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.