In Mexico, the first day of November is el Día de los Muertos. This holiday is becoming more well known in the US due to the popularity of movies like Coco, but there’s no comparison to seeing how the day is actually celebrated. The week before the holiday at UPAEP, there was a competition of ofrendas between different student groups, some of which are pictured below. In this case the altars were mostly dedicated to various famous figures. As the actual day approached, more and more ofrendas were constructed in downtown Puebla in honor of important people. There was also a lot of Pan de Muertos for sale, which is a sweet bread made special for the holiday, and it is commonly used to decorate altars. The OU in Puebla group had the opportunity to visit a bakery and see how the Pan de Muertos is made. The buns are decorated with criss-crossing strips of dough (which represent bones) and a ball on top (which represents a skull).
This post will be a bit silly, but as I was going through pictures to make a different post, I noticed several pictures of tamarind flavored foods. Tamarind is a seed pod which contains a sticky, and delicious, paste. It’s not common in the US, but it is everywhere in Mexico, and I fear I may have become a bit obsessed. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is try new fruits and other produce that is uncommon (or prohibitively expensive) in the US, but are abundant in their native soils. Unfortunately, this means I’ll be left craving it when I get back to the US. Tamarind is commonly used in Indian cooking as well, so I’ll definitely be frequenting the Indian and Mexican markets in Oklahoma City once I get back to the US.
One of my classes being taught by the OU faculty in residence, specifically Dr. Marc Levine, is an archeology class on ancient Mesoamerica. We’ve gone on a previous field trip to Oaxaca, where Dr. Levine does research, but this time we went to Mexico City. On the first day, we went to Teotihuacan, the ruins of a major Aztec center. The site is enormous, and it’s not difficult to picture it as a city. We were able to climb the pyramid of the sun, which provided a beautiful view of the region.
One of my two UPAEP classes this semester is evolutionary ecology. I’m really enjoying the class, and we went on a field trip recently. We drove to the town of Jalapa in Vera Cruz and went to the botanical gardens there. We had a guided tour where we learned about the ecological diversity of Mexico and the different plant species in the garden. This is a really great opportunity since Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
September 16 is Mexican independence day. I spent most of that day on a hike (which I’ll post about later), so the bulk of my celebration was actually a few days prior. UPAEP held an event called Noche Mexicana. There was music, dancing, and a plethora of booths where campus organizations sold typical Mexican food. While most of the night was devoted to the live music, there were also several dance performances by the university’s folkloric dance group. Also, near the end of the evening was a presentation of the Mexican flag and some words by the rector. He finished the short ceremony with the “grita de independencia” which is a loud shout of “viva Mexico” in celebration of the country’s independence.
Mexico has a rich history of distinctive art forms and handicrafts. One practice which is distinctive to Puebla is the making of talavera. This is a specific method of making beautiful ceramics which dates to the colonial period, though it also has much earlier roots. We were able to take a tour of a workshop called Uniarte Talavera, where these ceramics are produced by hand following old traditions. The work looks tedious, but the workers were very kind in allowing us to observe them at their craft. The resulting talavera beautiful and masterfully made.
I may have mentioned in posts from this spring that prior to traveling to Cuba, my class stayed in Puebla, Mexico for two days. I’m now back in Puebla and will be spending the semester here! I’ll be studying at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, better known as UPAEP. OU actually has a study center here, meaning I’ll be taking two classes with OU faculty in residence and two local classes: Ecología Evolutiva and Historia Política de Mexico.
I was really lucky to have been able to go on a hike one weekend. Puebla is located in a valley and is surrounded by mountains and volcanic activity. I really love hiking, so I’ve been looking forward to exploring the trails here. The mountain we hiked, and nearly summited, was la Malinche. It took us four hours to ascend and two to go back down. The thin air at this elevation made the going difficult, but we still managed to climb to around 14,600 feet (4,461 m). For context, the city of Puebla rests at 7,000 ft (2,135 m).
I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Cuba as part of a Tropical Ecology class this Spring break. Something that often though about throughout the trip but that I didn’t was the idea of things Americans find charming about Cuba being borne out of hardships for the Cuban people. I think the best examples of this are the old cars, the restricted access to internet, and the emphasis on Cuban music and media.
The Integrity Council hosted a Bollywood movie night a few weeks ago as a part of Integrity Week. They showed a movie called Three Idiots, and I would highly recommend any readers who haven’t seen it to give it a watch. Three Idiots addressed a lot of themes related to the intense stress present in high pressure academic environments. Some of these themes were related to academic integrity (hence the reason that the integrity council hosted the showing), but there were also many scenes related to mental health and suicide. That being said, the movie overall was very fun and the ending seemed to encourage the audience to follow their dreams rather than worrying about other’s expectations.