On the road again: Uber drivers and difficult discussions

Bienvenidos to another week of living and studying in Mexico City.

Week 2 of studying at IBERO focused on migration in Mexico and Latin America. We concentrated on the different aspects of migration and how we define refugees and asylum seekers globally. In particular, we focused on the migration “caravans,” a large group of migrants walking their way across Latin America to search for a better life. This better life often involved traversing through Mexico to the U.S.-Mexican border. We learnt about the harsh consequences and dangerous realities migrants face on their journey, which was insightful but also quite sombre, as it is with all the other upcoming topics. One shocking thing I learned was a U.S. policy called prevention through deterrence. This policy aims to discourage migrants from entering the U.S. through various means, such as creating man-made obstacles to deter them from the border and into more hostile forms of nature. It disturbed me that often this pushed them into a desert south of the border where nature would thin down the migrant population before they could reach their destination. To close up this week’s lectures, we visited the non-government organisation Casa Espacio de los Refugiados. Casa Espacio de los Refugiados supports and advocates for the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and those migrating due to land displacement. Visiting the NGO was a compelling and insightful experience that humanised and challenged our perspective of migration and what it means to be a refugee in the 21st century

The beautiful entrance of Casa Espacio de los Refugiados

On one of the days, I forgot to book the bus home from IBERO, so I had to catch an Uber. Let me tell you that when I say that it was the best Uber ride ever, it was the best Uber ride ever. Instead of driving down the hellish rush-hour highway, he took the toll road back to the accommodation. Driving down the toll road with the orange and magenta radiance from the sun setting over the mountains in the distance and the Mexican flag slightly waving in the background was a beautiful sight. Even though it was a snippet of momentary bliss, it meant the world to me. We spoke in Spanish about what it’s like living in Mexico and the divide between the rich and poor across the city. My Spanish is not the sharpest, so I ended up using Google Translate a bit for the more complex language. As soon as I told him that I could understand a decent amount of Spanish, but it wasn’t the best, he started using simpler sentences. He gave me time to use google translate if I sounded like I didn’t understand what he was saying.

View of the sunset over the hills and the Mexican flag

The Uber driver and I talked about how long I’d been in Mexico and what country I flew over from. When I said New Zealand, he said that that was one of the countries he would love to move to. He wished he could move his family somewhere where pollution, safety, and corruption weren’t significant issues. I asked him if he’d ever been out of Mexico, and he said no because he couldn’t afford it and didn’t think he could ever afford to move. When we talked about how different the air quality is here in Mexico, he said that even though he’s lived in Mexico City his entire life, he can still sense when the pollution is at its worst during the day. During these times, he doesn’t wind down the windows when he usually does while driving.

This conversation stuck with me as many key themes highlight the drastic differences in Mexico, not just in terms of the environment but also the ways of thinking compared to New Zealand. Sometimes we take things for granted that aren’t commonplace in many other countries, such as clean air, safety, and a sustainable environment. As New Zealanders, we have grown up with everything around us without thinking much of it, whereas in contrast, these things may only seem attainable in Mexico if you have the means to migrate out of the country.

We visited Frida Kahlo’s house and the amusement park Six Flags during the weekend. We visited Frida’s house on Saturday, and it was an insightful experience learning more about her and how she lived.

On Sunday, we went to Six flags, which I enjoyed – apart from falling over and ripping my pants in the first hour! The rides were more adrenaline-pumping than in New Zealand, which was pretty neat being an adrenaline junkie myself. My favourite ride was the catapult which, as the name suggests, catapults you high into the air alongside one other person.

Up up, and away! Catapulted into the sky

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