Tag Archives: university of the americas

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.
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