A couple years ago, my father asked my mother if he could take me to Mexico to see my grandmother, whom I last saw when I was two years old. During the minute it took her to make up her mind, I sent her every type of ‘negative’ subliminal message imaginable. I was not successful and the next week we set off on our 49 hour bus trip to the central Mexico state of Michoacan.
During our trip, my father and mother began preparing me for the culture shock I was about to endure. I was told that my grandmother lives in a small Catholic village without running water or electricity. Also the women wear skirts, long sleeved shirts and scarves on their heads and there is absolutely no television or secular music. There are strict rules that must be followed in order to visit or live within the village walls.
When we finally arrived, I saw a makeshift wooden sign hanging on a fence post indicating ‘Nuevo Jerusalen – 1 km.” I had flashbacks to the movie we saw in history class about the Guyana tragedy and Jim Jones and his faithful followers. Was I about to meet the same fate? My mother must have saw the look of panic on my face as she bent over, picked up my suitcase and wrapped her arm around me as we started walking in the direction indicated on the sign.
When we reached the front entrance, we were greeted by three local men carrying rifles which thankfully recognized my father and welcomed us to pass through the gates. I was later told that these men are responsible for ensuring the safety of villagers as well as enforcing the rules. They are the first line of defense against the traveling packs of ‘bandidos’.
The people of the village were like walking rainbows. The women’s dresses reminded me historic prairie dresses, only these were so much more vibrant and beautiful. The women wear different colored head scarves depending on their age and marital status. The people were all so friendly, and were introducing themselves as if you had walked into their house for a party they were throwing.
We eventually made it to my grandmother’s home, which is quite meager compared to what I call home. The walls were made of cement block with holes in the mortar in certain places, but it was painted the prettiest shade of pink. I knew I would love her, the instant I saw her. She walked out of the ramshackle lean-to on the side of the house wearing her beautiful turquoise and black dress wearing her hot pink scarf on her head and instantly came running towards me. She hugged me so tight, which didn’t bother me at all since she smelled of warm tortillas and cinnamon.
The remainder of the trip was just as fascinating as the first 10 minutes. I was amazed at the speed at which each day passed. I wasn’t sure I would be able to survive bathing out of a bucket and cooking over an open fire, but I did and have fond memories of each and every inconvenience. I look back now and am thankful that my mother allowed me to go and experience a life so different than my own. I would like to do something to improve the village’s quality of life since I now feel so guilty for having everything that I used to take for granted.
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