Something I enjoy about working in a highly untraditional high school is that the list of standard books that often left me bored and uninspired when I was in high school is nowhere in sight. Instead, books are carefully chosen to relate to class themes and hopefully, the students themselves.
One of the books I’ve been introduced to this semester is The Plum Plum Pickers, a novel by Raymond Barrio about the struggles of Mexican farm workers in California in the 1960s. As I skimmed through the book, I came across a part where a teenage girl tells of the issues she has with her classmates and some of the misconceptions people have about Mexicans. In this section, these words stood out:
“There was more of everything in the Mexican character [. . .]. More sadness, more joy, more love, more ferocity, more intensity, more softness, more intimacy, more warmth, more family, more hatred.”
There it was, those ideas and impressions that had been a jumble in mind, but hadn’t yet come together. Since I’d gotten back from Mexico in July, I’d been unsuccinctly and unsuccessfully trying to explain my adoration for the country. It’s a challenge to be heard over the chorus of negativity about Mexico in the United States—the drug conflict headlines, the “illegal” immigrants, the image of it as a beach resort or party break destination.
The other chorus, the one that tells of the warmth of daily interactions, the ferocity of non-violently occupying a square in protest, the sadness displayed in a beautiful piece of art or the love in a plate of chicken mole is easily drowned out.
Though those words from The Plum Plum Pickers certainly weren’t written in the context of traveling to Mexico, they neatly and simply conveyed what I love most about Mexico… passion and a reverence for life infiltrate everything, including you, the visitor.
I’d begun to discover this in Mexico City at the beginning of my trip and would continue to discover it in Oaxaca. That is, once I got over the heartbreak of leaving Cuba.