Greetings from Tepatitlan, Jalisco! I’m spending my Thanksgiving break away from home for a second year in a row, this time opting for a Mexican getaway with relatives I haven’t seen in over 11 years. I was 10-years-old the last time I was here in 2000, obsessed with Shakira’s Donde Estan Los Ladrones? cassette tape, reading unofficial biographies on Will Smith and Sarah Michelle Gellar that I bought at the 5th grade Scholastic book fair, and faithful to my Sketchers sneakers.
No, I don’t wear Sketchers anymore, nor do I own a Prada backpack (yet), but I am enjoying my time here in Tepa. I spent long vacations from school here as a kid because I was forced into that horrible little thing called track scheduling. During my 2-month trips, I liked to lip synch to the Spice Girls’ albums with my cousins while eating chupa chup lollipops. I never missed an episode of Soñadoras (which can totally kick Gossip Girl’s ass any day). I have fond memories of my week long stints at the rancho an hour outside the city, drinking terribly warm milk in the mornings from the property’s only cow, and hopping barbed wire fences to sneak onto other rancher’s lands for the thrill of it.
I can’t remember wanting anything else but ice cream from La Michoacana and joy rides on truck beds in the 90s. My own insecurities with being called a gringo or being questioned about my sexuality as young as the age of 8 couldn’t keep me from running around this town as if I was born here. It’s nice to be back now as an adult and college student who’s beginning to question everything around him more and more as he gets older. I’m reacquainting myself with my father’s side of the family, meeting the new generation of Cortés toddlers, and going crazy at El Mercado while scouring for leather artisan goods. I like my Allsaints boots, but I LOVE my huaraches. The situation is backwards here; I want what they want and they want what’s tired in mass trends in America.
It’s been a struggle sifting through market places here in search for authentic goods hechos en México. At the same time, I find myself second guessing the values of American life amidst the Occupy movement and the materialistic influence we have on life across the border. Here I am running around with the last of my savings, hunting for locally made shoes, belts and bags while complaining about the saturation of shops stocked with poor foreign inventory. Unfortunately, there’s an abundance of businesses relying on imported clothing and accessories from China; walking through some of Tepa’s streets feels like walking through Santee Alley. There’s a social class stigma against people that live here who wear things that used to be traditional and customary in Mexico. There’s no denying that many locals are fixated on their understanding of American fashion; imported and counterfeit Abercrombie & Fitch, Aéropostale, Gap, Lacoste and other readily available mall brands are the it labels to sport around town. My search for traditional Mexican goods clashes with the local lack of culture. I find all of the above lifestyle brands to be a disgustingly perfect example of just how inundated America is with corporate garbage in the “fashion” industry.
I already know I’m going to have a hard time adjusting to Mexican food back in San Francisco. Nothing compares to eating in the homeland and I mean nothing, Chilango! The best meal I’ve had here so far has to be La Gorda’s mole poblano lathered chicken enchiladas; rich in creamy texture, sweet flavor and worth the $4. I can’t shake soda off (again) just yet, but I’m not complaining about the seemingly endless $1 Mexican Coke bottles that complete every meal. When I arrived on Monday, I was greeted by some of Tepa’s newest additions, including Subway and KFC. When I went to Guadalajara yesterday, an enormous Applebee’s and Chili’s attached to an even bigger shopping mall boasting a Zara also caught me off guard. I’m just not down with these kind of franchises overshadowing tradition and culture.
Certain moments of my trip have felt as if I was trapped in an overpriced sprawl mart backdropped by a crumbling architectural glimpseof the past. Yes, I’ve been able to locate most of the treasures I’ve sought after these last few days. But I traveled here with the mentality that artisan goods are in abundance, that things can’t change that drastically in a town like this. As I walk around the plaza, I see people of all ages glued to their iPhones, logo branded garbs and a distaste for heritage goods. Albeit not everyone has entirely become a zombie American hybrid, my expectations remain subjective; I’m not from here, I don’t live here and I don’t know what real life is like here because, in the end, I’m only a tourist. I don’t mind progress, technology and a community’s need for change. I’m 2,092 miles away from San Francsisco, but I’m reminded of the monstrous nature of corporations and their influence or the disposability of their mass production around every other corner. One thing that’s certain is that politics here and back home are fucked, fueled by relentless bloodshed, corruption, deceit, and power – but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
I’ll update my Flickr throughout the week with my photo diary and give a more detailed post on my Mexican loot and souvenirs. I don’t intend for this post to criticize life in Tepa or serve as my whining platform. In fact, I’m having a great time cruising around with my family and nurturing my foodie hobby. I can’t stress enough how glad I am to finally be back here with my grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They remind me that I have much to be grateful for as a Cortés and that I’ve still got a long way to go.