Reflections on a Spring Break in Mexico

Northern Arizona University is on its spring break this week, and, back in August, one of my best friends, J, invited me to her family’s condo in Rocky Point, Mexico for the break. Last year I turned down this offer to volunteer at the Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico–a perfectly in character spring break activity for the stereotype of an English major I can be sometimes–but, this year, I tried something new. For the most part, the vacation was everything I could want as a respite from school: an escape from Flagstaff’s chilly spring for the warm sun of the beach, reading for hours on end, getting drunk and being aggressive toward stranger bros at clubs. It was overall, an absolutely lovely weekend, and I greatly appreciate the generosity of my friend’s family for the invitation and their hospitality.

I find myself, however, taking a surprising amount away from this vacation. Mexico, unlike other beach destinations I’ve been to before (primarily Orange County, San Diego, Oregon, Denmark, Croatia, and France), did not hide the blatant wealth disparity between its vacationers and its residents. I had just been to Mexico last weekend with class, and, from growing up in a border state, always kind of associated Mexico with poverty, a place from which people fled for the great contrast of “the American dream.” This image of Mexico, though, was never put into any sense of realism. I never considered my relationship with Mexico as one of a privileged American until this weekend. Until I was lounging on Mexico’s beaches in a towering condo district while children tried to peddle pineapples full of booze to me. Until I was going partying with Americans on spring break in a nightclub only reached through crumbling streets and decaying neighborhoods. My time aggressively dedicated to relaxing and enjoying myself was constantly accompanied by a local trying to sell me something about every five minutes or less to which I incessantly repeated a string of no graciases. My mind kept returning itself to the opening line from a short film that said, “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.” I do not mean to depict Mexico in the light of white pity, or say that beach towns in the United States do not experience local poverty, but I merely intend to reflect on a vacation in which I spent a considerable amount of energy exercising a forced sense of indifference towards my surroundings for the sake of what I went to Mexico to do: be selfish on spring break.

Here’s what I got: pushing myself towards apathy is fucked up. But this, really, is nothing that I don’t passively incorporate into my daily life already. A passive indifference which, nationally, contributes to a lack of humanization towards immigrants or exploited labor sources. Spring break put me in the midst of my hypocrisy.

I always try to let myself be a different person when I go on vacation, especially when it’s with another person’s family. I don’t take my headphones, I move on a different schedule, I try to not let myself obsess over the little things. I take vacationing as an opportunity to live differently; my everyday life can so easily fill itself with its own day-to-day so as to not allow room for reflection on its makeup. While I, obviously, cannot just switch to, say, a life of lazing on the beach with a book and a pina colada, I can reassess nuanced aspects of what I enjoy and what I can do differently. From this time in Mexico, I take away a degree of perspective on the privilege infused in my day-to-day, and a reminder to avoid apathy regarding the global consequences of my American lifestyle. Despite growing up in Arizona, my knowledge of US-Mexican history and current relationships is deeply lacking, and I have much to learn.

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The Colorado River and the West

Good Colorado River Music

Memoirs from an Honors trip to Yuma and Mexico to study Colorado River restoration:

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“Can I just sit and not pee?”

Anonymous

“Tomorrow morning we’ll just have blue dark skinny time.”

EH

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Ahn-drea. It’s a hard ahn.”

JN

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“Your watch–that’s analogue–won’t change with timezones.”

SL

“We’ll just be wet little urchins.”

EH

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“So, are you cousin Jackson or brother Jackson or…”
“Well, I’m Lizzy.”

EH and Me

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“All moms are people. All babies are grandpas too.”

EH

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“White supremacy.”

TH

“If you love the sauce so much, why don’t you marry it? Like give it a ring and make the cashier an undercover priest?”

JN

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“That child looks like chocolate.”

EH

“Let’s reconvene white supremacy.”

TH

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IMG_0221“You’re not a butthole; you’re a sphincter.”

CS

“You’re an appendix. No one notices you till you explode.”

G

“Guys, we met Shannon yesterday.”

Me

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An Anniversary of my Love Affair with the Southwest

11178221_466286380188047_4499056919239508209_nTomorrow I will be returning to Yuma, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico for restoration work on the Colorado River Delta through an independent study with Honors. Last year, I participated in this work through an Honors class, “The Colorado River and the West,” where we learned about the Southwest’s relationship to water and how human damming of the Colorado has affected its wildlife. As part of our restoration work, we planted trees at Yuma’s East Wetlands on the banks of the Colorado River, and then more the next day with Reforesta San Luis in Mexico. This class and that trip ended up having a large influence on my current relationship with the Southwest (basically, do I ever really want to leave?). In getting ready for my return, I found my final day’s journaling from last year (a spontaneous, fifteen-minute assignment that some spent petting a dog), and its brief reflection has me all the more excited:

As we wind to a close on this trip, I find myself reflecting on the nature of how I connect to these

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Chauncey Ranch, Mayer, AZ

places. For instance, right now, on the banks of the Colorado River, the heat of the sun and the sound of the birds fill me with a pleasure related to reminiscence: they resemble the heat and sound of my hometown, Chandler. Similarly, yesterday at the Laguna Grande, I was reminded of my summer camp [Chauncey Ranch, Mayer, Arizona; Rest in peace, my love] through the sparse vegetation mingled with cottonwoods and their sounds–with purple mountains on the horizon. Especially in this setting, it felt like camp as we bounced along the dirt road in our long van. Everything reminded me of happy, past moments, filling me with the calm joy of nostalgia. But my memories were layered with the experience of making new memories to inspire a later nostalgia too. That time I went to Mexico and planted trees. That time I had my first real Mexican food at a fiesta. That time we learned about Ant Lions. 

I can’t help but think of this co-existence of past, present, and future in terms of the Colorado River and its wetlands too. When we look at these areas, I believe we are all inspired to a degree by a sense of total nature, untouched by humans, that we may have never personally known, but connect to in an instant, automatic, human sense. So we work to create places to inspire this mysterious, sourceless nostalgia through our conservation work. We plant trees not only for the sake of habitats, but to allow future generations to connect to the past of their planet. We learn about the Southwest’s use of water not only to conserve plain life for the future, but to create spaces reminiscent of a time when we lived with the land, instead of against it. 

April 2015

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*Note on the pictures: I barely took any on the trip myself. Whoops. I was planting trees. The first picture of the cacti is from South Mountain in Phoenix. The two from Mexico were taken from Reforesta San Luis’s Facebook page.