El Migrante

We often wonder, what does it take for a person to leave everything behind? – It takes everything, the wholeness of their body, mind, and soul. We must commence this particular adventure with what we perceive the most important item in it is. La Casa del Migrante.

We often link immigration to political debate stages across The United States, however, immigration issues affect several countries around the globe. By default, if the United States is dealing with complex immigration issues, Mexico is as well. Many of the migrants coming to The United States from many countries around the world, often jumpstart their crossing through Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, one of Mexico’s border states. La Casa del Migrante’s concept is a simple humanitarian idea; help those in need.

If you think about it, the irony is somewhat bizarre. Allow us to elaborate in this incongruity. In one of Saltillo’s trendy district, the statue of Mexico’s 37th president and legendary revolutionary leader Venustiano Carranza stands tall.

Venustiano Carranza was a great military leader, who is well known within historian circles, for being the one who held the North Americans and kept them out of Mexico. Many would argue that history has a funny way to repeat itself. It is now the North Americans who are trying to keep others out.

As we continued to venture deeper into Saltillo, two things became evident to us. First, the automotive industry has a significant presence in Saltillo and drives the economy. Mercedes-Benz and General Motors both have assembly plants here, and Chrysler operates a truck assembly plant, a sedan assembly plants, and two engine facilities

The Second was the heavy influence of the Roman Catholic Church. This is not entirely uncommon when traveling through Mexico. It is the norm.

Everywhere we went, it was impossible to see someone who lacked faith. We sat there for a while, as we admired the devoted persons who came through the central cathedral’s door. The Virgen de Guadalupe’s altar was the most visited.

The Colonial streets in the city’s old town are always mesmerizing. In a way, it feels like going back in time. Who walked where we are walking? Who stood where we are standing? – These are some of the questions we asked ourselves while navigating through Saltillo’s time portal.

Of course, no trip is complete without a great culinary experience. And what a great experience this was. Handmade tortillas were standard at every place we visited. We also discovered that there was no need to scroll down a menu because the taste of freshly-made-from-scratch was phenomenal, so our food choices were always the same; “bring us whatever you want. We’ll eat it with pleasure “Nonetheless, as we talked to the locals, they didn’t seem to appreciate the simple things in their daily lives that we were amazed at. Many of them are always worrying and planning their odyssey to the United States. Our farewell message to them was sincere: You can’t get so hung up on where you rather be, that you forget to make the best of where you are.

Hope

On the Monterrey – Saltillo highway, right after we passed the first set of mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental, we began to notice a series of food joints right off of the highway, as you can see in one of the photos, it literary means right off of the highway. One these food joints particularly caught our attention; Los Parientes. Los Parientes had an unusually high amount of traffic compared to the other food stalls in the area, so by default, we decided to check it out. After overcoming the odyssey that it was to find parking, we discovered we were in for a treat.
Traveling on the cheap is our specialty, in every blog we write, we try to give you tips on how to do this. Here’s one, if you are ever traveling through Mexico’s highway system, the chances are that the less mainstream, and less marketed places you see off the road are cheap, with some of the best food you have ever tasted. Los Parientes was a prime example of the latter. An all you can eat meat buffet for 70 Mexican pesos, which is the equivalent of approximately $ 4.00 USD

We could write and share a lot more about our experience at Los Parientes, but there’s more to this story than just great culinary taste.

Being the adventurers that we are, we decided to venture into the rocky area. It was then when we ran in the community of Ojo Caliente. Somehow it was not on the map, we looked on our paper map, we looked on every mapping app we had, Ojo Caliente was nowhere to be found, but it was there in front of us, so there we went.

At first sight, Ojo Caliente is nothing more than just a conglomerate of little low-income houses (some abandoned) a gravel road, and an outdated forgotten play park. Yes, you guessed it, there is a twist. This community hidden between the Cordillera has a lot to offer. We quickly began mingling around, and it was so evident that for the community, it was ok to not have all commodities that often trap people in a cage of debt and unhappiness. This is not to say that we had suddenly discovered the happiest people on earth, but they were surely content with the simplicity of their lives. This concept reinforced the starting idea of this blog. The experiences in our lives make us richer, and not necessarily stuff.

