Mexico 1973

14 Jan

I first came to Mexico in 1973 at the ripe old age of 21. Mexico was a very different country then than it is now. Very few people had cars. Everyone traveled by bus or train, first class if you had the money, and chicken bus for the rest. Chicken buses were not air conditioned and made frequent stops letting people on and off. There were also no rules about how many people could ride. Buses would be crammed with as many people as possible along with the occasional pig or chicken. They would creak down the road overflowing as we held our collective breath. Today it is one person per seat and the trains have gone the way of the dodo bird.

Stock photo but close enough.

Years earlier, in high school, I had read a teenage novel called Junior Year Abroad. “This 1960 book was a mildly fun fictionalized account of a real junior year abroad, perhaps written with an eye to encourage other American college students to try something that was then still a relatively new idea.” (I can’t believe I Googled this title after fifty years and actually found the very book that changed my life all those years ago!) The book influenced me enough that when I passed an office on my college campus etched with “International Studies” on the glass. I tootled on in. My options were France or Mexico. Mexico was cheaper and I had had a year of Spanish in high school. Why not? The decision was easy.

This book was the start of it all. I can’t believe I found it.

At 21 the world was my oyster. My parents weren’t keen on the whole idea of their only daughter traveling to a foreign country but I assured them that all would be well. My mother took me clothes shopping, her contribution to my adventure.

I now live near the blue dot to the far right near Belize.

In September of 1973, I flew from Newark, New Jersey to Mexico City and joined a group of students from all over the US. We were excited to attend the University of the Americas, an international school in Cholula, Puebla. The university transport picked us up at the airport and off we went to Puebla, about two hours away. I distinctly remember stopping at a large roadside stand filled with fresh fruit, some of which I had never seen before. I purchased a large glass of carrot juice. I had never tasted such a wonderful, brilliantly orange drink. It was served in a glass sitting on top of a block of ice. There was virtually NO PLASTIC of any sort at that time and the streets were much cleaner than today.

Our group waiting to board the university bus.

I have sooo many stories from my nine-month stay in Mexico. I travelled from coast to coast, Puerto Vallarta to Veracruz, Oaxaca to the pyramids of Palenque. I hitchhiked more than once and took overnight trains. School was on a trimester basis and we attended classes four days a week. Believe me, I took advantage of those three-day weekends and trimester breaks.

The view from my room in Puebla of two snow topped volcanoes. They no longer have snow due to climate change.
Puebla is known for its locally made tiles.
We students were in awe. Today there are few houses left with such elaborately decorated facades.

My wife has heard many of the crazy things my younger self survived such as buying marijuana in Acapulco, getting charged head-on by a cow while picking magic mushrooms in Palenque and so much more. I’m feeling the need to put finger to iPad before my memory fades any further. What better venue than my blog. So stay tuned. You won’t want to miss a single episode.

DOS TORTAS

Student dormitories to the right. The famous church of Cholula built on top of an ancient pyramid in the center and the volcano Iztaccihuatl in the distance. On a clear day you could see four snow topped volcanoes from the university.

19 Responses to “Mexico 1973”

  1. Gail Beyrle January 15, 2023 at 11:48 am #

    Your blog this week brought back my own memories of the year I lived in Hawaii at the age of 19. The year was 1968 and I had to convince my mother to let me go. How hard that must have been for her. I still remember so much of that year and how this Midwest girl made it on her own far away from home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 January 15, 2023 at 11:53 am #

      God yes. I loved Mexico and didn’t want to leave after the one semester I had originally planned. I tutored English as a second language to help finance the next six months. I grew up so much.

