I’m back! Sorry for the lack of blogging, but I was on a trip to Mexico for a few days (poor baby, right?). I am so excited to share my experience!
I feel that it is very important for a professional photographer to continue their education. If you shoot the same things over and over, you tend to get into a rut and our clients deserve fresh eyes. Also, in photography especially, there is always something new to learn. So I used a large portion of my education budget this year to go to Mexico and photograph a wedding with the amazing Fer Juaristi. And if I’m going to Mexico in March, why not go a couple days ahead of time to enjoy the weather?
The town I stayed in is called Queretaro, a beautiful historic town that is a tourist destination for Mexicans because it is where Mexican Independence was founded. I was looking for information on Queretaro when I stumbled across a blog of foodie and travel writer, Jim. Being as type A as I am, I wanted to figure out where I was going and what I was doing ahead of time not only so I didn’t waste time wandering, but so my family would know where I was at all times in case something went wrong. Jim’s blog was full of helpful information and he raved about a little B&B called Home. Not only is it owned by a Canadian (so I didn’t have a language barrier) but she is also a trained Chef and knows the town well. So it seemed like the perfect match, AND her prices can’t be beat!
So after planning things out, I headed to Queretaro. First was a layover in Houston, which was HUMID, even late at night. With the very noisy birds and tropic plants, I felt like I was in Jurassic Park! Then on to Mexico. John and I had been in Mexico City and some surrounding towns about ten years ago in an art immersion trip with our college, so I was excited to get to see more of the country. As we were landing, I saw Bernal, the second largest monolith in the world, it was so beautiful! We then landed in Queretaro airport which is oh so tiny but crisp, cool and clean. The weather was a perfect 70 degrees and the smells of citrus trees was amazing.
The taxi to town, which took about 45 minutes was very inexpensive and reliable. Even though I speak very little Spanish, the driver spoke a little English, so we communicated just fine. It also helped that I had the address to the B&B written down to show him. I was so impressed with the quality of the freeways, which were 10 times better than Minnesota’s! It was a pleasant drive.
The outskirts of Queretaro was very raw. Houses made of cinderblocks and covered in graffitti. Random Coca Cola signs were EVERYWHERE, as were spray painted cell phone numbers and derelict walls, standing by themselves in the middle of fields…and then all of a sudden a lush waterpark. It was quite the study of contrasts.
As you drive farther into town, the houses become bright white stucco and clean. Since evertyhing is concrete, there is little adornment to the houses and one type of architecture. There is very little glass, and even the high rises are mostly concrete. Though almost everything is square, once and a while I’d see a house with Mediterranean style domes and a pop of color. Driving into Centro Historico was suddenly a saturation of color. The Jacaranda trees were in full bloom, so there were puffs of purple between the houses, and everything smelled like orange blossoms.
Staying at Home allowed me to be in Centro Histrico, walking through the cobblestoned streets and near 40 churches and many town squares. Queretaro is also full of fountains supplied by a huge aqueduct, which was amazing to see. It is interesting walking through town because the sidewalks are fairly narrow and all the houses are surrounded by tall walls, so you have a claustrophobic feeling walking around. Since it is a UNESCO heritage city, the historic part is very well protected. If you buy a home, you have to restore it unless it falls down and decays, so some entrepreneurs have bought run down homes and are literally letting them collapse so they can rebuild what they want. As you’re walking down one of the streets, it wasn’t unsual to see a tree growing through a concrete wall, or to look in a window and see room apon room of collapse ceilings and piles of trash. But most of the homes were well kept and had lovely antique doors, I think half of my images are of doors!
I quickly figured out where the internet cafe was, and after only a day of walking around, could get back to the B&B easily. Shelley, the owner, was friendly and easy to talk to. She was a food stylist for movies in Toronto, so when she found out I love food photography and adore movies, we had a lot to talk about. I also loved being in a country other than America and hearing their views of the US. I became friends with a Britt as well, so we had some fun back and forths talking about political and social topics (and hollywood gossip, of course!).
Queretaro is one of the safest towns in the country of Mexico. I was able to walk around freely by myself with my camera out and was never harrassed (except by a dirty old man, but that is another story!). People were very polite and patient with me and were eager to communicate, even though I didn’t speak the language. I was very worried I would come across as a brash American tourist, but everyone was very nice. At the market, I was photographing food. A vendor came up to me with large hand gestures asking if I was American. When I said yes he grabbed by wrist very earnestly and kept saying “listen! listen!”, and it was obvious he really wanted to tell me something. When I made eye contact he said in slow, halting English, “French is language of love. Italian is language of music. American and China is language of business. Espaniol is language of God.” It was so sweet! He said it all with a big smile, and went on to speak very quickly, but I heard him say Obama and Clinton speak Spanish and that the USA will lose $10 billion to China. I think he was very eager to show me what he knew about America, and I really enjoyed the interaction, even though I only understood a 10th of what he said =)
And that was the interesting thing, hearing the Mexican side of American issues. For instance, the country is so upset that Mexico isn’t safe at the border. Their economy is really hurting and tourism has been heavily affected. The view I heard over and over again was that Americans are buying the drugs, and Americans supply the guns to the Mexicans, so why are the Amercians so surprised that there are now drug wars? The people are devistated at what the border cities have become on both sides. And many asked me why we allow so many guns in our country with genuine curiosity.
There are a few things I learned about the Mexican culture as well…mostly at how laid back they are as a people.
*Buses arrive every 15 minutes, maybe. Or you could be waiting for a hour and never see the bus you need.
*Sure you can cross the street as long as you’re ok with stepping in front of a car, hoping it will stop. Because there are no crosswalks and rarely are there streetlights to stop the traffic.
*The restaurant SAYS it will open and 1pm, but it probably still won’t be open by 1:30.
*You can turn right in ANY lane of traffic you’re in, without signalling, and expect other cars to stop.
*Apparently, you can also drive without regards to lanes, just swerve around the people, carts and other cars.
*If you want to know where something is, no one tells you exactly where it is, they just point in a general direction, even those that can speak English.
*If you are supposed to leave with a group to go to dinner at 6, you’ll probably leave around 6:45.
*Daylight savings time MIGHT be on March 31st, but no one knows for sure. They just start watching the news every morning around this time of year to find out what time it is.
So my type A personality was really put to the test. I REALLY had to trust people and just let go of everything. The concept of time and what matters is so different and it was hard to let go and really just wander. It seems like Mexicans are used to waiting silently and patiently. And if things don’t happen the way they’re supposed to, they just shrug it off and go and do something else. So though I tried to embrace this lifestyle, I was pretty happy to get back to a little more structure…plus I missed my husband and babies something awful!
Here are a few images from my first day adventuring around Queretaro, I’ll post images from San Miguel de Allende tomorrow!