However, we also discovered, that there was a particular person injecting hope into the community. In an apparently neglected town by the Mexican government, after you pass the ¼ mile rocky entrance, turn left, and right after the abandoned playground, you will find a small medical clinic run by the Social Security Mexican Institute.

The clinic provides free basic medical care to the community of Ojo Caliente and other neighboring towns. Inside the clinic, we met a young and bright Doctor running the clinic. Dr. Danya Flores. In all of our adventures, we have never met such an intelligent, kind, smart, clever, able, competent person such as Dr. Flores. Hidden among the northern Mexican Cordillera, there she was, implanting hope, prescribing encouragement, and curing failure, in a seemingly forgotten town.

We witnessed many miracles that day, as we witnessed patients walk away with more than the usual antibiotics. Patients left the clinic filled with hope and encouragement to move forward and create progress in their lives. Dr. Flores was welcoming, polite, and soothing calming, as she taught us more about the work they do daily in rural communities such as Ojo Caliente. Thanks to Dr. Flores, Ojo Caliente had hope. Progress is built on hope.

Ojo Caliente was not a destination we had originally intended to explore, but after visiting, we felt this experience was truly a life-changing experience, and as Rick Warren once wrote: “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain, use it to help others.”

Monterrey

To talk about Monterrey is to talk about progress and culture. A very cheap Interjet direct fly from Houston prompted us there. Here’s a tip, often if you use a VPN service, you can try to book directly from the airline’s country of origin currency, in this case, Mexican pesos and not U.S. Dollars. For this particular instance, the result was a round-trip ticket for $ 80.00 USD. For example, Mexican airlines have U.S. targeted websites such as the usual .com website, Mexican native websites, often use .mx instead than .com – Going to .mx web address should often (not always) prompt a different price scale.

Although we often (more than often) try to avoid the usual tourism-oriented places, as we try to bring you closer to unique and undiscovered adventures, it becomes very difficult to not talk about Parque Fundidora. A park that is a synonym of greatness; a park that every year host some of the biggest bands in the world. Fundidora Park is a fully sustainable park is located inside the former Monterrey Foundry Property. (Parquefundidora.org)

If you find yourself in Monterrey, and are not sure what to do or where to go, you can find it all at Fundidora Park. At Fundidora Park we witnessed extensive walking tracks, one artificial lake, playgrounds for children and inline skaters. Fundidora Park also includes a convention center, and according to fundidorapark.org, a 2.1 miles’ permanent road course. The trail was particularly popular with joggers, bicyclists. Our particular favorites were the Mabe Fundidora Ice Rink, Sesame Street Park, and the Monterrey Arena. So just like we said before, you can find everything there.

Nonetheless, we were not done with just Fundidora. Monterrey’s downtown was the biggest melting cultural pot we have ever seen in Mexico. And music, well, music was everywhere to be found. At the central plaza, an all-female band was playing, and people were dancing. Other bands were also performing in other nearby downtown buildings.

On the other hand, all these experiences were great, but they were a bit too touristy to our taste, the adventure spirit had to get ignited, and so we did by taking just taking off and driving away from the city. We found ourselves heading south on Mexican Highway 85. We quickly noticed that most of the cars on that highway, were heading to the same place; what was that place? We didn’t know but figured there must be something there. We started going up, up, up and upon a road that was meant to accommodate one-way traffic. Yes, you guessed it, there was more than one-way traffic happening on this mountain road. After 20 minutes or so of going around and up we finally made it. What was there you ask, Cascada Cola de Caballo. (Horsetail Waterfall) The waterfall park was simply astonishing. The Flora and Fauna in the area transported us to an early stage in the history of our planet, somehow this magical place had managed to make us forget we were just 30 miles away from a metropolis.