      Like

  2. LJones January 15, 2023 at 11:56 am #

    Hi Alex – I loved this…and have been thinking of you and Lisa and Alice: how are you doing? Better? Full day ahead but wanted to say hi to you (three)..we’re coming in March so let us know what we can bring down or contribute to your household…

    Sending love – Lorrie

    Lorrie Jones Simple Serenity simpleserenity.comhttp://simpleserenity.com/ 253.312.3117

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 January 15, 2023 at 1:03 pm #

      Thank you for offering. You make a lovely mule. 😆

      Like

  3. Lois Leahy January 15, 2023 at 2:59 pm #

    Wow Alex!! We missed each other by a Trimester! I too attended the University of the Americas from January through June of 1973 at age 20. I had spent the previous year as a Rotary International Exchange Student in Bolivia. On my way back home I stopped in Mexico City to visit my half Mexican cousin, Jimmy. He had attended U of A and suggested I go there since it is an accredited university in the US.
    I left upstate New York the day after Christmas in a van with 5 students from Cornell, and we drove it in 5 days by taking turns driving. We arrived in Mexico City on New Year’s Eve. Upon entering the valley of Mexico City, I became faint and shaky from the heavy smog.
    Some U of A students lived off campus in Cholula.In keeping with the times, they had signs over the doorway to their humble homes that read, “Cholula, love it or leave it!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 January 15, 2023 at 4:15 pm #

      It would have been 1974 for me.

      Like

  4. Jack Scott January 16, 2023 at 4:32 am #

    What an adventure! The description of the chicken buses reminds me of the Turkish minibus – dolmuş (literally ‘squeezed’) used by locals to get about. We called ’em ‘dollies’. The dolly drivers collect fares and dispense change as they drive at speed, swerving to avoid pot holes and loose cattle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 January 16, 2023 at 9:12 am #

      Back then a kid travelled w the driver to collect fares. They handed you a piece of paper and change.

      Like

      • Jack Scott January 16, 2023 at 11:32 am #

        Now that reminds me of Greece back in the day 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • afish25 January 16, 2023 at 12:10 pm #

        We took a night bus to Cappadocia and the driver was drinking coffee, smoking and carrying on an animated conversation w someone in the jump seat. I closed my eyes and prayed.

        Like

      • Jack Scott January 16, 2023 at 3:32 pm #

        Praying is good 🙏😁

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Peter Conniff January 16, 2023 at 11:35 am #

    I too took my first trip south of the border in January of 1973. after graduating from college in December, my wife, best friend , & I headed for Tulum, Mexico in our ’67 Chevy pickup, with an overhead camper ,350 Ducati motorcycle & 2 dogs. What an adventure !! We kept hearing about this place called Palenque from other travelers we met along the way, so of course we had to stop there. Stayed at the Mayabel campground ( which is still there ) & picked our own magic mushrooms & experienced the wonders of the Mayan ruins there ! We continued on to Tulum pulling up on the beach there, getting stuck in the sand & left out truck in that spot for the entire 2 1/2 months we were there using the motorcycle to go into Carrillo Puerto every couple of weeks for supplies. Talk about paradise ! – eating fish & lobster we speared & finally selling same to other gringo campers to prolong our stay there. Going back to Q.Roo this Feb. to celebrate my 40th trip & 50th anniversary of coming to Mexico. I can hardly wait !!! 🤗😎😍

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 January 16, 2023 at 12:14 pm #

      OMG you must have stories to mirror mine! IDK if you’ve been to Tulum since but don’t stay there. It’s a nightmare. I laugh thinking of you going to Carrillo Puerto for supplies. It’s still a little Mexican town that most gringos don’t give a second look. We’re in Bacalar. Give me a holler if it is on your agenda.

      Like

      • Peter Conniff January 16, 2023 at 12:45 pm #

        Renting a studio apt. in Mahahual Feb.25th to Mar.20th – will have a rental car for the first week we are there, would luv to see you guys in Bacalar & swap stories ! 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      • afish25 January 16, 2023 at 4:17 pm #

        Feb 25 is my birthday! Come help me celebrate.

        Like

      • Peter Conniff January 16, 2023 at 5:08 pm #

        Please send me your address on Messenger or to my email address

        Liked by 1 person

      • afish25 January 16, 2023 at 5:39 pm #

        Do you have WhatsApp

        Like

      • Peter Conniff January 17, 2023 at 12:24 am #

        No

        Like

  6. Emilie January 17, 2023 at 1:14 pm #

    Charged by a cow while picking magic mushrooms? OMG. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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