I woke up with the warmth of the morning sun on my face, yet my feet were cold due to the fresh, morning breeze. Then what do I hear next? Fluttering noises and a squawk of a rooster, followed by silence and a loud chop. My grandmother came in the bedroom and told me to wake up and drink my hot cup of fresh lemongrass tea. This is what the mornings in the city of Morelia, Michoacan in Mexico are like. Morelia is the city and Michoacan is the state in Mexico. My father was born in Mexico and my mom grew up there. The city itself is beautiful and attracts tourists from all over. Not only does it have great tourist spots, but has an immensely diverse culture in itself. It is a great spot to be in if you are visiting family and want to spend time with them. It has great architecture in its well known Cathedral and not to mention the other surrounding cities I myself have visited such as Uruapan, Michoacan.
My first experience to Morelia was when I was 6 years old. It was only my mother and I because my father could not attend the trip due to other circumstances. My father had left his whole family in Mexico to come pursue the American Dream and therefore had never returned. We maintained communication with the family through videos and phone calls. But this time they were going to physically meet the missing son’s daughter. I was young, but it was the greatest experience ever. I spent my time with family and getting to visit places that were beyond my knowledge. My second trip there was the most beautiful experience ever. This time because my dad was finally going back. It had been seventeen years since he had been back to his home country. This trip had been waited for way too long and we were about to have the time of our life. We took the flight from Newark, NJ to Houston, Texas and then from there the express jet to Morelia, Mexico. Our hearts were pounding and the emotions were running so deep it was overwhelming. Words cannot even describe the joy and heartfelt moment that occurred when the family saw us come out of the terminal. Tears were running down everyone’s face, hugs everywhere and there was a smile on everyone’s face. I hugged my grandma after not seeing her eleven years and boy did I grow.
From the airport, it was the welcoming party! We started to drive down the roads and the first thing I notice was the smell. Every time that smell comes around I say “it smells like Mexico”. The smell is not pleasant but it is very distinct. It is of fresh grass mixed with some kind of smoke and pungent dirt. I guess you could say a very earthy smell. But for some odd reason I love it. I love it because it is so distinct and it is engraved in my memory to think of Mexico. When we arrived to my cousin’s house, the neighborhood was small, right off the central highway and the first thing I saw on the corner was a small convenience store. The colors these houses were painted in were amazing. There was combinations of a terra color as a base with bright oranges and deep aqua as details. Once we entered, we were welcomed with a whole table full of only one thing: DELICIOUSNESS. To describe the food in one word would just be too hard because I could go on and on about it. We ate what was called “gorditas”. It’s a small, stuffed, deep fried tortilla with any filling of your choice. To choose from we had a type of stewed, shredded chicken in a tangy spicy sauce, or a vegetarian approach of spicy stewed potatoes with peppers. You stuff the gordita with your choice of stuffing and top with lettuce, chopped tomatoes, fresh crumbled Mexican cheese and best of all one of the many hot sauces. The hot sauces do not mean Tabasco or Chahula. These are freshly made sauces from the combination of hot peppers with other things like onions, garlic and seasonings. This is typical in a Mexican household, it is rarely seen to use store bought hot sauces when they make their own.
One of the main purposes besides seeing family was to have my Confirmation down there. Coming from a Catholic religion it was very important for me to have completed this by now but getting your confirmation done in the US takes a lot longer than it does in Mexico. I had to attend a few sessions of mass at church and then would complete the ceremony at the Cathedral of Morelia. The Cathedral itself is the National staple of this amazing city. It has beautiful arches all around the structure, it’s whole architecture is really something different. The attraction that brings everyone to this cathedral is really what happens at night. They have a lighting ceremony. Each of the six floors of this cathedral is lit up with soft, colored lighting along with a dramatic sound orchestra. The music is beautiful and intense. Each level of the music is lighting up the cathedral. At the finale, fireworks are what end the show. This is what made me want to have my confirmation there. The confirmation ceremony was great, amazing and something new for me. When the priest did the action of confirmation he gave me a light slap on the cheek. That was definitely something new and shocking because I had never heard of that before. Of course like the huge family we are, we held our own ceremony at a rented out party spot. It was like a huge patio with rounded arches in the entrance and a huge dance floor. Food, family and lots of little kids surrounded this celebration. Along with the best surprise..a live mariachi band. This brought tears to everyone’s eyes because it was a surprise for our family and as soon as they came out my dad started to cry. Overall, the music was great, food was amazing and the time we spent with the family was priceless.
I want to say most of my time spent in Mexico is doing one thing: eating. The variety of food is just way too good to resist. The best thing: taco stands. I wouldn’t be too far off if I said every street in Morelia has at least 5 taco stands on one street. My favorite taco to eat when I am in Mexico are “Tacos de Cabeza”, translated is Tacos of the Head. They sound disgusting, but they are delicious. It is a combination of every part of the cows head. The way they cook the meat to make it so tender, and topped with freshly chopped onions, cilantro and a tangy green chile sauce. Not to mention the experience of eating this taco. There are two benches and you pick a spot, tilt your plate, make sure you are not wearing any precious clothing and bite into the taco. The next best food to try in Morelia is the “gaspachos”. Gaspachos are savory fruit salad. It is a combination of pineapple, mango, watermelon, cantoloupe, cucumbers, jicama, onion, lemon juice, orange juice, crumbled fresh Mexican cheese, salt and various hot chili pepper powders. They chop all the ingredients right in front of you, freshly squeeze the lemon and orange juice. Everything is done right there in front of you and served in a plastic cup that goes in a plastic bag to prevent the juices from spilling. There are stands that are making this all around the city, but you have to go to the right ones in order to get the best out of this dish.
Morelia has definitely been a place for me that I will always return to visit. Not only because I have my family there, but because it is a place I could see myself taking my own friends or my own future family too as well. I feel like even though I have gone several times, I have yet to explore other parts of the city and enjoy many new experiences the city has to offer. I am speaking for the whole country of Mexico as well. The country itself is huge and is composed of so many different states each with its own main attraction. Just like the US. I would highly recommend visiting Morelia, just because it will leave you with such a great sense of knowledge and gain world culture.
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