Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fifth Week in Mexico - Hermosillo-Cultural Awareness

On September 15, the cast and I reached Hermosillo. Thousands of Mexican citizens filled the streets of the city celebrating the day of Mexico's independence. Shortly after getting off the bus, the other students and I were blown away when we heard of the opportunity that lay before us. Viva La Gente had been invited to spend the evening at the Palace de Gobierno (Governor's Palace). We were told that we would be meeting the Governor of Sonora and would be given the ability to watch an annual Independence Day celebration from the front lawn of the palace.

The palace was gorgeous with the colors of the Mexican flag projected upon the white walls. As we walked to the entrance, we were surrounded by soldiers that stood in formation all around us. I entered the building in disbelief; I could not believe the opportunity that I had been given. The ceiling of the palace was open and filled with the night air. Large plants surrounded pillars that held a covered walkway that ran the perimeter of the building. The cast an I climbed a large white staircase that led to the second floor. Gorgeous murals and intricate designs covered the walls and as we entered the upper level I was filled with honor and patriotism. I was soon informed that the Viva La Gente students would be the first to greet the governor that evening. The cast and I were taken to the grand ballroom and divided into two rows. We were told to create an aisle for the governor and his wife to walk down as they entered the palace. Earlier that evening I had seen pictures of the governor on nearby banners, so I assured myself that I would be able to recognize him as he entered the building. Many well-dressed individuals passed by us, but none matched the individual that I had seen pictured in political advertisements. As soon as I began to worry that we had missed him, a loud thunder of drums came from the front lawn of the palace. Soon the governor and his wife entered followed by soldiers and news crews. I noticed that he was randomly shaking students hands, so I quietly stood alongside all the others and hoped that he would speak to me. As he walked past, he thanked us for attending and reached his hand out to me. He thanked me for attending and asked me where I was from. When I told him that I was from Baltimore, Maryland USA, he paused, smiled and said, " I remember it being cold. Thank you for coming such a long way." As the governor passed I felt very honored to have represented Maryland in such an important international event. I had never before represented so many people with a single handshake. It was a wonderful feeling to know that because of me, the state of Maryland was able to take part in such an important event. After greeting the governor, the cast and I stood on the front lawn of the palace and listened to a speech given by the governor. We were then able to enjoy a 45 minute fireworks celebration. If you like fireworks, go to Mexico because they don't mess around! I have never seen a longer fireworks display in my life. My experience at the Palace de Gobierno was filled with cultural awareness and allowed me to witness another country's appreciation of their own independence.

My host family from Hermosillo was incredible. They more than adequately fit the ideal of a Mexican family. My mama and papa were hard-working, generous, and loving while my two host brothers were very welcoming and friendly. On my first CI or Community Impact day, the cast and I found ourselves at the Children's Hospital of Hermosillo dressed in clown noses. On my previous visits to children's hospitals I have always felt very connected to the importance of medicine and the strength of a child, but Mexico allowed a children's hospital to speak to me with words of culture. The connections within the Mexican families were incredibly magnified. Every children's visit to the hospital seemed to be filled with family. With the help of an Up With People student from Mexico, I was able to speak with a mother about her child and she informed me that her husband and his parents had come to stay with their child during his or her experience at the hospital. The child's grandmother held a container of warm food and thanked us for our presence. My experience at the hospital allowed me to see through cultural differences among American and Mexican families and allowed me to witness the instincts of a family under stress. I saw that the support of a Mexican family was the same as an American family.

Up With People has allowed me to reach the areas of Mexico that are sometimes overlooked by the common international traveler. My hospital experience allowed me to catch another large glimpse of the hearts of the Mexican people. I spent our second CI day repainting a basketball court with a few members of the cast, but my medical issues that began in Culiacan, made my week in Hermosillo a test of mental and physical stamina. As I drifted in and out of the hospital, my host family stayed beside me everyday and got me ready for show day. Our concert facility in Hermosillo was incredible! We were able to use The Expo Forum's outdoor sound system so our tech team was able to run sixteen, 15-inch suspended speakers and eight, 18-inch subwoofers. This sound system made our performance in Hermosillo our best sounding show in Mexico.

On Tuesday, the cast and I were given the chance to travel to Guaymas. Guaymas is a small fishing town two hours outside of Hermosillo and looks like a scene from a novel. if you have ever been sitting in someone else's home and seen a picture of Mexico hanging in a bathroom, it is very likely that you're looking at a picture of Guaymas. Because of the city's simple beauty and gorgeous view of the water, it is no wonder that it would stay in the mind of the painter. As I walked down small streets and gazed at mountains on the other side of a gorgeous bay, I decided that I had come to the most peaceful place in Mexico. Very little traffic filled the streets of Guaymas and its bay was free of boat traffic. We were given the chance to tour a cathedral in the center of the city and after seeing a number of people kneeling and praying on a Monday afternoon, I was able to see the extreme amount of faith that is held within the Mexican culture. Guaymas was an excellent place of reflection and was the perfect destination for me to travel to during my fifth and last week in Mexico. I was able to witness Mexico's true beauty and reflect upon my feelings of the last five weeks.

On host family day in Hermosillo was fantastic. I was able to experience a Mexican family fiesta and see some of the biggest frogs and tarantulas that I have ever seen in my life. I was also able to check out the famous hand made cowboy boots of Hermosillo! The boots produced in this area of Mexico are some of the finest handcrafted pieces of footwear in North America. Personally my feet are not worth 3,000 pesos so I will not probably own a pair, but that is all right because I took plenty of pictures so that my "russreitter.com blog followers" can see what they looked like and imagine my feet being colorful.

I'll see you in Arizona! until next time I'm Russ Reitter!

If my Loco Tio Enrique from Hermosillo his reading this right now... You are the MAN!! Look after Papa!!

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