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November 25, 2006

Reflections

Professor Rick Warner

    

Our Blogmeister, Jesse James, has promised me the last word. This trip is difficult to sum up, because so much has happened. We have all learned about Mexico, her people, her history, and in the end, about ourselves.

            We have stood in numerous spaces that are important for Mexican history. The memory of these places has been kept alive, and reinvented, throughout the long past of this civilization. It is difficult to stand in the Zocalo without recognizing the importance of this space for the Aztecs (as we saw in Templo Mayor), for colonial New Spain (as we saw in the architecture) and for modern Mexico (as we saw in the social and political activity). More difficult still is to stand in Tlatelolco square, without recalling a time when the square was not empty (as it was yesterday) but filled with young people, before they were mowed down by the military in 1968. Yet the plaza is named for three ¨cultures,¨ represented by Aztec ruins, an early 17th century church, and 19670s public housing. In the north of the city, there is another large square, outside of the Basilica de Guadalupe, where countless Mexicans have traveled on pilgrimage. These are all historic spaces. These are all sacred spaces.

            The students have FELT the history of Mexico in these spaces. They have told me so, and they have told you so. They have experienced another culture, at first tenuously, and now with confidence… all in one week. Among the many surprises for the professor is the facility with which they move around the city on their own. The best learning occurs when directed by the learner, with occasional help from the professional. They have not only learned about Mexico, however. They have united as a group, supporting one another in the struggles in visiting a huge city in a developing country. When we thought one of us was lost in the metro system, several of us immediately began a search. One of us fell ill and was supported by the others. Some of us do not speak Spanish, and were led around the city by those who do. The group has come together, transcending boundaries. These Wabash men are self reliant, and they are cooperative. I am proud to have traveled with them.

            If we listen to our reflections, we can learn still more.

 

In Photos: Top Right: Professor Rick Warner describing some sights, Bottom Left: The class enjoys a meal together the last night in Mexico City

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Experience

Eric Huynh '07

 

            Wow. What a City! My first experience and trip to Latin America has been a success and one that I will remember for many years to come.

            After years of misunderstanding and perceiving Mexico as simply an underdeveloped country proved to be wrong after coming to Mexico City. My short stay in Mexico City has changed my views on Mexico one hundred and eighty degrees. As I stood, looking at Mexico City atop Castillo de Chapultapec, which allowed a magnificent view of the city, I thought to myself, where was the Mexico City that I have understood it to be? The city in front of me was by no means underdeveloped. The many skyscrapers in the horizon gave the impression that this could be any other city in the US. From this view alone, I would not have guessed that I was indeed looking at Mexico City. It was only when I walked the streets that I was brought back down to reality. By walking the streets I could see Mexico City for what it truly was, a country with diverse culture and long history in the process of developing to become modernize like the rest of world’s developed countries.

            Mexico City is like any other city, with good and bad areas of the city. Depending on the area, lifestyles and classes are different from each other. The first area we stayed at can be considered as a poorer part of town. This area had many street vendors, cheap restaurants, and smaller buildings. However, when we switched to the hotel in the better part of the city, things were much different. There are large and expensive restaurants, many skyscrapers, nice cars, men in business suits, nice hotels, wide variety of American food chain such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC, and Popeye’s. After seeing all the things in the better part of the city, I am even more convinced now that Mexico City is developing and changing to become more like its northern neighbor.

            After experiencing Mexico City first hand and finding out how clueless and wrong I was about Mexico, I believe that the American school systems do a poor job teaching about Mexico’s history and culture. In a week spent in Mexico, I have learned more about Mexico than I have my entire high school career. Mexico is filled with history and culture, yet, the American school system only briefly touch base on it even though Mexico is bordering the US and plays such a important role in American society. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are a large percentage of the US population, yet we hardly know about them besides the stereotypes. American schools need to not only teach about the US involvement in Mexico, but also Mexico’s past and present.

This once in a lifetime cultural experience in Mexico City was definitely worth missing the otherwise much needed break for Thanksgiving.

    In Photos: Top Left: The lobby of Hotel Maria Cristina, Bottom Right: View of the City from one of the courtyard's of Chapultepec Castle

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November 23, 2006

Wabash in Mexico

Ben Gonzalez '07

“¡No te quedas en las calles tan noche!”  Those words were repeated over and over by my mother over the phone when I informed her that I would be in Mexico City over Thanksgiving Break for our history 350 level class.  Even though she was not from Mexico City she was from the Western city of Guadalajara.  Her conception of Mexico City was that it was the center of crime and street violence, hence that became my notion of Mexico City since I grew up with one foot in North America and the second foot along the serene beaches of Mexico’s west coast.  Yet after a few days of immersion I have been able to look past my prejudices of Mexico City and truly appreciate the historical memories that the city possesses around every corner, but this would have been unattainable if it had not been for the interaction with the professors at Wabash, which have played a crucial role in my Wabash experience.