Our adventure in Monterrey was unique, in a sense that, it brought us closer to our planet. It revived on us the importance to care for Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot, our environment, our most important partner and provider in this life.

 “On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” Carl Sagan

A very special thanks to everyone in Monterrey, and the local municipal and federal police who were highly polite, professional, and helpful throughout this adventure. And thank you for taking care of the only home we’ve known.

Bicentennial Park | Joliet Waterfront Entertainment Theater Concerts. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2017, from http://www.bicentennialpark.org/

Stoker, C. (1995). Review of Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan. Icarus, 118(1), 219-220. doi:10.1006/icar.1995.1188

The Forgotten Angel

If New York City is the city that never sleeps, Mexico City is the city does not even stop to catch its breath. For us, the home of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros; is a magical place that often elevates people beyond OZ, Narnia, and Neverland.

We first would like to thank Aeromexico for takings us there safely and timely. Also, thanks for the apple soda, you guys are the first airline we have seen that carries apple soda. We love it.

Secondly, special thanks to the entire staff of the Hotel Grand Prix. Their service was amazing, and their convenient location near the Palacios de Los Deportes, Foro Sol, and the Autodromo made it a flawless trip.

Here’s our travel advice. We highly recommend that you always exchange your currency in your country of origin. Exchanges rates can vary widely, and it is our experience, that if people wait to exchange currency until they arrive, they will get the tourist rate, also known as not-the-best-rate. Also, if possible, avoid using a debit card. Protect your yourself by using a credit card (only if necessary) – Credit cards companies such as American Express offer travel protections such as baggage insurance plan, global assist hotline, and travel accident insurance. (“Retail, entertainment, and travel benefits,” 2017)

For this adventure, we broke one of our golden rules, “Go with the flow, and explore away” – Mexico City is such an immense and majestic city, that we simply could not afford to venture out. Due to our allowed time frame, we had to have some sort of plan. Our adventure began in the San Juan market, great street food, and a unique market where everything could be found. Can you tell we like food? We always start out by trying out the local food joints.

While asking locally for food recommendations, it was clear that most people were leaning towards one place, La Casa De Toño. La Casa de Toño’s restaurant concept was unique. Great food, fast and attentive service. What we found unique about this place, was their teamwork. We had no set server /waiter; their ultimate goal was to provide the best possible services in the quickest possible way.

After we were fueled up, we headed to Coyoacan to try the world-famous mezcal. Unexpectedly we spent an entire day in the Coyoacan; this colonial town inside a city had a lot to offer. The next day our adventure continued at the Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe, and the Chapultepec Castle. Then, it was time to kick into high gear, so we headed to the Tlalpan district, in the outskirts of the city. We had previously been advised to not venture out to less populated areas, and that we should stay safe in condensed metropolitan areas. Well, we didn’t listen, so we headed out to the outskirts of the city, to the Tlalpan district. There, we discovered Restaurante Arroyo. They have the best barbacoa we have ever tasted. Not only that, but they also had a full music and dance show. We ended up spending the entire day at Restaurante Arroyo. Needless to say, we were definitely behind schedule. On the agenda for the next day, as many museums as possible.

In our humble opinion, The Frida Kahlo Museum, and El Palacio de Bellas Artes can easily take on any European museum. Mauro, our highly-educated tour guide, (yes, we used a tour guide for the museum visits) – was extremely knowledgeable, as he shared his love for the rich history of his country, and the arts. As we listened to Mauro, it was discouraging to see how such a powerful realm that used to encompassed California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and a small section of Wyoming, had fallen to be a synonym of undocumented immigration, drug trafficking, El Chapo and corrupted politicians. At the end of the tour, we thanked Mauro for his passionate presentation and encouraged him to continue to educate people on all the majestic places, and talented people Mexico City has to offer. As it is our policy to no get involved in political matters, so we left Mauro with our message of love, progress, and hope.

We decided to spend our final day mingling with the locals and learning more about their worldviews, at El Zocalo. As we arrived, we saw a group of people gathering around a protester, so by nature, we decided to check it out. The protester’s name was Julia Klug. A Guatemalan-born Mexican activist, who protests the Catholic church weekly. Julia was kind enough to share her story with us. We witnessed a lot of resilient people within the heart of the city.  

