Visit to Veracruz, Mexico
Posted August 1, 2009 3:11 am (about 3677 days ago)Background
Mexico is a large, diverse country and I’ve been wanting to visit again for a few years, ideally in a some sort of study program. Alas, I changed jobs last year, cutting my vacation time down and I decided to also take a trip to Taiwan in a couple of weeks so this was just a short reconnaissance trip to Veracruz, a part of Mexico I’ve never been. Both Taiwan and Mexico are important to me as my ancestry dates back to both countries and I’ve been anxious to become more familiar with them both as I grew up in neither, although I have visited both a number of times. Even though I know of no direct connection to Veracruz for my family, after much thought on different regions of Mexico I finally decided to go there. One reason was its reputation as a heavily-Caribbean influenced region with noticeable African roots, as well as broader cosmopolitan feel due its role as a key port city for hundreds of years. In fact, it was the primary port for the Spanish empire. There’s quite a bit of history here, including piracy, attacks by the United States, and pre-Colombian traditions. This website helped me make my final decision and I recommend it for a personalized view on the history and culture of Veracruz, albeit from an American perspective.
I remember when I when I was in college reading about U.S. raised Latinos taking trips to Latin American and taking Spanish classes to reconnect with their roots. I thought that was the strangest thing. Aren’t you “just who you are?” Granted, this was coming from someone whose knowledge of Mexico at the time was pretty much limited to mainstream American stereotypes and I didn’t speak any Spanish except for what I learned in high school. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to see how much one’s environment impacts a person’s identity. I was so removed from Mexicans that I didn’t relate at all. Except for my father, I didn’t really grow up around many, and those I did know weren’t much more cultured than me. My Mexican family has been in the United States for nearly a hundred years and the generation before me doesn’t even Spanish with fluency either! We’re definitely more American than Mexican and we no longer have any relatives in Mexico. The full story is much more complicated of course, and very interesting, if I say so myself. My family’s history reads like the textbook “Mexican-American” story, complete with refugees from the Mexican Revolution, migrant workers, war veterans and the “pocho-ized” (Americanized) kids.
But over the past few years I’ve made a more concerted effort to explore these roots and I’m definitely not the only one in the family. In college I tried to create a pan-Latino identity, but it often felt contrived. Having said that, I was drawn to California my whole life, in part as I yearned to be around a Mexican community. My current job at an Oakland, CA high school has a student population that’s roughly 90% Latino and after five years it’s hard not to feel that connection. But still, we’re different. I care about the students as people, not because they’re Latino. If our school was 90% Korean I’d probably be just as close to them. I just didn’t have the same experience as most of them, whose parents are often straight from Mexico or Central America and who live in a Spanish-speaking household. I’ve been to Mexico a few times before, but it was definitely past time to get back and play catch up!