One of the first places we visited as a class was the Zócalo, the center plaza of the Mexico City.  Immediately Dr. Warner tested our knowledge of the historic location.  Within seconds the bare facts were thrown out by all of us: “Center of the Aztec capitol,” “Built on top of a lake,” “Largest Aztec temple was built here,” and “The presidential palace is to our right.”  But within moments our Wabash education took form: “Spaniards built the cathedrals on top of the Aztec temples in efforts to erase the historical memories that celebrated the Aztecs,” “The city is literally sinking, just look at the cathedral,” “This past election’s loser, Obrador (AMLO) will inaugurate himself as president here on Monday,” and “Curious, Mexicans revived their indigenous roots, but have still held on to the Catholic faith.”  That same day we explored the ruins of the main Aztec temple, which was just a stone’s throw away from plaza.  While there explored the ruins and noticed one thing, the temple had layers.  This asserted our classroom discussions on how the Aztecs built on top of past pyramids.  To add, along the walls of the museum we read the words written by the conquistadors, “The pyramids are built with such detail that it is as if they were carved from wood, the craftsmanship cannot be replicated any where else in the world, they are done with such detail because they are the temples that house their (Aztecs) idols” (Cortes).  One of our next stops ended up being the pyramid ruins in Teotihuacan. 

I wandered ahead of the group toward the temple of the sun.  Right then I over heard a couple discussing how amazed they were how the Aztecs managed to construct the pyramids of Teotihuacan.  Being a Wabash Man drove me to educate the couple with the actual fact of the pyramids.  After informing them that the Toltecs were the original builders of the pyramids I then proceeded with an explanation of the avenue of the dead.  They thanked me and then moved on, I stood there though and wondered, “Why do Mexicans take such pride in the Aztec empire?”  I then brainstormed all the indigenous components of modern-day Mexico.  The symbol on the flag was the answer to the ancient prophecy according to the Aztecs, that their promised land was the spot were they would see an eagle with a serpent in its mouth, on a cactus.  The spot was then conveniently located on an island in lake Texcoco. The name itself Mexico was changed in efforts to maintain some indigenous influence, Mexico was originally Mejico on Spanish maps.  The answer is still something that I am working on, but being here has helped tremendously because I can communicate directly with Mexican students and professors, Wabash has granted me this to complement my hours and hours of work with secondary and primary sources.

Teotihuacan was the sight of mass human sacrifices and two great empires.  Yet that day it became many more to all of us on the trip.  After twenty grueling minutes of having every muscle and sinew in our legs and knees over worked, we made it to the top of the temple of the sun.  Once to the top we exchanged photographs among ourselves and other tourists.  The pinnacle of the ascent became the sing of Old Wabash on top of the temple were countless were sacrificed.  We sang the song, accompanied with Wabash game chants as well, people took notice and that was our goal.  As Wabash Men we made sure that the song was heard “… Loud and long shall it be heard till hill and valley are ringing . . .” Of course, people asked and with my Spanish I explained and made sure that “. . . And spread the fame of her honored name where ever the breezes blow. . .”  Believe me; the wind was blowing that day since Teotihuacan is located outside of the cities.  The winds were not Chicago, but all I had on was a polo shirt and jeans, so by the time we made it to the top I was frozen.  Standing up there with my classmates triggered an arsenal of thoughts, but one stood out.  I was there up top because of Wabash and my colleagues. 

There are very few colleges where I would know all of my classmates and we all supported one another in and outside of class.  Up top we all represented different components of campus: athletes, environmentalists, majors, non-majors, those with Hispanic backgrounds, those without, Greeks, liberals, Independents, conservatives,  sophomores, juniors, seniors, academia, and administration.  We all stood up there as Wabash Men and sang the song.  In addition it made me realize that Wabash (Not Purdue, IU, Ball State, UCLA, or Stanford) is the only college that I know of, that sends its undergraduate students abroad to owe up to its mission statement, all at the expense of the college.  People can express their opinions of Wabash, positive or negative, but they will be unable to sway from my loyalty to Wabash College.  The only part that disappoints about Wabash is that I am constantly reminded by our Alma Mater about the inevitable, “. . . These fleeting years we tarry here beneath the scarlet sway/ Beguiles us with its subtle charms then quickly steal away . . . .” The disappointment is that the undergraduate Wabash experience ends.  I will have to find a new place to challenge me the way Dr. Aden did with history 497 and the way Dr. Rhoades will challenge me next semester, as a second semester senior, in history 300. 