It seemed only a few minutes had passed by, but 4 hours flew right by us without noticing as we talked to Julia. We did not get a chance to engage with more people since we consumed the majority of the time discussing worldwide topics with Julia. Once again, we were behind schedule. It looked as if we could not keep up with this city.

We concluded our adventure with a visit to the Angel de la Independencia. A magnificent structure in downtown Mexico City. The Monument is a tribute to Mexico’s independent from Spain, in 1821. As we looked around, took it all in, and simply enjoyed the moment, we noticed that the monument went unnoticed by the locals and was used mostly as a background for international news links. Somehow, the angel who led the way for the expansion of the former Mexican empire had been forgotten. In some way, the world had also forgotten about the vast amount of human power, wealth, and culture that can be found in Mexico City.  

American Express Card Benefits | American Express. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2017, from https://www.americanexpress.com/us/content/card-benefits/

George Lockhart Rives. The United States and Mexico, 1821-1848. pp. 634–636.zocalodiego riverala casa de toñocoyoacanamerican expressmexico cityrestaurante arroyfrida kahloaeromexicojulia klug

Monclova

“We are originally from Durango. My dad moved here (Monclova) to work at Altos Hornos de Mexico. (AHMSA)” Alejandro Alcantar.

Alejandro’s family story is essentially the same untold story of many of the families that populate the Monclova area. Monclova spawns from a darker history, known as the place were several heroes of the Mexican Independence Movement such as Juan Aldama, Ignacio Allende, Miguel Hidalgo, and Jose Mariano Jimenez were captured, imprisoned, and killed by the Spanish crown.

Present-day Monclova is a thriving industrial zone; at its core, AHMSA (The largest steel plant in Mexico) – Many would claim that AHMSA is Monclova’s cornerstone; nevertheless, as we explored every inch of Monclova, we found a hidden gem, Mercado Guadalupe. AHMSA could claim their heavy real estate reach within Monclova, but it is Mercado Guadalupe that has the right to claim the hearts and souls of the people of Monclova, by pumping daily the spark of life into the arteries of the hard-working families of Monclova.

Mercado Guadalupe is a family-owned grocery store that has managed to stand up to corporate chains from the area and continues to grow successfully in a nation where valued business morals are difficult to find. Mercado Guadalupe’s recipe for success is quite simple: Best prices, great product, and amazing people. What qualifies someone as an Amazing person? Based on your biases, these could vary widely. While in Mercado Guadalupe, we notice two team members that stood out, two amazing individuals, Juan & Abundio Ledezma.  The brothers are the definition of hard work, dedication, loyalty, and trust.

It’s been a while since we observed such a high level of commitment from someone. We left Mercado Guadalupe aspiring to be more like them. The adventure in Monclova aided us to appreciate many of the things we have taken for granted back home. The way an entire community rallied daily behind Mercado Guadalupe, provoked us to think deeper about the unfound possibilities of life.

Our visit to Monclova concluded at Hacienda Quinta Ilusion. A beautiful ranch that can be rented. It offers great amenities and an invaluable stress-free environment. Daniel Flores, the ranch owner, was one of the nicest and most hospitable persons we have ever met.

We left Monclova motivated to worked harder than we ever have, to care deeper than we ever have, and to love farther than we ever have.

Special thanks to Araceli Alcantar for her Hospitality and for the grand tour of Monclova.

Fehrenbach,T.R.,(1995, updated). Fire and Blood: a history of Mexico, New York: Da Capo Press, p.331


"Altos Hornos de Mexico SAB de CV". Financial Times. Retrieved 29 November 2016

Una cita para recordar…y aprender también.

Cuando empecé mi primer trabajo después de la Universidad estaba tan emocionada por este nuevo mundo en la Industria Farmacéutica, que aunque no era el trabajo de mis sueños, disfrutaba muchísimo a mis amigos de la oficina y otras de las actividades que hacía en él.

