Saturday, July 28, 2018

Mexico: Heartbreakingly beautiful and fascinating

Mexico is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful and fascinating.  
On the Zócalo, Puebla's historic and lovely square, surrounded by the Cathedral, busy restaurants, shoe shine stands, balloon vendors and clusters of families and friends enjoying a summer day. 
In one upscale corridor, an ancient woman sits on the hard tile floor, in a position that I'm not sure I could hold for minutes, let alone hours, while the bustle of commerce flows around her. I'm not sure if she planned to sell something or just hoped for hand outs. I just know that, somehow, I was not handed this particular challenge in this lifetime.
I am staying in an airbnb near a busy street where I often walk going in one direction or another. On this street there are a variety of street jugglers … small children, older kids with flaming sticks, and the most amazing to me are the kids who stand on the shoulders of another while juggling. Of course, once they stop juggling, they pass through the cars asking for hand outs.

This morning, I saw a mother squat down so her tiny daughter could get on her shoulders and juggle. I wanted a photo and it was clear that every time there was a red light, they would do their act. So, I positioned myself for the next red light and when the mother squatted and the little girl climbed up to start juggling, I raised my camera. 
Instantly, the mother pulled the girl down and they started away from the street. It was clear that she did not want her picture taken. The closest I can describe the look on her face was fear. I put the camera away and crossed the street after her to give her all the change in my pocket. She took the money and said something although I don’t know what. It wasn’t Spanish and I had no idea what she thought or felt. I walked on and when I looked back, she was once again in the street with her daughter on her shoulders. 
A block away, I found this boy juggling. It’s Friday and somewhere, I assume, there is an empty seat in a classroom because this child is in the streets, juggling for money to help support his family. As I took his picture, I had to wonder once again at the ethics of street photography. Am I merely a voyeur?

I grew up poor, but I never knew poverty. Being here in Mexico reminds me frequently of what a privileged life I’ve led. Mexico is a rapidly developing country and shows signs of becoming a booming hub of commerce. However, veined through the new prosperous shopping areas, new businesses and schools are the left behind: the mothers and children and handicapped who have no safety net, little or no education, and few, if any, opportunities. 
My life experience hardly holds space to imagine a life that depends on taking to the streets to collect a few pesos … or walking thousands of miles to escape violence in order to find a peaceful place and better life for your children. Living and traveling in Mexico is heart opening. 
Just a flower on the street.

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