By: Santiago Carrasco García
Santiago Carrasco García, originally from Spain, is an MA student in Latin American Studies at the Latin American & Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico. He focuses on Communication and Journalism as well as Geography and Environmental Studies. His interest in Mexican foodstuffs and indigenous peoples led him to participate in a university field trip to southern Mexico, Oaxaca, in order to delve into the region’s uniqueness.
Some might say that Mexico is a country bordering the US, where there is a visible societal cheerfulness and amazingly light blue beaches. Others may focus on violence, political corruption and migration to the north. I would argue all of them are right and yet do not come even close to what Mexico really entails. My name is Santi Carrasco García. Originally from Spain, I am in the second year of my MA program in Latin Studies at the University of New Mexico. This past May I had the chance to travel to Mexico through a study program abroad connected to Exploring Oaxaca through Food & Craft, a course offered through the UNM Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of New Mexico and organized by Dr. Ronda Brulotte.
Never had I imagined that my bond to this ancient, diverse country would strengthen so noticeably. Mexico has a very special place in my mind and heart. In 2017, after having been accepted to study at UNM, I took some time to explore Mexico, including visiting Sayulita (Nayarit), Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco), Ciudad de México (Distrito Federal), San Miguel de Allende (Guanajuato), Puebla de Zaragoza (Puebla) and Tulum (Quintana Roo). Now, I have had this experience getting to know Oaxaca de Juárez (Oaxaca) in 2018. Few words can express the amalgamation of sensations I have had the privilege to carry with me given the warming welcome I have always received. Foremost among impressions that come to mind are gratitude and a persistent curiosity to keep exploring this country that has so much to offer. Sayulita and its eternal, completely unspoiled Pacific beaches was my entrance. There I got to know the real meaning of pristine nature and Mexican hospitality. Oaxaca has meant another qualitative leap, for I had the chance to enjoy it both from a personal and academic standpoint. The uniqueness permeating its indigenous peoples, its glorious cuisine, and varied landscapes—including sierras with light green agave plants, turquoise beaches in Puerto Escondido, or Oaxaca city, so vibrant, colorful, noisy—account for an unforgettable experience. I adapted quickly to our academic routine with peer students, getting round and about the city and surroundings areas, including the ruins at Monte Albán, the Tlacolula Mercado, or San Antonio Arrazola.
The program brought about many opportunities. Thanks to a local, internationally acclaimed chef, I savored delicacies such as cacao, hand-made mole, and flores de calabaza con queso fresco; explored a nightlife marked by electro music fusing with traditional, local rhythms and an international crowd drawn from around the world; wandered lost in the ancient ruins of Monte Albán; and had the privilege of hearing first-hand from a maestro in the art of alebrijes, a cooperative organized by women dedicated to textiles, and entire families working hard to spread their millennia-long sapience on mezcal. Experiencing Oaxacan uniqueness has been an eye-opening trip from the position of a humble observant. I do not take this experience as a benign action from the Global North to the developing South, but rather as a full immersion in the rich and intricate reality of Latin America.