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Seeing Mexico Globally: A Personal Journey

By Janet Adriana Gamboa

I recently returned from a summer program offered by the UCLA International Institute’s Global Learning Institute in Guanajuato, Mexico. It turned out to be one of the best things I could have ever done. Although my parents are Mexican, I had never been to Mexico before. In fact, I had no idea what it was to be Mexican or what it meant to experience the culture and people of Mexico.

You’d think that because Los Angeles is full of ethnic Mexicans, it is possible to know Mexican culture by living here. But Mexican culture in Mexico is a completely different experience. This is especially true in Guanajuato, a small town full of old traditions and a distinctive colonial and villa-style architecture that offers people plenty of space and time to relax and unwind from the stresses of urban life.

What I will take away from this trip is how culturally tied Mexicans are to their community. Their city is not only a place where they live, it is where they perpetuate their history through legends and continuous celebrations honoring their past. Signs of Guanajuato’s historical ties to Spain and the town’s struggle for independence are visible throughout the city in old buildings like the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, the Basílica de Guanajuato and the University of Guanajuato.

Although Guanajuato is small compared to Los Angeles, it is full of life at any time of the day or night. During the day, even though we spent our mornings in the university, there was always time to go to Mercado Hidalgo or have lunch in Plaza Union. We spent our evenings at many of the nightclubs near our hotel, listening and dancing to salsa music, reggae and hip-hop.

One of the exciting parts of the program, besides the weekend excursions to tourist magnets like León and San Miguel de Allende, was being able to view firsthand the diverse communities and economies that make up Mexico. It was also fascinating to see how globalization has affected these communities in terms of the music they hear, the food they eat and the Hollywood movies they see. Indeed, globalization shapes almost every part of their lives.

Gamboa is a senior majoring in political science.

UCLA International Institute