I’ve been in Mexico for over a month and I (as always) am surprised at how quickly the time passed. I’m also leaving in a month exactly so this a halfway point and a time of transition.
To recap, things have been going very well, especially at work. My job in communications allows me to attend tons of cool events as I’ve mentioned before, which I absolutely love. I get to see different venues, catering options, panel formats and gender ratios and I’m soaking it in.
Since I last posted, I’ve attended a few events worthy of mention.
#1: I made it to Los Pinos, Mexico’s version of the white house. PespsiCo opened a R&D center focused on baking in the state of Nuevo León (further north) and it’s such a big deal that held an inauguration at Los Pinos and the CEO of Pepsi and the President spoke. Security didn’t take too long and this wing of Los Pinos was definitely very modern looking. The President’s also pretty attractive. While the center’s great for job creation and research, I’m a little suspicious of Pepsi’s commitment to health but it was still a very cool and official opportunity. I’ve never been to the White House in DC so maybe I should try to do that at some point.
#2: Later that day (this was last thursday), I went to a cocktail hour at New Ventures Mexico, a startup incubator/investor that Ashoka works with a lot. They hosted the cocktail hour for the participants of a weeklong Impact Investment bootcamp that the Aspen Institute set up. I got to go and check out New Ventures’ office in a beautiful section of Coyocán, a more bohemian neighborhood. The women at the bootcamp (it was all women) were so cool, working in cities all over the world and sometimes traveling 25-50% of the time. I was still feeling a bit sick so I didn’t stay for too long but it was quite cool to see.
#3: This week was full of events, beginning with a conference on Literacy and fighting educational challenges focused on adult education in Latin America. It was run by the OEI (Organización de Estados Iberamericanos) and the national institute for adult education (INEA) and held at the museum of history and anthropology which I’m dying to go back to. I loved this event (it was 2 days) and was fascinated by the speakers. Hearing about policies to reduce illiteracy and paradigms to approach teaching and learning was so cool and there was a good mix of speakers from government agencies and academia. Some did a better job than others but it was a really thought provoking event. There was also lots of subtle geopolitics as different countries presented their progress on fighting illtieracy. For example, Paraguay’s “success” story was that they’re trying to educate the one million paraguayans who have recently moved to Argentina (the country is tiny, around 6 million so this is a huge percentage) without addressing the reasons for this massive exodus or how terribly the Argentines treat the immigrants. The Dominican Republic proudly cited a Gallup poll in which citizens said illiteracy was the only battle they believed their government was winning, which doesn’t bode too well. Some ideas were really innovative, like a company that helps educate construction workers on their job sites and others that created customizable curriculum materials that anyone can download on their phones. One of the other highlights was a two hour lunch break on tuesday to coincide with the Mexico–Brazil game which was a tie! It was so exciting to watch with a big group and I’m starting to get into the world cup a little bit. It’s hard not too, especially as all the colonial powers lose!
#4: I went to an event by the Grameen Creative Lab to announce the Social Business Summit they’re hosting in Mexico in November, the first time the event will be in the Americas. The organization’s not really involved in Mexico at all so they’re using a lot of local partners, including Ashoka. There was an amazing fruit platter at this event (including fresh figs and mango!!) and it was quite interesting to see the questions the local press posed the presenter. Grameen Creative Lab is based in Germany so there was some language/culture divide going on but they have some time to bridge those gaps (and to address the issue that another Grameen business that does microfinance in Mexico works with Carlos Slim and is the only thing the reporters fixated on).
#5: Yesterday, I went to EmTech Mexico, an event held by the MIT Technology Review at a local university. My housemate and coworker Ramsés also got to go (he’s in charge of AshokaU, the college campus program) so it was nice to have a buddy. I also livetweeted it which was quite fun. This event was so dynamic and tech savvy. The editor of the MIT technology review presented their 10 most disruptive technologies of the year (more a list of categories/leading companies in those categories than a list of things to buy) and there were presentations about innovative tech in cities (Copenhagan seems amazing), medicine, materials, robotics and agriculture. They gave awards to 10 entrepreneurs under 35 and a really charismatic and attractive entrepreneur spoke (he’s 23 and has started 3 successful companies). They also covered investment and how technology and startups have changed Latin America and can continue to do so. The presentations were snappy, succinct, and given in a mixture of spanish and english. There was one female speaker, a representative from the DF development bureau and one of the 10 young entrepreneurs was female. I love the tech industry’s approach and am always so impressed with the ideas but it could only get better by incorporating ya know, women and minorities.
Today I actually went to the office and will do so again for the first half of next week. I love going to these events but it definitely disrupts my schedule in terms of sleep, cooking, gym time etc. But it’s so worth it (and I really need to start a list of all the organizations I’m interacting with).
