Hola chicas! Cómo estás? As you can tell, my Spanish is going quite well! My stomach on the other hand, not quite. Our 2nd week in Mexico City has been equally full on as our first week (if you missed what happened, you can catch up here). We’ve learnt a lot, visited numerous museums and cultural sites and had one of the scariest nights of my life. Let’s have a look at what we got up to this week!
Woo! We finally got a day off which meant an epic sleep in. Most of us used this day to relax and reset ourselves in preparation for the crazy week ahead of us. I used this day to remember my time in Mexico City forever! I got a TATTOO! Victoria and I headed to ‘Soul Flower’ in La Condesa to get some ink. The guy who gave us our tattoo was so awesome! His name was Jorge and he was from Honduras. He owns his own tattoo shop in Costa Rica where he now lives, and is currently travelling around to tattoo conventions in Mexico and Guatemala. After everything I’ve learnt about Honduras, I was really glad to have a part of his story with me.
There seems to be a fair few birthdays this month! And this week we celebrated two! One Monday night we went out for tapas and lots of wine, making it the perfect way to wind down after our hectic first week.
This week we experienced A LOT of Mexican culture! Our first visit was on Tuesday afternoon to the Blue House (also known as the house of Friday Kahlo and Diego Rivera – two of the most renowned Mexican artists). If you haven’t already – watch the movie Frida on Netflix. It’s pretty much where I learnt the most about Frida and her life. Then getting to wander the corridors where she lived, see her artwork, her garden and bedroom was absolutely incredible!
After the Blue House, we went around the corner to visit the house where Leon Trotsky lived and was killed. For those of you who don’t know (don’t worry, I learnt this information at the house itself), Trotsky was a part of the Russian opposition government during the time of Stalin. When Stalin took power, it made Trotsky an enemy of the state so him and his wife fled to Mexico. They moved to Mexico because Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo supported the Mexican Communist party and thus their connection. After Kahlo and Trotsky had an affair, Trotsky moved to a different house. There was an attempted murder where one of Stalin’s guys stabbed him with an ice pick but he survived. He then appointed guards to his house and basically lived in a fortress. Yet that was no stopping Stalin as he was later killed by gunshot which sprayed his entire room. You can still see those bullet marks in the wall today. And there you go, some Russian history in the streets of Mexico City.
On Saturday we visited the archeological site of Tula. It’s funny because you almost get used to thinking ‘oh, another ancient pyramid.’ Nonetheless, we explored, climbed it and learnt about how in Tula, they forbid human sacrifice to the Gods, so it seems it was quite a progressive society.
On Sunday night we were treated to a night at the ballet! A group of us, along with our professional tour guide, Arnaldo, headed downtown to the Opera House. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST for anyone going to Mexico City. It’s a mix of ballet and Mexican folk dance and it was simply stunning – we couldn’t wipe the smile off of our face!
Sunday we went to the incredible Floating Markets. Think Venetian gondola meets Mexican fiesta! We all boarded the little boat with a few beers in hand and we floated through the canals and around markets. In all honesty, it’s a bit difficult to describe, so I made this vlog instead!
Class this week was equally as intensive. One of my favourite days was taught by an incredible woman, Frida Espinosa who spoke to us about gender, health and migration. I could really feel my previous thoughts and ideas being challenged, evolving and honestly learning a lot. It was such a great class because it’s a perspective that is not often taken in the discussion of migration.
Next week we also have presentations so we started working out what groups we wanted to be in and brainstorming some ideas.
Professional Site Visits
The site visit on Friday to the Transit Migrant Shelter called Casa del Samaritano in Hidalgo, was definitely a group highlight. This shelter is located on the train line for migrants taking ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast – the notorious train that migrants are known for climbing onto). It is a safe place for them to have a warm meal, call their loved ones, get new clothing if needed, and then head back off on their journey.
The general consensus of our group was that we felt that we actually did something productive and useful to help these people. People helped in the kitchen, helped clean our some of the shelter and I was on phone duty. Helping the migrants dial their respective countries, where they could make a 3minute phone call. Despite the language barrier, we were still able to converse quite well and find out information about their lives and reasons why they were migrating. All of the migrants were males from Honduras, aged between 17 and 64. One young man, aged 22, had actually been living in Utah with his wife and two children when he was caught without documents and deported back to Honduras. So it was his second time attempting to cross the border.
As we were leaving so were the migrants as they headed along the train tracks. A train ripped by our bus and the migrants, when they started running. We saw one young man grab a ladder of a carriage and get pulled along until he could finally jump onto the carriage, leaving his new found friends behind and taking his chances on The Beast. The rest of the group continued walking along the train tracks. That is an image that is etched into my mind and I don’t think I could ever forget those brave young men.
That evening we did one of the craziest things I’ve ever done in my entire life. At the Alberto Eco Park, they run simulation border crossings and we were signed up. We were forewarned to wear clothes that we didn’t mind getting dirty and sturdy shoes. At approximately 9:30pm, when it was pitch black, a man in a balaclava pulled up in his ute and started screaming at us to gather together. He called our names and we were led into the bush. And thus began the next 3.5hours of running, hiding from ‘border force,’ bandits, drug dealers, crossing swinging bridges, climbing through dark tunnels, trudging through thick mud, hiding in a group on the ground, accidentally falling into cacti, and worst of all, having blanks being shot at us. It was terrifying, thrilling, exciting, scary and an experience we’ll never forget.
We finished at about 1am where a man talked to us about why he decided to create this experience. He said he wanted people to physically attempt to walk a mile in a migrants shoes and at the end of the day, you know it’s not real and you can go back to your comfortable bed and sleep peacefully. These migrants and refugees do not have such privilege and there’s no escaping the reality of violence and fear. It was extremely touching and incredibly motivating to each of us. It reminded us why we were here studying immigration and made us all the more passionate and motivated to make a difference.
Week 2 was quite crazy indeed, but it was nothing short of incredible! I can’t believe we’re heading into our last week this week! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!