Bienvenidos a CDMX: My Fulbright Year (Semester 1)

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As I have finally completed a month  my first semester (this post is a very long time coming) here in Mexico City, I decided that it was finally time to start blogging about my experience here. For those of you who don’t already know, I will be spending the next 11 months or so living, working and studying in Mexico City as a part of my Fulbright scholarship here. Needless to say, it  has been a new and challenging experience and I am very excited to share it with everyone at home. So let’s begin.

Everyone knows moving to a new place is hard, but I now have a special appreciation for those who choose to move beyond their home borders. Between opening a bank account, getting a tarjeta residencial (essentially a green card),  moving into a new apartment and just generally adjusting to a new job, school and city, the transition experience has been a true test of my patience. Nothing has kept me more occupied than schlepping to the immigration office (multiple times) and navigating a new banking system. On the other hand, some of the few times I have truly felt like I have conquered bureaucracy are after I have finally accomplished these tasks. Note to self and everyone reading: slow bureaucracy has the same face in every corner of the world.

Despite the schleps and test of my patience, I have managed to see and do a ton in the short time that I have been here. I live in an amazing colonia, Chimalistac, located minutes away from historical Coyoacán (a place I will get back to later, because there is so much to tell). There are few things better than a greenspace in the neighborhood and a patio to view it from.

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Reading with a view.

I’m also convinced that there are more museums here than there are people, which is saying a lot considering a population of over 20 million. From the Fonetecia Nacional, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Museo de la Cuidad de México  and others that I have just randomly gone into while walking down the street, there is no shortage of places to go for museum junkies like myself. I’m attempting to compile a list of museums that I need to commit myself to going this year, but it’s getting so extensive that it may not be possible. Sounds like a good excuse to come back and visit!

Now, back to Coyoacán. Home to a little-known (super famous) artist named Frida Kahlo, Coyoacán was basically one of the first areas in Mexico City and, in my opinion, one of the best. Everything there feels either famous or historical. From the famous (and ridiculously delicious) cafe known as El Jarocho—a clever friend of mine described it to me as “the Starbucks of Coyoacán” to put it in terms I would understand—to the central plaza known as Parque Centanario to the churros rellenos (think regular churros, except filled with anything the mind can dream of). My favorite market is located in Coyoacán, as well as some of my favorite restaurants. Overall, it is one of the best places to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I have spent many.

As far as visits outside of the city, so far I have been to Guanajuato, Tlaxcala and through different parts of the State of Mexico. I am also planning a trip to the cities of Guadalajara and Queretaro. All should be sufficiently amazing, as Mexico had so far not let me down in terms of site seeing. If anything, all of these cities have the same thing in common, though that thing is a wonderful view, amazing food and fresh air (a nice escape from the contaminated Mexico City).

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The views in Guanajuato certainly do not disappoint.

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Archaeological site in Tlaxcala.

There has been one challenge that has persistently stayed on my mind for much of my time here in Mexico: the election of Donald Trump. Though I will spare you my feelings about the Trump, his team and the overall rise of Nazi-era nationalism in the United States and other democracies around the world (okay, I didn’t quite spare you), I will say that this experience has taught me a lot in the way of how U.S. politics affects other parts of the world. Though Mexico feels very close to home—only a four hour plane ride—I do believe that the rest of the world is probably feeling the aftermath of the election almost as intimately as Americans do.

Admittedly, on Election Night one of my many emotional thoughts included “Thank goodness I am not back in Louisiana to witness this right now.” The thought of being in the U.S. at all when the results came in was inconceivable to me. I am normally an incredibly politically active person, so that thought did make me feel a bit ashamed, like I hadn’t done enough to prevent the results from happening. But after a bit of thought and discussion from other expats, I realized that it was more than avoiding our country’s problems by being in another country; it was about finding refuge in another place at a time when a lot of people do not feel safe being Americans in the United States.

Furthermore, the warmth and condolences that I felt the day after the election from my Mexican friends and coworkers confirmed to me that I was in the right place. Ya tienes casa en Mexico, Valencia, many told me.

Speaking of home, my first time actually walking into the door of mine in Louisiana was on Christmas Eve. After a long day of delayed flights, I finally arrived in Shreveport mere hours before Christmas Day. It is always strange to go back home after being out of the country for awhile; for the first two days I greeted my Starbucks barista in Spanish. However, being back in the U.S., if only for a brief time, did remind me why I needed to come back in the fall and start law school (yay, Georgetown Law!). Man, there is a lot of work to do.

Anyways, it’s January. It has taken me awhile but I have finally figured out my place in Mexico City, as well as my personal journey here and after. I have made myself a regular at several cafes (my version of nesting), and have a regular group of friends and things that I like to do. My goals for my final months—time truly does not slow down—include more travel (see you soon Guadalajara!), more sightseeing (being a tourist is nothing to be ashamed of) and more leisure (working full time and studying is quite the time-consumer). I am writing this here to hold myself accountable, but considering that I hate reading my own writing there is a significant chance that I will never look at this again.

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2 thoughts on “Bienvenidos a CDMX: My Fulbright Year (Semester 1)

  1. Cristy Gui says:

    Hi Valencia! It is so nice to read about your experience. You have inspired me to become a tourist in my own city. Hope you have a great time and that I get to see you again!

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