One of our other group stops has been the Chapultepec Castle which has helped me answer my question of “Why Mexican history is shaped the way it is now?”  The castle once housed the passed presidents of Mexican and other leaders such as Diaz and Maximilian.  Yet as I walked the ornate hallways and exhibitions, I could only keep the story of the Boy Heroes that my uncle once told me.  The castle became a military fort during the War of Northern Aggression/ Mexican-American War, while under siege the only survivors were a handful of pre-teenage boys.  These boys fought off North American soldiers until they ran out of ammunition.  Out of ammunition all of the boys agreed that it was heroic to die rather than become prisoners of the invading North Americans, hence one of the boys draped himself in the Mexican flag and they all threw themselves from the castle and to their deaths.  I pondered on the story and realized that these boys had more monuments in the castle than Porfirio Diaz did.  Diaz controlled Mexico for decades while these boys had a brief moment of heroism in the eyes of Mexicans then and now.  Mexicans have chosen to remember those that became martyrs to the masses such as the boy heroes, Zapata, Villa, and the last Aztec king Cuauhtémoc.  They have limited their historical memory to those that represented a violation of the rights of the masses, Diaz and Cortes.  I am actually so immersed with Mexican society and cultural right now, that I have forgotten that it is Thanksgiving today, this all I can produce right now since I would like to call my family. 

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

In Photos: Top Left: Mexican National Flag flying high at Zocolo. Top Right: Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Bottom Left: Dean of Admissions Steve Klein, Professor Rick Warner, Jesse James, Jon Miller, Don Feeney. Bottom Left: Adrian Mendoza and Ben Gonzalez in front of one of the many Siqueiros murals 

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Mexico: More Than Museums

Jon Miller '08

The only way to describe this week for me is to say that it is has been one of the most life changing and eye-opening experiences of my life.  Although this is the second time I have been to Latin America, Mexico City has given me so much more than an opportunity to learn in a foreign country.  I have been able to live and interact with people from a different country despite a sizeable language barrier.  They allowed me to visit their historic sites including the Plaza Tres Culturas, which directly relates to my research project on the student protests of 1968.  It was the site where three hundred to seven hundred Mexican students were massacred during a protest for social justice.  It was incredibly moving for me to see the actual layout of the plaza, read the names of the men and women killed, and envision how the tragedy occurred.  In addition to the academic experiences, Mexico has reminded of just how lucky I am to have my life in the United States.  Every where you look, there is poverty.  From selling used books to jewelry, people do whatever they can to survive, but if they cannot help themselves, then others give what they can to help those in need.    

            I will try to describe an experience I had today that will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.  After visiting the Castillo de Chapultepec, the group unanimously decided to travel by metro to the Basilica de Guadalupe in the northern part of city.  On the way there, I was standing by myself on one end of metro car as two young girls, who were about eight and ten years old, walked on to our car.  Without any parents or guardians, these little girls, who were barely clothed and dirty from probably weeks of living on the street, began to sing in hopes of earning a few pesos.  I reluctantly did not give anything to the girls because at the time, the only money I had was enough to buy my food for the day. However, I looked up to see two young men, who were around fourteen or fifteen, and without hesitation, the tallest one opened up his bag and gave the youngest girl a bag of peanuts.  He even opened the bag for her, and as she walked away with the bag in her hand, she had the most beautiful smile on her face that I have ever seen.  This young man was not wealthy, but he gave what he could because he saw the desperation in that girl’s eyes.  At that moment, I realized how great these people are.  They do what they can to survive, and along the way, they persevere through the difficult times and enjoy the good ones. When this trip is done, I hope I can remember the generosity of that young man.  He helped me grow as a man to be thankful for what I have in my life.  When my college days are past, I will remember this trip for the friends I have made and the incredible life lessons it has given me.  Thank you to my parents and all of those at Wabash who got me here this week. 

     In Photos: Top Left: Jon Miller overlooks Teotihuacan and Pyramid to the Sun. Bottom Right: Dave Coddens, Jon Miller, Craig Engledow, and Justin Raisor at Templo Mayor

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Dinner and Some History

Don Feeney '07

After a short delay Wednesday morning, the group headed out in perfect weather to Castillo de Chapultepec which was followed by a visit to the Basilica de Guadalupe.  Both of these sights, with good reason, are a must for those traveling through Mexico City.  However, for me the thing that will stand out in my mind the most from Wednesday was the mariachi, the great food, and the even better conversation.  Allow me to explain…

