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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Guest column: Louisiana must do more to help voters

This post was originally published on TheAdvocate.com. You can find it here.

The national election is just weeks away, but last spring Louisiana took some small but important steps that make it easier for students at public colleges to vote.

Public schools are now required to include student signatures on their student identification cards so student voters can use them as ID at the polls.

More must be done.

Private colleges are not included. Community college leaders managed to wiggle out of their responsibility, as lawmakers exempted the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

Voting rights are one of America’s hard-fought national values. For students, exercising their right is often a gauntlet that highlights a need for increased student advocacy across the state in order to secure voting rights for all.

In fall 2014, a classmate and I started Geaux Vote LSU dedicated to helping LSU students vote by providing them with the resources for navigating Louisiana’s opaque voting laws. Among our work was lobbying for students to be able to use their student IDs to vote.

As a student, navigating this process could not have be more complicated — it is no wonder that voter turnout for 18-34 year olds was a dismal 20 percent in the last two statewide elections.

http://www.lsunow.com/daily/young-louisiana-voters-lack-significant-impact-in-presidential-race/article_c74977ae-de5d-11e5-a370-67dd93b00f40.html

If you are a student, you have the option to register in your hometown or your college home. Easy enough. But you need proper identification. Early voting, which lasts only a week in Louisiana and is closed on Sundays, typically falls squarely during classes and has only one polling place within five miles of the LSU.

Now, more than ever, students have a stake in our elections. While low voter turnout continues to shame this demographic, legislators across the country — with Louisiana among the top of the list — have cut higher education funding. Student debt is skyrocketing. Meanwhile, those in office feel few consequences on election day for neglecting the largest group of people in the United States.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/

Thankfully, there have been more steps toward helping students vote. LSU’s campus bus system, for example, stops at East Baton Rouge Parish’s early voting polling precinct. Out-of-state students waiting for their college to redesign their IDs can now go to their local DMV and get a special ID for voting.

But why does it have to be so hard? Through these barriers, students are effectively placed in a special category of citizenship; a class in which disenfranchisement is commonplace yet politicians and pundits wonder why voter turnout is so egregiously low.

Louisiana has a sordid history of denying voting rights — from literacy tests to intimidation at the polls. The fight for equal enfranchisement has been long and hard for many, not just students.

We started Geaux Vote LSU because we knew that turnout was low, and wanted to know why. What we discovered was that not only were students not registered, but there were steep barriers preventing registration. This transformed my perspective on the fight for increased voter participation. We are failing college students and then criticizing them for their apathy.

So where do we go from here? First, we should restore the federal Voting Rights Act to its original intent. Several voting regulations —particularly Louisiana’s inadequate early voting period — would likely not be allowed if the part of the law that required federal preclearance for states like Louisiana had not been undone by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Students must make voter awareness a priority. There are already groups working in the trenches — from campus organizations like Geaux Vote LSU to national organizations like Rock the Vote and the Andrew Goodman Foundation. But they need the support of their campuses’ most influential groups, from student government to Greek life to athletics.

Increasing student voter turnout could greatly strengthen student clout on issues they care about.

El tiempo por despedir

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No hay mucho tiempo en Argentina para yo, y tengo que decir que estoy triste salir. Desde mi mamá argentina hasta mi nuevo café favorito, hay tan mucho que me voy a extrañar cuando regreso a los EE.UU.

No hay otra lugar como el hogar, y por un mes argentina era mi hogar. He aprendido tan mucho; ser honesto, no yo pensaba que estaba yendo a tener éxito en los clases españoles intensivos pero ¡tengo éxito! De todos modos, esto es el post final en Córdoba. Es agridulce.

Buenos Aires robó a mi corazon, la cuidad me da una nueva perspectiva, y estoy saliendo con el tango en mi cabeza.

No penso que voy a olvidar “sos” (Si no entiende el broma, esto es porque).

Como siempre, tengo fotos para mostrar.

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Adiós Argentina, ¡hasta luego! (Hay va a ser un proximo tiempo definitivamente.)

 

Time to say goodbye

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There isn’t much time left in Argentina, and I must say that I’m sad to leave. From my host mom to my new favorite coffee shop, there is so much that I am going to miss when I get back to the states.

There is no place like home, and for a month Argentina was my home. I have learned a ridiculous amount; to be honest, I did not think I was going to make it through those intensive Spanish classes but I prevailed! Anyways, this is the last post I will make in Córdoba. It’s bittersweet.

Buenos Aires stole my heart, the city gave me a new perspective, and I am leaving with the tango on my mind.

I don’t think I’ll ever get “sos” out of my head (If you don’t get the joke, this is why).

As usual, I have photos to share.

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Bye Argentina, see you next time! (There will definitely be a next time.)

Buenos Aires stole my heart

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This past weekend I was in Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina and the most beautiful city of the entire country. There are people in all the streets, amazing buildings, and a grand history. I I would like to like there (or just spend more time) because it was fantastic. Anyways, I have a lot of photos to show. The photos explain themselves. There’s no other explanation for Buenos Aires than through pictures. 

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I love Buenos Aires. I will return.

Buenos Aires robó a mi corazon

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El fin de semana pasado fui a Buenos Aires, la cuidad capital de Argentina y la cuidad más hermosa de todo el país. Hay personas en todas las calles, edificios magníficos, y una gran historia. Me gustaria vivir allí (o simplemente pasar más tiempo) porque era fantástico. De todos modos, tengo muchos para mostrarte. Las fotos explican a sí mismos. Hay no otra explicación para Buenos Aires que las fotos.

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Me encanta Buenos Aires. Regresaré.

Escalar una montaña

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Este semana pasada fue normal…clases, dormiendo, y repite. Sin embargo, este fin de semana fue FÁNTASTICO. Fuimos (los otros estudiantes y yo) a Mendoza, una provencia muy linda en Argentina.  Fuimos en un “city tour” de Mendoza City, comimos a un restaurante muy delicioso, y exploramos la cuidad. Pasamos el domingo en los Andes, una experiencia que nunca olvidaré. Este fin de semana solo puede describir con fotos. Pero hay no problema, porgue tengo MUCHAS fotos. Mira:

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Además, fuimos a Caroya, un pueblo colonial en la provincia de Córdoba. Es muy histórico; visitamos dos estancias jesuiticas (Caroya y Jesús María). Hay fotos de abajo:

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Hay tan mucho belleza en Argentina, ¡es demasiado para ver!