Uno de esos días, mientras estaba trabajando recibí un mensaje por medio del chat Messenger de la oficina. Era un chico que todas conocíamos, y que parecía ser súper divertido y amable. Él estaba en cargo de todo el proceso de seguridad, así que todos y todas sabíamos quién era. A las mujeres se nos hacía súper atractivo por su personalidad.

Nos estuvimos escribiendo por días, hasta llegar el día en que me invitó a salir. Yo estaba súper emocionada porque hacía años que no salía en una cita. Quería algo de variedad en mi vida, y aunque parte de mí no estaba segura si realmente me gustaba, decidí darle una oportunidad a esta nueva experiencia.

Y Oh por Dios, lo que me esperaba por tomar esta decisión…

Para empezar nos quedamos de ver un sábado en la mañana en su apartamento. Lo que para mí, era bastante raro. Primero porque estaba y estoy acostumbrada a que los chicos vayan por mí a mi casa, tal vez es muy cultural, muy de otra época para otros o muy romántico, sólo sé que así crecí y que siendo honesta me gusta. Sin embargo, en esa ocasión decidí ir y cuando nos reunimos él se me quedó viendo con una mezcla entre confusión e incertidumbre, pero ninguno de los dos dijimos nada.  La verdad es que esta era la primera vez que nos veíamos en persona, porque solo habíamos platicado por el chat.

Al entrar a su casa, su mamá estaba adentro, lo que se me hizo más raro, aunque después me di cuenta que su mamá era súper linda y que incluso tuvimos más cosas ella y yo en común, de las que él y yo tuvimos.

Después de un rato, él sugirió irnos a Café Tacuba, un restaurante muy bonito en la Ciudad de México. Y en todo el rato, él y yo no nos dirigimos la palabra, él se veía serio y un poco decepcionado, yo la verdad, era demasiado insegura para empezar una conversación, así que mejor empecé a hablar con su mamá en ese momento porque me sentí más cómoda con ella.

 Aquí pueden preguntarme, ¿Pero por qué te quedaste? La verdad es que era una persona muy diferente de la que soy ahora. En ese momento me dio vergüenza retirarme, no lo quise hacer sentir incómodo, y en resumen, no fui lo suficientemente valiente para decir hasta la vista.  

Por lo que continué con esta “cita”, en la que su mamá pagó por nuestra cena. Y más tarde terminamos yendo a un concierto de “música” experimental, que resultó más experimental que la química que hacía en el laboratorio durante mi carrera. Al final de la noche solo estaba feliz porque había terminado y porque en verdad su mamá fue un amor de persona.

Para el lunes, todas mis amigas estaban esperando que les contara como me había ido con este chico que todas idealizábamos. Y cuando les dije realmente cómo había sido la cita, quedaron un poco sorprendidas tanto de la cita como el comportamiento de él en general. Aunque, después descubrimos lo evidente, cuando él empezó a insinuársele a mi compañera de trabajo, a ella, era a la que en realidad estaba esperando esa vez en la cita. Ella por supuesto lo mandó muy lejos.

Y cuando conté por primera vez esta historia a una de mis amigas de la oficina, ella me sugirió escribirla a una revista para que la publicaran. Y en verdad, hasta ahora no me había atrevido a escribirla, parte porque ya no lo veo con ojos de la persona de 24 años que fui entonces, sino una más madura.

Y al mismo  tiempo, me decidí a escribir este tema, y esta historia, porque sea esta situación o una similar la que te haya ocurrido, es importante reconocer, que lo que hagas se sienta bien para ti misma y para ti mismo, y si te estás sintiendo incómoda en una situación no seguir adelante, tanto en este caso, en relaciones, en trabajo, en la salud, en cualquier momento donde tu intuición y tu voz interior te está diciendo NOOO, le hagas caso, la escuches. ¿Tú la estás escuchando?

Angie Meléndez

Empresaria y Coach del Bienestar y Mentalidad