’re pretty sure that the buffet offered a bigger commission to the guides. The food was actually really good and you can’t beat having lunch in a cave!

Our hosts in Mexico city were gracious enough to play guide and trek all over the city. I didn’t realize when we hopped in the cab how far Xochimilco was but then again Mexico city is quite large! Since we went on a Monday to Xochimilco we pretty

The river boats at Xochimilco

much had the place to ourselves which was both a blessing and a curse. It was really quite and tranquil on the water but every boat of floating mariachis tried to convince us we needed another song. We gave in once just to get the full experience.  I was also pretty entertained by the bar boats that pulled up and unloaded beers, if only there had been a floating churro boat it would have been perfect.

One of the best parts of the weekend was having the chance to reconnect with my A-100 friends and to compare notes after our first few months at post. It is amazing the different experiences everyone is having and how differently each of our posts are run.  It was also good to get out and see more of Mexico, since I’ve barely scratched the surface. Due to the fact that the violence is so random I haven’t driven outside of Juarez in Mexico, though I am hoping to get down to Chihuahua City in the not-to-distant future. I’ve certainly been enjoying traveling through a different part of the U.S. but I would like to get to know the country I’m posted to as well. In the next two months I should take care of a bit of that, I’m heading off to Guadalajara for a 3 week temporary assignment on Sunday and then in early November I’ll be off to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead followed by Cancun (I had to go there sooner or later!) I keep hoping though that the situation will get better while I’m here. There are some amazing sites in Chihuahua that I would love to get out and see and what little I’ve seen of Mexico I have loved. Yes, there are even parts of Juarez that I like, though most of those parts are where you buy tasty burritos…

3 Responses to “Viva Mexico!”

  • One of my friends who taught school with me along the border sent me the following article.
    It seemed awfully conspiratorial to me, so I contacted some old friends in El Paso who have lived on both sides of the border for all their lives. They said that from their perspective it is all true. All of this is terribly sad to me since the Juarez of the mid 1990s that I knew was quite different from the one the article described. And your post’s mention that people in Juarez don’t walk around outside confirms my fears for the place. How heartbreaking.

  • I hate to admit it but there is a lot of truth to the article. I wish I had seen the old Juarez. A lot of the famous cantinas have shut down, there are few open businesses on the roads that lead to the bridges and even in my neighborhood there are a lot of vacant and for sale houses. I haven’t been here long but even I can tell that this city is a shadow of what it used to be. It isn’t all bad though, the people are fantastic and there is still fun to be had in this city. I just really hope that I get a chance to see Juarez as it once was and should be, before I leave.

  • Sorry I haven’t been following as regularly, but school started up again.

    Well, although I admire your hope, I think you may have to return in order to see a resurgent Juarez.

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