For the ones who have never heard of it, this colonial city is in Mexico’s center at around 2300m above the sea level and it is close to an active volcano called Popocatépetl. For Germans and or automotive freaks, yes, VW has a plant there.
I left this city around 22 years ago. I didn’t know that I would not get back for so long but to visit my parents. As I left, I didn’t just want to see the world, but to feel it. Funny to see how now, after such a long time, I aim to feel my country and therewith, myself again.
This trip is different. It is not like coming here for vacation for three weeks and wanting to visit family, friends, experience the country and the food and discovering new places. And of course looking for relaxation. Actually, a lot for such a short time. I know.
This time I am here. That’s it. No busy schedule. The plan is not to have a plan and just enjoy the place I used to live in.
I am back at my mom’s home. She has optimized her place for a single person and there where my room used to be, is now her kitchen. I remember studying there while studying at the university… The space at home is small. I notice through the increase of discussions with my mom. Obviously, we haven’t been together back home for a very long time and suddenly we see each other day and night. We aren’t used to it any more. I am actually home but a guest at the same time. Business as usual as just everyone can tell whenever going back to live with the parents.
A daily walk in the park helps us both to relax. During the walk, it is easier to bring up topics to a conversation. I have time to see how the neighborhood has changed and to get used again to the sound of the city. If I make sport I rather do it in the early morning. I love to see the place wake up and observe how it fills up with people.
After a while enjoying this feeling we walk back for breakfast. On the way, we stop to buy groceries. I am delighted to see again fruits and vegetables I had already forgotten about. I could take with me all guanabanas, mangos, guayabas, jícamas and all those I never had before and eat them all at once. And I do. The good news is that there are still a few weeks to go to repeat this again.
Nevertheless, there are things which have not changed. Most of the neighbors are still the same ones. The children I played with, are now grown ups and therewith I can visualize how time has passed by and how old we have become… But life for them hasn’t really changed.
While walking around the neighborhood, I have been meeting old but beloved friends, even from the childhood. I just let it happen, take the time to talk to them and take the chance to spend time with them if there is a chance. Funny, that I often meet the people I have thought about back in Germany before. Just as if I called the with my thoughts. So meeting them is even more special.
My dad’s family is the traditional big one in Mexico. I don’t really have close contact to it and it is so big, that I can hardly meet them together whenever I am in Puebla. This time I will be here during several familiar celebrations and will get to see them all again: my cousins, which I sometimes can’t recognize; their children, who I hadn’t met before; my aunts and uncles with whom I haven’t had contact for a long time. These meetings are obviously very exciting and I enjoy trying to identify their faces and to remember the last time we saw each other.
My parents have changed. They look tired. As I do not see them that often, I notice how they grow older. I am glad to be here a little bit longer and to be specially with my mom.
Every time I come to Puebla, I go to the city center. My mom and I like this one place to eat. It is exactly at the Zócalo. I love this place. As it hasn’t changed a lot, it brings back a lot of memories. Most of them go back to my childhood. That was the place where we went to buy clothes, to eat during the weekend, to eat typical candy, to visit my uncle’s restaurant, to go to the movies… Those places are gone. I remember my mom always said “look, I used to buy my shoes there as a child”.
A lot of things are still there. But this is not anymore the place to be in this city. Puebla has grown so much, that there is a kind of meeting point in every new neighborhood.
The city center has always been beautiful but it looks different. The cathedral is painted, losing much of its stone charm under my perspective.
At least, the structures to support the buildings after the last earthquake are gone. The balloon sellers and the shoe cleaners still give a colorful flair to the scenery. Having lunch at one of the terraces at the zócalo has always been a highlight. Therefrom, I don’t have to watch any of these ugly celular shops.
I noticed I have changed. The city’s sound I missed once in Germany disturbs me now. Of course the city has become louder than if was. But I still love the typical sounds of my childhood like when people sell tamales or offer their balloons with their own special sounds. What I miss is shade, green and flowers and the wide view. Everywhere I look, I see a wall or columns or protections. I feel in a kind of cage. The city has become too big for me as I have learned slowly to love and enjoy nature.
I have no material things left in this city, but I do still have some other intangible goods. I met my school friends. It was like a journey to the past. I felt like back in school again. As if time hadn’t passed at all… Those were good times. Friendship does not grow old! Girls I was happy to see you. You know me and I do not have to tell a lot.
Seeing my old friends, makes me unbelievably happy. When you leave your country, time seems to be stopped. You feel like you felt exactly at the time you saw them last. Your brain even expects to see children exactly as young as you left them.
In Mexico and in Europe we have a different reality. My school friends are very open to that, even if I do not see them often enough. The fewest have either visited me or we have met outside Mexico. . Too far… to coincide. There are those who are still there wherever we are, and those who I would like to see next time.
Another source for joy is the food. It has been a tradition to eat the first tacos just arriving to Puebla no matter what time. And no, they are not made with this strange hard taco shells and no I have no idea what should be a recipe for “chili con carne” . At least neither where I come from nor where I have been in Mexico so far it is a typical dish.
My next move: tortitas de Santa Clara. I even tried to make these cookies in Germany, but could not peel the pumpkin seeds perfectly, so they looked green but tasted fine. Not to forget cemitas, barbacoa, mixiotes, quesadillas, conchas, and, and, and…
I have to say, that I feel like a tourist and discover all places again and again. Nevertheless, I have to learn to behave as a guest. Mexico is part of my past and even if I am no a big part of its present, it is a part of mine. The ones who left, can’t just visit the country and think they could do things better than people here do. It is not really that easy.
Still, my roots and home are here in Puebla and I am proud to have become here what I am today. It makes me happy to share a little piece of it wherever I am.
Well, there are still several weeks to go here. Let’s see what they bring.