From an HBCU to Oaxaca
So my study abroad trip isn’t your typical abroad experience where you are all alone in a new place. This is more of a group journey with about 50 of my other classmates from Howard University. So far on this journey in Oaxaca, Mexico, our culture contrast has stood out the most. Not only are we separated by our identities as Americans, but it has been made very apparent that our blackness has shined bright since our arrival. The small amount of time I’ve had here so far has given me such pride in who I am as a black person. While here, we have only been greeted with fascination and kindness. No one has been conditioned to look at black people with any negative insinuations.
Marvels in Mexico
It was very shocking seeing how different culture is here compared with the US, especially gestures that are considered rude back home. Our program director warned us all that people would stare and point at us quite frequently. He reassured us that it won’t be out of negativity, but rather with a “wow these people are interesting” implication. Upon arrival, we immediately had to adjust to becoming modern day marvels.
There are 10 of us that stay in one host house and we all walk to school together. On the first day, people were watching us from the store front windows and pointing at us from across the street. I even spotted one officer in a group of police recording us as we were walking by. As days passed, individuals came up to us left and right, grabbing our hair with amazement saying, “Tu cabello!! Me gusta!”, especially those of us with long braids. Almost everywhere we go, we hear whispers and gasps with remnants of the words “guapo” and “hermosa” in passing.
Is this… black privilege?
It has became apparent that we are a bit louder than everyone, but never once has it raised a problem. In restaurants, the wait staff and customers watch us with enchantment as they see us laughing, carefree, and happy. Often times people come up to us and invite us to events and bars solely off the vibe that we give off as people.
One of the other host houses had a party for the program one night in a gated community. When our house of 10 arrived at the guard, we expected to be stopped and questioned as we would in the US. To our surprise, the officer waved his hand and said “esta bien,” letting us pass. One of my friends turned to us and said, “Wow, is this what black priviledge is like? It feels great.”
I don’t mean to point any of this out with arrogance. It is just so beautiful and refreshing to be in a place where everyone seems to love us. It’s amazing to feel so much acceptance right away as opposed to the oppression many black people continue to face in the US.
tu cabello- hair me gusta- I like it guapo- good looking hermosa-beautiful esta bien– It’s fine