30 May Cómo Vivir en México/How to Live in Mexico
Breathe as deeply as possible
whenever you remember it, especially in this high altitude city in the center of Mexico. While you’re at it, marvel at the fact of your being in Mexico. Enjoy the hefty solidity of your feet on these streets that were not made for you or anyone down the line of your ancestors. A place you’ll always jut out of. Stride with confidence down streets where you’re taller than everyone.
Breathe in the air that smells different from that of home—ripeness of mercado fruit, sizzling meat, the panadería on your block that pumps out more varieties of bread and pastries than you’ll ever be able to try.
Remind yourself that you are lucky to be here as a cultural ambassador, an American who doesn’t represent or tolerate the actions of certain government officials who have been so ignorant towards Mexico and the welcoming people you meet. Every time you are invited into someone’s home, feel your heart expand at the amount of extended family you’re meeting, the amount of food placed on your plate.
Tell people your dad is black and your mom is white.
Show them pictures. Get used to having your curls touched by your boss, your students, or strangers who marvel and ask if you’re Dominican, even after your accented Spanish gives you away. Eat as much maiz as possible. Go for runs in a park and give your number to the man with whom you’ll end up spending evenings drinking overly sweet coffee and exchanging slang in two languages. Join a yoga studio with free full moon classes for women.
Travel when you can, visiting pyramids, recognizing Nahuatl, drinking beers on hot nights, walking miles through colorful cities, and swimming in bioluminescent oceans.
Commiserate with the people going through the same culture shocks and unexpected delights as you. Take salsa classes but settle into Zumba instead, dancing every Monday next to women who could be your mother, who start giving you kisses hello and goodbye.
Don’t consume too much social media, but when you do make sure it is full of beautiful women of color and creative folks making things and women who are angry and your friends’ loving faces.
Feel your emotions deeply and cry in front of the horrified boy selling you ice cream if you need to. Sometimes you want to go home more than anything else, and your ovaries and heart and head hurt. Don’t forget to keep trying to breathe the air on these flat-roofed streets, in front of your curious, open-minded students, past barking dogs and woofing men.
Remind yourself this world is both terrible and wonderful and the only part you can control right now is the space and sphere you’re in.
Mourn your comfortable college life but then throw yourself into this new one. Go walk by yourself in a park your co-worker’s mother told you to not go to because it’s Sunday, and it’s ten in the morning, and probably nothing will happen to you. Balance the fear for your own safety with that for your sister on her huge college campus. Reassure your mother, who must carry double the weight and fear in her bones.
Talk back to men who whistle from behind tinted windows. Smile at tiny children holding their grandparent’s hands, skipping along the cobbled street.
Hide in the market from people who you know will hug you because you’ve realized these past months that you’re not a hugging person unless it’s something you feel needs to happen. Avoid the bakery where the boy flirting with you said he made you nervous. Chat about home with the man who sells you massive tamales for twenty pesos. Teach him the words for green and red and that atole doesn’t translate; that before coming here you’d never tried the sweet, thick, hot corn drink he dips from a large metal vat.
Cry when you say goodbye to your students. Promise everyone, from your landlady to your regular vegetable vendor, that you’ll come back. You’ll come back.