400 years of my family’s heritage lies rooted south of the American border, in Guadalajara, a blossoming city located in the heart of Mexico. An economic recession drove my immediate family out of the country to Florida, with aspirations of securing a better life. I was the first individual to be born outside of the Spanish speaking nation, and was reared in a unique “melting pot” of cultures. That luxury however, would come with a price. It seemed everywhere I looked, from the television, to the internet, to my own classmates and teachers, I only found distaste and prejudice. As an impressionable teen, this all cultivated into a subconscious self-hatred towards who I was; something that would all change on my trip back.
It had been over six years since I last flew the almost fifteen hundred mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Four hours of turbulent flying was made worse by my pestering concern over my fluency in Spanish.
While gazing at the stunning mountain ranges from inside the airport terminal, I became captivated by the beauty of the environment. The pristine serenity awaked a desire within me to discover first-hand what the “Authentic” Mexico was; not the unfavorable image painted by the media.
I thought there would be no better way to go about this than to take a tour of the city with a local guide. I hesitantly called a new company for a reservation, and after a few exchanges and the occasional spout of English, me and our tour guide Rodolfo settled on a time and location to meet. The following day, I arrived to the address I had quickly scribbled onto my hand; a small single story office with a desk located in the center of the room and a mattress in the far corner. Our guide, Rodolfo, seemed elated to see me and my brother, and quickly began explaining the details of our excursion.
For the next few hours, our modest group of only three crisscrossed the city on bike, weaving in and out of moving traffic while we visited museums, universities, and historic architecture. Afterwards, Rodolfo invited us to eat authentic dishes at one of his favorite restaurants, “La Cocina Antigua” or the antique kitchen. We indulged on the local cuisine called “Barrina” while exchanging stories from back home. At only 29, Rodolfo had fought to keep his small business afloat, while also struggling to make ends meet. While he was offered the opportunity to work in the financial district of Guadalajara, Rodolfo explained to me that his real passion was showing foreigners the real beauty of his city.
After saying our goodbyes, I toke a taxi back to my grandmother’s house. The afternoon sun bathed the city in deep, vivid blues and picturesque purples, and at the same time flooded me with a sense of pride. This beautiful city, one created through brutally hard fought battles, brilliant leaders, and the tens of thousands of families who painstakingly built the foundation of a flouring society is where my roots lie. In a region so often plagued in violence and poverty, unhappiness seems to have no place along the many cobbled roads and community parks.
Perhaps it is the way we live, thriving and expressing our colorful culture; from late night soccer games played in the freezing rain, to our celebration of “The day of the dead”. Or maybe it is the way we value the importance of family and friends. Regardless, I am now proud to say; we are not the stereotype, but the exception.
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