I have a very Mexican mother in Texas who almost choked on her mid-afternoon pan dulce when I told her I was traveling to Mexico this past summer. The border violence and drug war circumstances–beheadings, sequestrations and drug cartel violence– are what most media outlets cover in regard to Mexico. Oh, and of course immigration, the other hot topic. If a news story on Mexico isn’t about human bodies being hung from bridges, it’s some xenophobic diatribe about how undocumented immigrants are destroying the pristine United States of ‘Merica. The word ‘Mexico’ can sometimes feel like a bad word, highly charged and controversial. This is particularly problematic for me and many people I know because to many Mexican-Americans and Mexicans in the U.S., Mexico is the Motherland. There are untold histories about the ancient civilizations, cultural relics destroyed or hidden during colonization and a sinkhole of untapped art history.
I flew over the golden-sparkled cityscape of Mexico D.F. to land in the Mexican state of Oaxaca for a day of solitude before my friends’ arrival. The margins of the capital Oaxaca city are lined with mountains where many Oaxacans live. About 48% of the population in Oaxaca is indigenous and speaks an assortment of native languages– the most of any other Mexican state. Streets are made from round stones and the walls that border the avenues are an amalgam of bright colors. My first morning in Oaxaca began at my hostel Casa Angel where ladies from the mountains cooked fried eggs with fresh salsa and bread for the guests.