Standing on a street in Mexico is like standing on the inside of a painting. Everything exists in Mexico: ATVs pass by holding eight passengers, men on horses are selling licorice and I'm drinking Coca-Cola out of a plastic bag with a straw. Sometimes, it is hard to analyze a picture when you are inside of it, but the most incredible thing about studying abroad is that you are inside the picture and you are a pigment of the masterpiece. As I live in Mexico, I am able to self reflect and improve my color as a person. I am not a tourist. I am an artist of the presence. Living with a host family allows a student to witness absolute cultural education.
Today is Sunday, September 7 and the cast and I are in Tepic, Mexico. I have truly enjoyed this week of our Mexican tour because of my loving host family. My Papa is a jolly Pesquero Captain(shrimp boat captain). My Mama is a loving mother that works alongside of Papa in the family shrimp business. My three loving host sisters and their cousin are in their 20's; they are an excellent example of Mexican youth. I have found Tepic to be saturated with cultural education. My host siblings have taken me deep within Mexico's pop-culture. Two of my sisters Jazmin and Maria speak excellent English and have taught me much about Mexican music, recreation, and home life. But, they have all shown me the importance of balance in their lives.
I have noticed that the girls in my host family do an excellent job of balancing their time between family, education, and free time. Many people, even Mexicans, will joke that Mexicans are always late, but I have come to realize that this is not true in every case. My sisters are never late to school and still have time to do everything Mama and Papa ask them to do as they are on their way out the door. After working hard in school everyday and spending time with friends and doing homework in the evenings, my three sisters and their cousin work in the family fish store on Sundays. The four of them work a long day and collect no pay because it is there way of giving back to the family.
If you want to really know how something is done talk to the Captain. Spending time with Papa has given me a chance to learn a lot about traditional shrimp fishing. Papa no longer catches shrimp, he has retired, and now teaches nautical navigation at a local university. The shrimp he sells today are purchased each morning at local docks, but there was a time when he owned and operated a 60 foot fishing boat. With my host sister Jazmin's help as a translator, Papa taught me that his 60 foot fishing boat has a crew of six and traditionally leaves the marina for 24-hour periods. He says that when his boat leaves the dock it is important to have two mechanics on board, one general fisherman, a cook and of course the captain. I asked Papa, "How does the Captain know where the shrimp are?" He told me that a fisherman must pay attention to the size of the moon and the time of day. The best catch can be found when there is little to no moon at all. When there is a full moon, the shrimp can see very well in the water and spread out, but when the moonlight is dim, the shrimp cluster together for safety because visibility becomes slim. During the day, the shrimp migrate towards shallow water so the best fishing is closer to the beach. During Papa's years of being Captain, he was respected by his crew, but no one is liked as much as the cook. I believe he said that a shrimp boat could hold up to 400 pounds of shrimp, but I think our conversion of the metric system or his language translation could have been a bit off. Papa says, "Put faith in your crew and pray for a good sea and the shrimp will be good to you." What did I eat when I lived in Tepic? Shrimp! Where did I work in Tepic? Shrimp shop! Did I have a good time? Who doesn't like shrimp!
Reaching the Mexican consumer is a unique process that is sometimes more creative than the product itself. A Mexican producer or sales person must pay taxes to the government if he or she owns a permanent business. Put wheels on the establishment and it is just you and your product. My host Mama and Papa own three strip trucks, a mobile fish taco stand, and a small fish store. The trucks roll every Sunday and commonly stop at regular customer's houses. The fish store and taco stand are open during the week selling shrimp and ceviche tacos. Riding in the shrimp truck is quite a colorful experience. The back is filled with coolers and the persons inside advertise fresco Camaron(fresh shrimp) over a megaphone. Street vendors are very successful in Mexico because they are able to bring the product directly to the consumer. Bicycle carts, umbrella stands, and all sorts of pickup trucks fill the streets of Mexico especially in Tepic and stay open until all hours of the morning. Being in Mexico is almost like stepping back in time. Values of family and work ethics stand out through small family businesses. This element is almost gone in the USA due to large commercial businesses.
I miss my home country, but my host family experience in Tepic has shown me the ways in which the people of Mexico work together and coexist. The people of Mexico are like one large family. They are finally, generous and filled with faith. Mexico is an incredible place to see the similarities between families and city life. When you live within a host family you live within their culture.