Welcome to Mexico! Our first full day here was busy and I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say that we hit the ground running. In fact, we kept running the entire day. I’m still getting used to eating supper at nearly 9 p.m.
Yesterday turned out to be a beautiful day, and it was a treat to be walking the streets of Mexico City. As an avid traveler, I’ve learned that there’s no better way to learn about a city then to walk its streets. You pick up bits of culture and understanding of a country when walking that you can’t get inside of a car or bus. While my feet may have disagreed about the walking at the end of the day, I’m grateful that so much walking was included on our first full day in Mexico. At supper, we were comparing the number of steps that we got in on our first day. The consensus came to around 14,000!
Our first stop of the day was Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Relations where we were generously welcomed by ambassador Juan Carlos Mendoza and his staff. Ambassador Mendoza’s presentation centered around Mexican immigration. His inclusion of the services offered to Mexicans living abroad was most enlightening. Learning about the Mexican consulate’s free services in health, education, and financial services, called Ventanillas Comunitazias, was eye opening.
To make all of this happen, Mexico has several large public-private partnerships with companies in the United States, including Citibank and Walgreens. Just last year, Mexico offered $143 million worth of free services through these services at its consulates. Great work, indeed. We don’t often hear about the positives that Mexico, as a whole, is doing for its citizens who have immigrated. Today I learned their efforts are great and the desire to continue building upon these efforts is even greater.
Next we were off to the Palace Nacional where we saw and learned about the beautiful murals of Diego Rivera. Our tour guide, or as we call her, our historian, Lynda, brings history to life when telling about Rivera’s interpretation of Mexico’s history through his murals. Lynda made a great comparison of the murals to political cartoons. Muralists’ depiction of people and events in their murals were from their own perspective and contained their own biases. They were not painted as being historically accurate. For me, this is what made viewing the murals so thought-provoking. We all learned so much from these murals and continued to see murals throughout the day as they are an important part of Mexican culture.
In the afternoon and evening we visited the Anthropology Museum and had a private tour of the Chapultepec Castle at night. The Castle was gorgeous at night and having it all to ourselves made it a special tour. As a former history teacher, I did sneak a couple of peeks of the Hapsburg paintings hanging on the walls. After all, Maximilian I of Mexico was a Hapsburg!
We ended the day at a traditional Mexican restaurant and were treated to a mariachi band playing for Julie’s birthday. By the looks of it, most of us were exhausted from an event filled day, but sitting down to a meal with each other brought us all back to life a bit. There’s something about food and being surrounded by a new culture that breathes life back into us all.
There is so much more to experience during our stay in Mexico. If the warmest of welcomes we received yesterday is any indication of how the rest of the trip will go, I cannot wait for the coming days!