While most tourists come to Mexico City, hit the tourist spots their guide books tell them, and return to their hotels each night with lots of pictures, many of us were fortunate enough to have an experience not available in any tourism guide to Mexico.  Fortunately for us, the only person other than Dr. Warner writing on the history of the Cora (an indigenous group in Mexico) happens to be a friend of his, Laura Magriñá who lives here in Mexico City.  Perhaps even more fortunate for us, her husband, Jesus Jauregui, holds an important position in the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History). He also happens to be a human Google for Mexican history, and was able to assist us with our papers an incredible amount.  I came to the dinner with the expectation of finding information on the historical memory of my topic, los rurales, and left with not only such information but in addition he was kind enough to give me a complete list of books that would help me in my research.  After speaking with several of my classmates I realized that I was not the only one who benefited greatly from the experience.  After the dinner we discussed how much he had helped us with new perspectives, new information, and new ideas on our topics.  As he made his way down the table, it was incredible to listen to him field questions concerning anything with Mexican history, and doing so in a manner which made me think he enjoyed helping us as much as we enjoyed his help.  When the evening was over I know we had all gained a tremendous amount of direction for our papers, and for that we owe our gratitude to Señora Magriñá and Dr, Jauregui, and to Dr. Warner for giving us this opportunity.

Click Here To See Some Pictures From Day 5

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Historical Memory

Craig Engledow '08

Tuesday, November 21st, we visited the National Anthropology Museum.  It gave us a chance to see many Mexican Indian cultures from outside of central Mexico.  The Mexican culture chooses to embrace their Indian heritage much different from the United States.  While in the U.S. we understand that there were many injustices that were forced upon the Native Americans, there is still little desire to learn about these Indian cultures.  In Mexico, however, not only do they understand the roots of their country, but they also embrace it in a way that honors the past.  One of the main themes of this class is historical memory and it can be seen how the Mexican culture chooses to remember the “founders” of their country in a very positive light, a celebrate them.  As we arrived at the museum, we were treated to a ceremonial los voladores from Veracruz, which is an event in which the Indians would climb a tall tower and work their way down by swinging on a rope.  It also gave us a chance to learn about the central Mexican Indian tribes without being hassled by hundreds of sales men.

We also switched hotels today.  We are now staying in the area of Zona Rosa at the Hotel Maria Cristina.  The difference in socioeconomics between the two areas is very visible.  Zona Rosa is a much more "Americanized."  The area includes several restaurants that we are familiar with, such as Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  As well as having restaurants that were not present in the other area, there were also much cleaner streets, 'walk/don’t walk signs' and even high rises. Designer shops and high-end restaurants dot the plaza walk.

  While the Casa de Los Amigos was a great place to stay, the hotels do not even compare.  We are now equipped with luxuries such as televisions and high pressure showers.  It is sad to think how two different parts of the city, barely a mile apart, can seem like worlds apart.

Click Here To See Some Pictures From Day 4

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Blogger Blues

Jesse James '08

I apologize for the lack of web logs and album postings for Days 4 and 5. It appears the city has brought this youthful, energetic Wally to very slow (explained later!) pace.

At 4:30am this morning, Wednesday, November 22nd, I awoke with a hard pain in my chest and Dr. Warner aided me in calling a house-call doctor.The doctor was at my hotel room within 15 minutes. Talk about service! He asked my symptoms and I gave the Freudian replies...tingling arm, swollen throat, chest pain. After jotting a few things down, Jon Miller (my roommate down here) and Dr. Warner and Dean Klein (helping me out!!! Thanks!) I witnessed the doctor pull out a portable I.V. system and inject the  appropriate medicines. Within minutes that the fluid entered my blood stream in entirety the pain started to fade. I was impressed! By describing just a few symptoms he had everything set. "It should take about 1 hour for the solution to completely enter your body," said the doctor in his broken English.

 

Three hours later, at 8:30 AM (9:30 all y'alls time back home), the solution was nearing completion. I have small veins. Who knew? After hours of very interesting conversation with the doctor - ranging from Christianity to photography to KFC to the USA's most beautiful cities - finally asked my name. I told him "Jesse James" and he began to chuckle! For a minute I thought there was an 'extra kick' in the solution! It turns out that my doctor (a native Mexico City urbanite) has a gross interest in the United States' wild west history. He proceeded to give me histories of Jesse and the James Gang. It was quite an experience...an I.V. in my right arm and a native Mexican doctor telling me facts about my wild west name that I haven't ever heard! After the fluid was completely flushed into my system, the doctor wrote my prescriptions and headed off to help other people in need of an in-room I.V. station! Ha Ha.  know he probably won't ever read this, but I want everyone who does to know how great of a doctor he was! Professional and personal! What a combination.

 

Oh, and by the way, I had increased blood pressure because of the altitude of the City (some several thousand above even the average sea level height in Indiana) and / or of high sodium intake as Mexican cuisine is known for higher levels of salt than in the U.S. Who knew?

 

I'm doing much better now. Thanks, doc. 

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