My Mexican Independence

Dreaming of fireworks over the colorful landscape of Guanajuato, MX.

Ten years ago to the day my post-collegiate dreamy-eyed güerita self confidently traverssed the hills and alleyways of a picturesque mountain mining town in central Mexico known as Guanajuato.  The tongue-twisting vowels are quickly condensed to Guana by the students who study its colonial history during the academic year, while the name takes another form altogether when caravans of djembe-playing hippies descend upon the town to beat their drums to the sound of el Cervantino, the  world-renowned cultural festival named after 16th century Spanish author Miguel Cervantes. Amidst the estudiantes, the cultura and colonial charm, Guanajuato also stands proudly for being recognized as the location of the very first battle in the Mexican war of independence.

On the evening of September 16th  2001, together with my Spanish-speaking travel sister, I willingly shoved myself  into the mass of bodies packed into that famous square- el Alhóndiga-, where along with hundreds of others, I watched makeshift fireworks explode above our heads.   The iconic ‘grito mexicano’ echoed from the lungs of everyone that surrounded me.  I was a foreigner in a neighboring land, coloring myself into their song of independence.  We were least a month into our epic backpacking tour through Central America and Mexico and Guanajuato became our temporary settlement: jobs were procured at the local bars and we started our international letter writing exchange project -Carta Connection-with the local high schools.  Just five days prior, the deafening news of 9/11 had hit via shocking images on the TV window displays of electronic shops.  Condolences were offered by passersby. Being outside of my home environment when tragedy struck weakened my ability to comprehend.  I wasn’t living and breathing the devastation, nor felt capable of feeling the magnitude of what this moment would mean for my country.  For me, my geographical distance from the attack on the twin towers somehow withheld a part of my nationality from me- a nationality that would be redefined by that moment and which brought this nation together in ways I will probably never experience.   I would come home four months later to a place that had already dried its tears and had begun to retaliate.

And yet at this strange moment in history, while my naïve, 22 year-old eyes peered up at the firecrackers raining sparks down upon us, I felt part of that Mexican independence day celebration in my own personal way.  It was the freedom that is gifted to a traveler, free from national or geographic boundaries, where the soul is invited to dance: completely open, accepting, present.  It’s a limitless territory, where dreams and reality mirror each other.   I don’t think I could have put it in these words back then. I was too busy living it, feeling it, embodying all that it brought to me.  Looking back I realize how complex the moment was.  A few short months after that memorable night of sparks, I would arrive home and for the first time in my entire life, would have to figure out the next steps along a path that I was solely responsible for shaping.  My nation would be at war, a war that I would never fully comprehend in ways different from those of my fellow compatriots who also didn’t and don’t understand.  Yet here I sit writing this piece, ten years after that moment, knowing that we are still at war.  And not just the one in Afghanistan, but in Mexico too.

Part of me feels helpless, still very removed from these entangling battles where oppressed and oppressor begin to seem one in the same.  And yet I journey back to that moment in the Alhondiga, with the shouts and cheers, the smell of burnt elote wafting in the air, and the murmurs of street slang that I had finally begun to decipher.  It was the magical spark where travel unlocks the spirit and allows it to roam freely. That was my moment of freedom.

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~ by maureenmoore on September 17, 2011.

3 Responses to “My Mexican Independence”

  1. Wonderfully written, Maureen. It describes so eloquently the beauty of traveling, and your experiences and thoughts.

  2. What a beautiful prospective and memory. Even though you felt like a part of your nationality was held from you that day, I cannot imagine a better person that this special viewing spot and lens were bestowed upon that day. Thanks so much for sharing!

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