On Jan 8th after breakfast in the morning, our day started off with a lecture by Dr. Dario Parra Ortega on “Current Economic Policies of Current Mexican Government.” The title of his presentation was “Mexico: 27 Years of Economic Mismanagement.” We learned about the economic policies of a renowned economist, Ortiz Mena, who helped in the industrial development of industrial economy. Dr. Ortega was very critical about the Mexican government and mentioned how it has handled the global recession in the wrong way by reducing governmental expenses, increasing taxes by the concept of tax elusion instead of evasion. These wrong methods have reduced Mexico’s GDP from 6.6 percent to -7 percent. It was a very interesting class where we got to see and hear an inside perspective of the works of the Mexican government. We then headed to downtown Puebla where we visited Museo Amparo, an archeological museum showcasing different civilizations like Teotihuacan, Olmec, etc. We also saw different ceramics that were used by the Mayans, mainly the elite ones, for special purposes. Then we went to the Old City of Puebla which is a Colonial town. There we went to the Catedral de Puebla. It was beautiful with its gold-plated altars. After the tour of the town, we headed to the local mall called Angelopolis where we had dinner and did a little bit of shopping.
On Jan 9th, we met at 9 am and then embarked for a four-hour journey to Oaxaca. Even though I was sleepy, the scenery took my breath away. It was truly diverse and magnificent. It ranged from the colonial city of Puebla, to the semi-desert plains and to the mountains of Oaxaca. We also saw cactus forests and took pictures on the way. We also watched August Rush on our way to Oaxaca which caught everyone’s attention on the bus. Our guide informed us that the name of the state as well as the capital city, "Oaxaca," comes from the Nahuatl word "Huaxacac," meaning "in the nose of the squash." We walked downtown and visited the chocolate manufacturing shop. The worker demonstrated how cocoa fruit was transformed into chocolate by grinding the seeds in a special machine. After that, I along with some friends did something that at least I had never dreamed of: WE ATE GRASSHOPPERS!! It is one of the local delicacies of Oaxaca. It was a fabulous and unique experience. We then enjoyed the architecture of the Cathedral and of the Santo Domingo Temple. We also enjoyed the great night life offered by the city as some of us went to as many as three different types of clubs.
The next day we had breakfast and then headed for Mount Albã¡n which are Zapotec ruins that are located in a hill near Oaxaca. Los Danzantes (Building of the Dancers) is one of the main highlights of the plaza. It is the earliest surviving structure at Monte Albã¡n. This was my first visit to any ruins and it was fabulous. After the ruins of Mount Albã¡n, we went to a local carpet maker’s house where he showed us how they made carpets with the help of a loom. We met his mother who demonstrated how they made colors out of raw materials like dried insects called cochineal which live on cactus. That was a unique experience but no more than what we were about to do next. We went to a restaurant that also made mezcal. It was called Mezcal Benevã¡'s restaurant-distillery. We were then given a tour of the distillery. At the end of the tour, we had the opportunity of tasting different flavored mezcal like cappuccino and passion fruit. We also tried worms (real worms that are traditionally eaten with mezcal). I was so proud of myself! After the meal we headed back to UDLAP.
On Jan 11, we headed to the factory of “Baby Mink,” which is a blanket factory owned by the Grupo Apollo. We got a very thorough tour of the factory where we were shown how baby blankets were made, from getting the fabrics and polyester, coloring them and adding prints on the blankets to packaging them. It was a very fun tour. Our guide at the factory talked to us about their primary exports and the market situation of the company. "Baby Mink" products are sold in more than 25 countries including the United States. After we got back to campus we had a lecture on “Import and Export Mexico” by Dr. Dario Parra. The professor’s comparison of Mexico to the “Great Pinata” was very interesting. According to him, because of its free trade policies, Mexico provided great opportunities for foreign companies and almost every country with a “stick” rushed in to break the “piñata” to take advantage of the “sweets” offered by Mexico. Then after a short discussion of our own about the Mexican import/export situation, we met for dinner.
On Jan. 12, we met at 9 am and headed to San Martin Texmelucan which is full of tianguis or traditional markets. These were small stalls of shops that sold shoes, food, fruits and even business attire and casual apparel. On our return we had our lecture on “Prehispanic Tianguis to Present” by Miguel Rodriguez. We learned how tianguis started and how they affect the economy as a huge part of the informal economy of Mexico. On the 13th it was optional to meet at 9.30 am and go to a church that was built during the Spanish rule. Then after lunch it was also optional to go to a salsa class. Then we had our lecture for that day on “Global Crisis, Latin Crisis and Mexico Crisis” by Dr. Dario. We learned how Mexico’s economy was hampered by the global crisis and Dr. Dario demonstrated this by showing us different graphs. We also talked about NAFTA and how it affected Mexico and its economy.
On the morning of Jan 14, we went to downtown Puebla to visit a shop that sold and also manufactured Talavera. We were given a tour of the factory and the store and then we talked about the history of Talavera. The store, Talavera Uriarte, was the oldest Talavera-making store in Mexico. We saw the entire process of making Talavera from molding mud to giving those shapes and sizes, quality control to painting them and adding the trademark designs. We then looked around the store and bought a few items which were very, very expensive. Our afternoon lecture was on “How to do Business in Mexico” where we learned about many of the problems with Mexican business and the government including a high inequality problem with household income being highly concentrated. The presentation was entitled “Goodies inside Mexico’s ‘Great Piñata’ ready for taking by Foreign Companies.” It was full of charts and graphs which made it easier for us to understand the concept better.