Cancun , Mexico is every traveler’s dream vacation, but the part I remember most isn’t the beaches or the resorts. It was the living conditions of the lower class Mayans. Even though I was on vacation, I took away a personal understanding of poverty. For me, seeing is believing. I was reluctant when my dad and I left the rest of the family in the cozy resort, while we piled into a packed bus for the tour of Chichen Itza . I had not planned on taking a vacation from the vacation itself. As the early morning drowsiness began to wear off, I started listening to the droning voice of our tour guide about the Mayans. He explained some of their culture, and highlighted the point that only the rich Mayans had disappeared. The descendents of the poor are still living. He continued on about related topics, and my dad informed me we still had an entire three hours left on the bus. That’s when I began to feel my breakfast unsettle in my stomach from the bumpy, dirt road. I noticed our bus had left the city and resorts I associated with Cancun . I saw something I had never seen before. In the middle of the forest were these deteriorating shelters made from their surroundings. It hit me that day just how privileged I am to live in the United States .
In the United States , I have not been exposed to poverty. However, I learned that Mayan values are not based on getting a good education, but on survival. In my family, I have been taught the importance getting a college education. Before this trip, I couldn’t understand any other goal in life. Mexico , however, showed me a much more complex aspect of life. As we continued on the bus, I saw cows in the brush that were so malnourished that they looked like the emaciated cattle I have seen on Animal Cops. The streets and houses we know were the complete opposite from the sticks the Mayans live in and dirt roads they walk on. Their homes had no ventilation, plumbing, or electricity. The very basics we take for granted, these people don’t even have access to.
The most eye-opening part of the day came when we went inside of Chi Chen Itza. What I expected to be a deserted tourist attraction of ancient ruins, ended up being vendor-filled grounds. As our tour guide told us about the history of the pyramids, I felt a small tug on my shirt. I looked down to see a small, Mayan boy around the age of five. With the little Spanish I know, I understood he was trying to sell me a small figurine. I said no thanks, which resulted in a look of despair on his face. He said, “Por favor, Yo es muy pobre,” which meant, “Please, I am very poor.” It is unfortunate people, and especially children, have to live in the types of conditions I saw in Mexico . In visiting Mexico , I have not only taken away an understanding for a culture, but also an appreciation for simplicities in my own life. I am glad I was exposed to their reserved way of life, and I will forever remember that small, frail boy.
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