As I developed a plan for apportioning memories from my 11-day trip to Puebla, Cholula, and Mexico City, I initially planned to write three blog articles during, or shortly after, my study abroad trip. It made sense; with every day that goes by I forget the name of another church we visited, the scent of another food, another small detail I can’t easily categorize but that felt important—was important—in May. But I decided to wait a while to write my third reflective article. I don’t take enough time to look back and reflect on the important moments of my life. 100 days ago, I was in Mexico. Now, I’m going to look back.
One thing that stands out to me is the lack of placelessness in Mexico. My hometown has about six blocks of main street where apartments sit above locally owned restaurants, barbershops, and boutiques; you could place the rest of Libertyville 500 miles away in Tuscaloosa and, apart from a lack of tornado shelters, it wouldn’t feel out of place. In Cholula, every building within a kilometer of the Zócalo that wasn’t an old church was painted a vibrant pastel. I’ve never been in a town like it. Puebla, Mexico, is a much larger city (population: 3.25 million), and we only walked close to downtown. Still, it had a distinctive feeling created by the grand, colonial architecture; varied sidewalk widths; and the mixed aura of big-city and small-town. Mexico City, unsurprisingly, is distinct.
The mountains around Puebla were beautiful. We drove up into the mountains twice and spent an afternoon hiking once. I would be happy to spend every afternoon for a year hiking in the mountains. The views were breathtaking, and the lack of animal life due to altitude was more than made up for by how beautiful the trees and plant life were.
What I best remember, though, were the people. I can access google earth on my laptop; I can’t as easily return to the controlled chaos of the market, or revisit the restaurant where two men served me delicious tacos after pausing to watch a penalty kick on the television on the wall. I struggle to craft my interactions with the people of Cholula, Puebla, and Mexico City into narratives, because I visited for only eleven days total and have a limited frame of reference, and because making people I interacted with only once into symbols of a collective robs them of their depth, but I loved getting to interact with people I believe I could become friends with were I born in a different country.