Outside of work, I’ve had a few fun adventures, beginning last friday with a fancy dinner at Azul Historico, one of the top 10 restaurants in the City. The menu is upscale mexican and every month a guest chef from a different region comes and adds a special regional menu. I went with Ramses and Arjun and it was so delicious. I had hibiscus enchiladas which were so delicious (and something I never get to eat because enchiladas always have chicken) and a tamale with some vegetables. The restaurant is in el centro in a space called downtown that includes a hotel, a hostel, some retail and food shops, two restaurants, and crazy rooftop bar that I would like to return to in like 10 years with an enormous pair of sunglasses and a bottle of champagne. Later, we went to a party with a different housemate in this really old house that still had tons of old furniture that looked very Old Hollywood. It was for sale but still a weird vibe. Also, it’s mexican tradition (at the few parties I’ve gone to) for everyone to bring their own alcohol so you see people standing in clusters with some bottles at their feet (there are oxxos, 24 hour convenience stores every few blocks so you usually buy after you get to the party). I’m very not used to it but I guess this it works.
On Saturday, I got to back to Coyocan and had a really long and full day. First, Arjun, Ramsés and Sandra, our landlord and friend went to brunch in Roma Norte at a place called breakfast that’s a very class converted old house. It was really delicious. We then ran a few errands and stopped for avocado milkshakes with rosemary (also I had a milkshake and didn’t wind up in the fetal position so thank you lactaid pills!) before driving down to el Museo Frida Kahlo in the Coyocan neighborhood. The museum is so so cool and feels like a very crowded tour of Frida and Diego’s house and gardens. They always had (often communist) guests, parties and orgies so I was surprised at how small their beds were. Frida loved flowers and precolombian art and artifacts, even when that wasn’t in style so there were artifacts similar to those I saw at Teohtihuacan on display. You can also see Frida’s paints and so many other daily objects. The garden is so colorful and inviting, I could have stayed all day. So excited there’s a version coming to New York next year! There’s also an exhibit by Vogue Mexico of Frida’s clothes called Looks can be Deceiving created after a closet of hers was found a few years ago. She sent so many messages with her physical experience and you can’t help but be impressed and inspired by her uniqueness and creativity. Iconic.
After the museum, we went to one of the main plazas of Coyocan which has a big artisan market, churros and agua fresca for sale, an old church, trees, fountains and muy buena onda. It felt very european, with sidewalk cafes and people playing music on the benches. We did some shopping and then went to try and see a movie at a cool indie theater. The times didn’t work out so we walked around the theater campus which is really cool, found some wifi and decided to go see a later movie at a nearby mall. We grabbed dinner at a chain restaurant that was very much a chain restaurant and then saw the heartbreaking “La Jaula de Oro,” (the cage of gold) a film that follows several Guatemalan teens as they try to reach the US, passing first through mexico. Mexico’s treatment of central american migrants is a hot topic here and the consensus is that the government is awful towards them. The film didn’t have much dialogue and definitely didn’t tie up loose ends but it felt honest and compelling. I learned a lot, especially since it’s a different conversation than the one we have about immigration in the States. We didn’t get home till after midnight but it was one of my favorite days in Mexico so far, sunny and full of good people, culture and thinking.
This week, in between the events I attended, I went to a potluck with a bunch of people from work in honor of Arjun’s leaving. We all had to bring a dish from our country and due to the lack of oven/ingredients for hummus, I made pb&j which was a pretty big hit, though everyone had it for dessert (because Americans are clerly sugar addicts). Other dishes included enchiladas, brie cheese from a french girl, dutch pancakes, mango lassi, Macedonian salad (which is a lot like greek salad), guacamole courtesy of a new intern from Brown and pasta salad which is apparently German. It was a really fun evening and great to socialize with some non interns outside of work! I also got to see my dad’s friend Joan again before they leave for California which was a huge bonus. They’re the sweetest family! We had a small party last night for Arjun’s goodbye and tomorrow another one of my housemates is having his birthday party here followed by a night out. I’m hoping to make it to the gym and the history museum and will leave the rest of my time unstructured.
With regards to how long I’ve been here, I’m figuring out some things that are really reassuring. It’s easier to take a cab, I’m used to eating lunch at 3 pm, I found the almond milk at the local supermarket, etc. The routine of full time work is still an adjustment, especially while trying to explore a new city. People’s long commutes mean that after work happy hours aren’t quite a thing so I wish there was a way to explore the bar scene. I’m loving the world cup and the way that the whole country stops in front of the closest tv when a game is on and I’m drinking as much green juice as I can (it’s under $2 for a giant green juice with prickly pear, parsley, grapefruit and pineapple). I hope in the next month to make more progress on preparing for ecuador, visit more museums, try to do at least one Jewish activity and to aprovechar todo el tiempo que tengo en esa linda ciudad. A weekend trip would also be great if I can swing it.
Have a great weekend and let the cubicle free summer continue!