This past summer (May-June 2014) I spent 6 weeks in the heart of Mexico city on an internship for a Pharmaceutical company. I learned a lot about business in another country, working in a second language, and after living in 4 different houses, I pieced together the cultural norms of Mexico. I tried (and didn’t like) Mole, a dark brown sauce with a vegetable base that is mashed and simmered together with ground nuts, chilis, and chocolate. I also bribed a police officer and witnessed how corrupt MX really is.
There are many beautiful parts of this metropolitan area like the Centro Histórico, the golden Angel of Independence, Zócalo (central square), the floating gardens of Xochimilco, Templo Mayor – ancient Aztec temple ruins, and many historical churches. Since I had dyed my hair dark before arriving and tried not to dress too flashy, I never felt unsafe walking around to see the sites. Yet, I did have a group of teenage boys ask me for my picture. And, when people noticed my blue eyes, they treated me differently: Some with more interest and others with less kindness.
Anyway, what really got to me was the pollution and altitude. The city is situated in a valley almost 3,000 meters above sea level and is home to 21.2 million people making it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere, and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world (source). All of this amounts to a huge number of commuters, taxis, and public buses, meaning man made pollutants sit in the air since there is no ventilation in the valley.
The most impactful moment on this trip was when I saw TV interview with a young man, probably in his early 20s, talking about his dreams to go to America and see his family. The crowd awwww’d and the whole thing seemed so surreal and Hunger-Game-esque, he’s trapped in this situation because of his government and not allowed to leave to see his family because of his societal class/citizenship. I remember sitting there with my mouth open not even able to process how the world works. The idea that your citizenship dictates what you can and cannot do is mind boggling to me. Now, obviously I knew all of this. I read/watch the news but this was one of my first real life, relatable experience with marginalized discrimination (besides being a woman). The interview with the boy who had dirt on his face and was not allowed to see his family will stick with me the rest of my life. How the powerful people in this world can unapologetically marginalize an entire population is beyond me.
I am very grateful for this experience but I also have an entirely new (and conflicting) appreciation for my life in the U.S. I cannot help but think of people like this boy and so many others who want to escape their corrupt countries but can’t. It is hilarious to me when American citizens get themselves worked up over immigrants coming here for a better life and “not paying taxes” while corporations get massive tax breaks which have been proven to do more harm than good.
Ending remark: Maybe the reason I went into Accounting is to try to start solving these problems.
Ending remark 2: I hate politics and just wish people could come together regardless of socioeconomic class or race.