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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Impressions of Mexico

My first impression of Mexico was surely of the severity of the poverty. Leaving the airport, it looked like downtown New Orleans, my home town, at its worst. Numbers and statistics couldn’t possibly have prepared me for the sheer quantity of people living in those conditions. I now realize that over 40% of the population works in the informal sector, a relatively low figure in comparison to the rest of Latin America. The most painful image I can fathom came when we were in the Zocalo yesterday. A very young boy lay on a piece of cardboard. Kerri almost tripped on him. He looked like he should have been able to walk by his age, but he was lying completely contorted and seemingly abandoned. There was no way to tell if his parent(s) were nearby, or if anyone was caring for him. This was so distressing. There seems to be no safety net for these people. We then saw the cathedral right on the side of the square. The opulence and ornate detail of the architecture was quite impressive. I could definitely sympathize with the efforts to keep it from sinking. What most stood out was the comparison of the child and the cathedral; it is so exemplary of the contrasts within this country…

We met with officials from the US embassy today. That was the highlight of my day for sure. There was a woman involved with public relations for the embassy in Mexico. She was fascinating explaining her experience in Albania and the way the foreign service affected her family situation. I spoke to her for a while; I would be interested to know how the poverty she has witnessed has affected her outlook on this country and the world.

Being here has made me think about the environment a lot. The smog at dusk is horrifying. At the same time, it’s completely unrealistic to hold developing countries to the same standards that developed countries are held. To realize that the US was polluting horribly during the industrial revolution, and that developing countries are just passing that stage, makes it very clear that these standards cannot be applied across the board. This makes the US policy on the environment all the more important. Our regulations must prevent our own emissions, as well as counteract the emissions of developing nations…

Dr. Hernandez talked in class about absorbing the sounds, colors, smells, and flavor of Mexico. Unfortunately, what has struck me the most throughout Mexico City has been the poverty and environmental degradation.

On another topic entirely, it’s been so refreshing to see the way people interact with each other here. Affection is much more public. It’s interesting to see how the social norms differ between the US and Mexico; people in the US are far more prudish by comparison. Men seem much more comfortable putting their arms around one another and speaking in close proximity to one another. There doesn’t seem to be the level of homophobia that exists in US culture, although maybe it’s expressed here in a different way. Couples seem to all be holding hands, and I’ve seen many kissing in public. It’s nice to see that sexuality does not need to be something to be ashamed of or kept hush-hush and private. I would be very interested to further understand the dynamic of sexuality here and how sexual orientation plays a part in this traditionally very Catholic culture.

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