When I first learned that I would be placed in Cuernavaca, Mexico, I immediately googled (that’s a word now, right?) the city and learned briefly of its history. Located 40 miles due south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca is a relatively small city that houses El Palacio de Cortés (the oldest preserved colonial-era structure in the Americas, which housed Hernan Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who led the Spaniards in an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire, and his wife) and beautiful market places. It rains nearly every evening and is shining and bright by mid-morning. The temperature rarely gets above 90 degrees or below 60, hence the nickname City of Eternal Spring. The city is also home to the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica (INSP), a world-renowned research institution housed within the Secretaria de Salud and the premier public health institution in Latin America. With a month under my belt and about a month-and-a-half to go, I have grown quite fond of the city, the food and culture, and people.
I should note: I am NOT fluent in Spanish. Far from it, in fact. I took a few classes in high school and when I realized I couldn’t roll my ‘R’s, I kinda sorta just gave up formal learning of the language all together. Over the years, I’ve listened to my fair share of Latin music and I have picked up words and phrases, here and there. That being said, I was relieved that Catherine, the person I was paired to go to Cuernavaca with, spoke fluent Spanish. AND to top it off, while her parents are from Colombia (making my companion Colombian-American) and she spoke Spanish in her home pretty often, she could not role her ‘R’s either. Needless to say, we bonded over our shortcoming (shout out to Catherine!! Hey girl heeeey!). Well no, that’s shallow. We actually bonded over our interest in community-based participatory research, life as a 20-something, and our general love for crime shows. Having a companion who not only speaks both English and Spanish, but who is kind, open and hard working has made this experience just wonderful. All and all, I’ve made it my business to improve my Spanish. After all, it is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. I may not be fluent once I leave, but I will certainly keep learning during my spare time.
Here are a few photos taken during our first few weeks in the city. We’ve successfully navigated downtown, toured museums, eaten tacos and churros (alllllll of the churros) off street trucks, and taken public transportation in the form of Mercedes-Benz vans-turned-buses to and from our home.
In my next post, I’ll update you all on the research I’m conducting at INSP, what it’s like to be in Mexico during the World Cup (¡mi deporte favorito!) and my trip to Mexico City.