By Summer Season
When I was in 7th grade, my Spanish teacher Senora Brugh put together a trip to Mexico as an extension of our immersion into the Spanish language. I remember we had to sell candy bars for $1 and beg and plead that our parents would help make up the difference so that we could go. I knew the trip was not going to be cheap, but my parents set up chores for me to do and I EARNED my way there.
No amount of preparation could prepare me for the world I was about to see. The place was bustling. There were cars and people everywhere, and the architecture was magnificent! I remember going along in my bus and passing a bank with armed guards with ak-47’s, and I thought for sure that they were going to shoot me, even though I’d done nothing wrong it was downright terrifying to see. The hustle and bustle of Mexico City danced to its own drum, and I was about to immerse myself in my first out of country experience.
I was thankful to have my mother by my side as she had traveled frequently and was able to make the transition smoother. Although she didn’t speak much Spanish together, we were able to get by, but we also had the help of my classmates and my teacher of course.
We set out to Tenochtitlan and arrived at our first Aztec ruins. No picture could prepare me for the breathtaking beauty of the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. Here were these magnificent pyramids seemingly in the middle of nowhere built out of stone when modern day tools weren’t available, and I was about to climb this 1,000-year-old beauties. I climbed to the top of every pyramid we went to as a matter of fact in places like Chitzen Itza and another set of ruins which had a pyramid called the magician’s pyramid where local folklore says it appeared overnight.
The one thing I learned the most is the deep amount of respect the Mexican people had for their history. It was an incredibly awe-inspiring experience to be in the jungles of Mexico climbing pyramids communing with nature and learning about the past.
The pace of the people of Mexico is just different too. They never seem in a rush, and they were always so incredibly friendly. You couldn’t help but notice how incredibly hardworking each of them were and their passions for their jobs and that they were doing what they love to do. Even those that were homeless just seemed to have a different attitude about it too they’d find a way to make handmade goods and sell them to tourists. It definitely made me understand how much easier my own life was and how very fortunate that I was taught to work hard to get what I wanted.
In this last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Mexico twice. In January I found myself in Cozumel as it was one of the port stops on the cruise my boys and I were on, and while I enjoyed my day there we mostly went to a resort sat on the beach and had unlimited food and drinks for the day. It was fun, but nowhere near the experience, I had this past week.
We went to Puerto Vallarta, a destination that many gay friends I knew had been to and a place I’d always wanted to visit. This town was incredible, there were gays everywhere, from all over the world and the people who lived there were all so incredibly welcoming.
While I mostly wanted to go on the trip for a week away from the demanding schedule I usually have, I was also bound and determined to do some touristy/local things too! What is incredible about PV is that almost every place we went to in South Puerto Vallarta was gay-friendly; it reminded me a lot of my trip to Palm Springs a few years back.
On this journey, my friends and I went Zip Lining in the middle of the jungle and boy was it hard work. Our tour guides were funny and flirty, and we hiked what seemed like a million miles and a zillion steps, but we went across 10 lines flying like superman or upside down and spinning. As I looked across the vast canyon somewhat scared, but incredibly thrilled I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that this was my real life. The people of Mexico were once again welcoming with open arms, and we were having a fabulous time.
On Tuesday night we found ourselves at an American owned sports bar watching the results of the election, I was surprised to see so many native Mexicans there. When I asked one of them why they were watching, they politely smiled and said, we’ve got a lot riding on this too. This gentleman told me of his family who had immigrated there, who sends back nearly 2/3 of his paycheck back home and was currently in the process of trying to become a US Citizen. He was worried for not only his family up there, but his family down here. Without them working in the US they’d never survive he told me. As the results became clear and we all silently sad there, many of us shedding a tear and realized that for the first time in our adult lives we were genuinely afraid.
As luck would have it, we had scheduled a gay boat cruise the next day, and as many of us gathered from the US, Canada, The UK, and Mexico, we all sort of agreed we’d let the events of the previous day go and vow to have a good time. Somehow the gods had shined on us, and we were able to set aside our fears and relax, snorkel and of course flirt with some very gorgeous GOGO boys. I’ve no doubt we made some lifelong friends from that cruise.
Thursday found me taking a bus to the Puerto Vallarta Zoo where many of the locals chatted me up and were genuinely interested in where I was headed several of them welcoming me to their city and being excited about my travels. As I walked the ½ mile up to the zoo, I looked at the local culture with a church sitting right there, and adobe house kind of crumbling to the ground right next to it the juxtaposition was staggering. While waiting for my friend Steven to arrive the guy at the zoo told me he was sorry for the way things were happening to us and that if I ever needed to find a new home PV would definitely welcome me. I excused myself outside and quietly shed a tear. He had no reason to be kind to me and yet here I was in a place I’d never been, being offered some of the sweetest gestures I’d ever received. The day was only compounded with greatness as I got to feed and pet a giraffe, pet little mini ponies and play with baby Lions. Little Chocolate was my favorite lioness and is pictured in this story.
As I sit on the plane home and write this, I can’t help but be anxious about what is to come for my new friends in Mexico and my current friends in the US. I’m humbled by the love and support we received from every Mexican we encountered and thankful they gave me a trip I’ll never forget. I can’t help but sit here and cry when I think of the way that our next government wants to treat them. Obviously, I know that not everyone from there is perfect, but the hundreds of them we met are just waiting to have the opportunities as you, and I have had and that were afforded to us early on. I can’t help but wonder why another human being would be afraid of someone wanting to better themselves or because they had a different color of skin. At the end of the day, they are all just the same as you and me.
Despite all the offers and jokes to move amongst friends that we’ve met here, it made me realize something about myself and the people I choose to surround myself with. We are all fighters and activists, and now more than ever we see the call, not from just one side, but from another side as well. I’m slightly comforted knowing that we are gonna fight. We are gonna fight together, to maintain the rights that we fought so hard for and I’m comforted knowing that our new friends are fighting with us. Because together we are better and divided we will crumble.