Saturday, March 1, 2014

First and Third World

So today we went with our friend Nacho and his friend Pilly (Pilar) on a little road trip...I'll tell you more about it was fun and we have lots of pictures.

But, today I want/need (I get to do what I want and need on here, it's my blog, yo) to look at the differences in the economic classes here in Puebla. Again, this is what I have seen, and I know it's limited to our drive from the US to Puebla, but this is my experience so far. I should note before I go any further, that Puebla is different than some other places in Mexico because it has a strong (ish) middle class. There are people in my neighborhood who have two cars, have nice homes, etc. So the poverty here is not as bad as it is in some places...but it's here.

Andy and I were talking about it the other day on our walk home from the park. To get to the park we cross over The Stinky River and then take some stairs by a billboard, past some homes that look like they should be on the set of a movie depicting Mexico in "the olden days." There are dogs on the roofs of homes. (That's a whole blog in and of itself...I'm looking at you Maria...we gotta chat about that). There is trash in the streets, in front yards, and in the river. There are children who look like they haven't been bathed in days, standing out front of homes, unattended. There are stray dogs roaming the streets. (We have an old neighborhood dog, who has a collar and is very nice, who takes himself for a walk every day). There are old women and children selling baked goods, nuts, and other various products so they can put food on the table. I see this and it taxes my soul some days.

Yesterday was one of those days. You see this and you have to, at some point, turn yourself off from it because otherwise it will drive you to the breaking point. I think part of the reason the poverty was able to penetrate my carefully worn armor so well yesterday was because, amid the poverty, there is Angelopolis, the massive mall I mentioned yesterday. Yesterday was my first time there. The mall houses stores like Armani Exchange, Benetton, and very nice jewelry stores. There is an extravagance that seems unnecessary, almost cruel. Knowing that these two worlds coexist in the same few blocks of each other is baffling to my American brain.

We were talking about how in the States, there is obviously a divid between social classes (and it's growing), but it is often separated by miles and "parts of town." In Puebla, one block can be very middle class, or upper class, and within a block, or the same block, there are homes that I am surprised to find occupied because of their appearance. Our street hosts Audis and Porches, and broken-down Cadillacs and Fried Out Kombies. The way the First World and the Third World intermingle is fascinating and heartbreaking. For example, today we drove past Angelopolis (it seems to be getting a bad rap from me today, sorry Angelopolis) with it's millions of dollars of merchandise inside, to a place where teenagers were washing their clothes in a river and I used a candle as light for a bathroom without a toilet seat (actually it's pretty common not to have toilet seats or toilet paper in public bathrooms here, you make do).

I had a restless night last night (as most nights have been for me here, for one reason or another) and awoke to Andy asking how I slept. I told him I found myself not being able to shut my brain down (shocker...this really is the story of my life). I was telling him how I felt guilty for having purchased a pillow top for a mattress in our three bedroom/two bathroom apartment. I was feeling guilty because people, not very far from my door, struggle to feed themselves. I was falling into the rabbit hole of my mind, easily done as I tend to Catastrophize (counseling term for making the worst out of things).

We talked about how it's hard to see the poverty, we talked about how there are places where this "poverty" doesn't even touch other poverty. We talked about how very fortunate we were to have been born to the circumstances that we were. We talked about how we both work hard (**Note, I'm not saying people who live in poverty do not work hard...on the contrary, I think people in poverty tend to work harder). We discussed that we are helping by buying from the local markets (we hardly ever go to Wal-Mart), but even when we do, we are supporting our local economy. We focused on the fact that we both chose career paths that help people. We give of our money and time to make sure others are looked after. We reminded ourselves (okay, okay, probably just me) that we (me) can't save the whole world. What we (I ) can do is help those that I can, when I can, and keep doing what I am doing.

I know that economic poverty does not equal spiritual or mental poverty and to suggest that would make me and asshole (sorry, Judy and the other mothers reading this). Again, I think it might be my American brain, my sensitive soul, or something I can't even identify, but some days it's hard to see and process the Third and First Worlds living as one.

Today was you'll see by the pictures tomorrow. I just felt the need to address this, it may not be the last time I touch on the subject, but it feels good to write about it.

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