Not only cacti: Mexico through the eyes of a Russian student
Mexico is perceived differently depending on the people. For modern Russia, these are nothing more than cacti, sombreros, tequila, peyote and mescaline. For the slightly more advanced, it is also the ancient culture of the Indians, mixed with the products of the Spanish conquest. At the same time, for the white population of the United States, Mexico is a source of drug trafficking and cheap labor, something like Tajikistan in our country. However, as a person who considers myself a cosmopolitan, I tried to look at Mexico with an open mind, discarding what I knew about the country before visiting it.
During my voyage across the United States, the thought of visiting the “country of cacti” did not leave me, but finances were coming to an end, and this thought began to visit me less and less. Still, romance prevailed over pragmatism, and despite my empty wallet, I decided to go to Mexico. Before meeting the harsh reality expressed in the notorious green papers with American presidents, I had a plan to get to Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. As a result, having more or less soberly calculated my capabilities, I decided to confine myself to a town with a beautiful and mysterious name Chihuahua, which is located about five hundred kilometers from the border with the United States.
From El Paso, an American city bordering Mexico, in which there is nothing American, except for territorial affiliation, I took an international bus to the already geographically Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, “glued” to the other side of the border. Thus, the route of the international bus was at most 10 kilometers. At the border, it’s not that I’ve got a visa – I don’t ask for my passport! So, I’m already on the territory of mysterious Mexico! Bienvenidos!
I got the Mexican pesetas easily – through an ATM and my credit card. I also found the bus I needed without any problems, and – attention! – it turned out to be much more comfortable than the American wheeled counterparts! In general, Mexico is a country of contrasts, for example, despite the luxurious bus, the bus station itself does not shine with cleanliness and well-groomed. Most of all I was impressed by the toilet. I got used to a paid high-comfort waiting room back in Russia, but I did not have to meet such a pronounced differentiation of bathrooms: there were two toilets nearby – free and dirty, as well as paid and clean. Although there is no confidence in the cleanliness of the paid one – obeying the desire to taste the maximum of exoticism, I went to the free and dirty one, which turned out to be no worse than the domestic men’s rooms.
Now some information about the language barrier. I was lucky – I started learning Spanish while still in Russia, as a result of which I practically did not have any difficulties in translation. Those who speak only English should remember that only those Mexicans who work in the States or in the tourist areas of Mexico know this language. Therefore, if you are not an ordinary tourist basking on the beach in Acapulco, but a seeker of new sensations in the country, it will not hurt you to learn basic expressions or arm yourself with a phrasebook.
So, wielding broken Spanish, I buy a burrito at the bus station in Chihuahua, my target. Burritos in Mexico are the theme of a cookbook describing the masterpieces of world cuisine. Highly recommend. After physical food, it was time for spiritual food, and I set off towards the city center. Despite the fact that the path is not short (the bus station is located near the airport), I boldly rejected the offers of taxi drivers, as well as public transport. And not because of the economy, but in order to view the outskirts of the city, since the contemplation of the central attractions never gives a complete picture of the place that you visited.
It was a hot Mexican morning, well over 30 degrees Celsius, but neither the heat, nor the stories of Mexicans living in America about the outskirts of cities frightened me – I was so fascinated by the unhurried and unpretentious flow of city life. By the way, scary things were told on the other side of the border – about severed fingers from behind a ring, complete chaos and everything like that. But, finding myself on the outskirts of the city, I instantly forgot all the horror stories and walked at the ready with a camera towards the center. The pictures that appeared in front of my eyes were striking in their poverty and destitution, but at the same time I was surprised by the smiles of people, as if they knew more about life than we do, and have long understood that happiness is not measured by money and regalia.
Reflecting on happiness and the meaning of life, I got to the center of the city, which turned out to be larger than I thought. There are many beautiful colonial-style buildings, a huge number of monuments, a colorful square and a pedestrian street, as well as a very beautiful Catholic cathedral.
I ended up in the city, as it turned out, right after Mexico’s Independence Day. Huge garlands of red, green and white balloons (the colors of the national flag of Mexico) and the ubiquitous congratulatory inscriptions on buildings reminded of the last holiday. The local police were very surprised. I got used to the fact that the police can help and prompt back in the States. But the Mexican law enforcement officers were dressed in an amazing snow-white uniform, which was simply pleasing to the eye and made you want to be completely law-abiding. Although, perhaps, these were elegant uniforms that remained, like garlands, after the holiday …
Walking along the main pedestrian street (like our Weiner, only more colorful and colorful), I witnessed a police operation – the capture of a group of people, obviously a suspect in something. Risking the camera, health and time, I took several pictures from under the elbow. Luckily for me, the police were too busy and I stayed with the camera and taking pictures. Moreover, judging by the reaction of the natives, it was quite common, and I immediately remembered the stories about the severed fingers.
Not far from the main square, the Indians traded in hand-sewn things based on the motives of their ancestors, as well as all sorts of knick-knacks, again made by hand. I simply could not pass by this, and therefore, succumbing to the spirit of exotic shopping, I spent a fair amount of Mexican money. For those who are going to Mexico, I recommend boldly buying such things, they are actually made by hand and carry the energy of the ancient Indian tribes.
After an eventful day in the hot Mexican sun, it was the best idea to stop by for a cool beer or two at the local bar. Having visited the drinking establishment, I remained in love with these prices. It is worth saying that in Mexico, in principle, everything is inexpensive, but the prices for alcohol just amazed me! In our bar you can hardly find a bottle of beer for 25 rubles or tequila for 40. And in a relatively fashionable and high-profile restaurant I ate for only … 250 rubles – the price of a business lunch in Yekaterinburg.
Unfortunately, for many reasons, I could no longer stay in the hospitable Chihuahua, so I headed towards the bus station. This time I decided to go by bus, my Spanish (I remind you of the need for a phrasebook) and a young Mexican helped me to find out the route, who, when he found out that I was from Russia and was just traveling, even tried to give me money for travel, which for a person from “ hospitable “Yekaterinburg was almost a shock. But the shock itself came during a trip on a local bus. It’s an indescribable feeling, but I’ll try … Imagine a bus like a school American from the sixties, painted bright red and with a driver who drives even more disgusting than in Egypt! And this is how all the drivers of these old buses drive, it seems this is some kind of “minibus effect”, I cannot find another explanation.
Letting go of the chair in front and almost deformed from my convulsive embrace, I got off at the bus station and took a ticket back to Ciudad Juarez. Ahead is the night, comfortable chairs and a Mexican road. And thoughts about hospitality and contrasts …