Conectando con Raíces Ancestrales en México: Las Queer Enamoradas

On April 19th, a photo of one of my favorite influencers, Brown Badass Bonita’s Kim Guerra wearing a vibrant red dress with the backdrop of a turquoise blue ocean, grabbed my attention because it was tagged as located in Mexico City, Mexico. BBB usually commands my attention with her colorful graphics and empowering poetry, but this was different. I was confused because I knew that there weren’t any beaches in DF, but I also know that many of us women don’t always like to immediately disclose our current location for safety concerns, especially for someone with such growing recognition like Kim. It suddenly hit me when I quickly remembered some of her recent posts in the past few months, “¡Kim está viviendo en México!” So of course I perused all of her recent posts, none of which I had realized where she actually was, or that she announced or explained outright what she was doing in Mexico with her partner Ana Sheila, the co-creator of Tamarindo Podcast. I was instantly determined to find out their story, as I felt it in my soul that they were living and traveling there to connect with their ancestral roots. And as a queer couple, how must that be for them? I had so many questions already! I can spot the radiating glow of not only empowered mujeres like them, but ones who further this empowerment by making the decision to go back to live in their motherland. Their story is a perfect addition to our “Conectando con Raíces Ancestrales” series, as we share inspiring stories of Latinxs who connect to their land in their own deeply personal way.

Kim’s Artesania Necklace

I had the distinct opportunity to interview Kim Guerra and Ana Sheila via Zoom while they were in their comfortable apartment in Coyoacán. Las Queer Enamoradas, their new joint IG account, provides a space to celebrate queer mujeres in love, the epitome of this perfect pair. I had to calm my fan-girl squeaking right off the bat. Down-to-Earth, free spirits, chingonas. I already knew I wanted to talk to them for hours about their experience in Mexico. Kim was wearing a gorgeous indigenous bright yellow beaded necklace sprinkled with other colors, reminding me of the Indigenous Colombian Embera Chami necklaces from my motherland. They sat comfortably next to each other, embracing with such burgeoning love for one another.

Kim and Ana are from the Los Angeles, California area, and met during the pandemic on a socially distant Zoom call. By January 2021, after dating 8 months, they both agreed that they wanted to live and explore México lindo y querido, something that was possible because of their ability to complete their work remotely. They took their dog Chanchito, and arrived in Mexico City (aka Distrito Federal, aka DF) with their adventurous yet COVID-conscious spirits ready to explore. Ana was actually born in DF, so going back was like a coming home to her roots to connect with her ancestors like her Dad who was raised there but unfortunately passed away just 2 years ago. She still has family in the Mexico City area, a tremendous resource to help navigate the city and travel outside of DF. Kim has family in Guadalajara, Jalisco who they plan to try to visit. Since arriving, they’ve explored 6 remarkable locations thus far: Tepoztlán, La Condesa, Coyoacán, Mazunte, Zipolite, and San Agustinillo.

Tepoztlán
Kim and Ana first visited a pueblo 1 hour outside of Mexico City, Tepoztlán, Morelos considered a Pueblo Mágico or Magical Town, awarded the label in Mexico for maintaining their original architecture, traditions, history and culture. These pueblos normally hold great relevance to the country’s history, and many times hold remarkable symbolism and legends. Tepoztlán is best known for the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god. The town is also known for its weekly artesania market, and a hiking trail that leads to the Aztec Tepozteco pyramid.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many of the public sites were closed, including the Pyramid,  but it was still possible to do and see many things out in nature and from afar. Kim and Ana spent the greater part of their short trip hiking. Kim describes this location as a perfect spiritual getaway to exercise on the trails, self care with massages, experience an indigenous Temazcal sweat lodge, and to learn about herbal practices via a tea cleanse. Ana described that she felt she connected spiritually with her deceased Abuela and Dad during the Temazcal experience, physically feeling their presence.

La Condesa
At this point, Kim and Ana were ready to figure out their long term living arrangement in the Mexico City area. They chose La Condesa, a colonial borough in DF just 4 km south of Zona Rosa. They booked an Airbnb only for a month to try it out. Although the area had its own charm, Kim and Ana felt that it catered towards the extranjero or tourist, and felt culturally disconnected. After one month living and working there, they decided they were interested in an area where they would be able to interact more closely with locals. This led them to the bohemian burrough of Coyoacán.

Coyoacán
I was not surprised that las Queer Enamoradas fell in love with the area that once was inhabited by Queer Diosa, Frida Kahlo. In Nahuatl, Coyoacán means ‘the place of coyotes’, known for its bohemian colonial style, open artesania market, and La Casa Azul – Museo Frida Kahlo. The burrough is located about 12 kms south of downtown Mexico City. They found an apartment, met with the landlords, and decided to secure 3 months up front. The place has a charming patio shared with neighboring apartments, and it provided a perfect comfortable space for both of them to work remotely. 

Anasheila and Kim at the Frida Kahlo Mural in front of the Mercado Artesanal de Coyoacán

They both reflected that they acknowledge their privilege in living there, expressed their gratitude, and explained that they saved money on rent and food alone by living there instead of expensive California. Even their black labrador, Chanchito, demonstrated having a higher quality of life as they enrolled him in incredibly affordable “doggy day care” every day during the week. As a dog mami myself, I was pleased to find out that Kim had also seen a psychiatrist to certify Chanchito as an “Emotional Support Animal”. She had to prepare to travel to Mexico with him by making sure he had his paperwork in order: a travel certificate, a health certificate with all his vaccines up-to-date, and the Psychiatrist’s note.

Kim explained how she purchased her gorgeous artisanal necklace at the local open market. I was in awe with some of the activities she already had planned, like that of posing as a muse for a circle of artists in the area. How much more of an experiencia Frida Kahlo can you get!? What was clear to me was that both Ana and Kim were interested in making deep connections in the area. They highlighted their desire to contribute to the economy there in a meaningful way, and these statements and intentions gave me escalofríos from the good vibrations. 

Mazunte, Zipolite & San Agustinillo
After a couple of months living the city life, Kim and Ana decided to plan a trip to the beaches of Oaxaca for 4 days. The flight was about 1 hour and 20 minutes from DF. Apart from relaxing in paradise, the most majestic part of the trip was whale-watching – so powerful for them, that both teared up at the sighting. Notably, they visited Zipolite as an LGBTQ-friendly nudist beach they felt welcomed to explore and be themselves. However, they observed that the area was overrun by White Hippies who have lived there long term but barely interact with the local population. 

Living and Traveling in Mexico as LGBTQ
Kim and Ana smiled bright as they explained to me how they loved taking up space as a couple. They walk around often holding hands, and they never feel unsafe. Furthermore, they did note that people do stop to stare often, including people who stop their conversation to stare, and people who nudge “mira” to point them out. Overall they feel proud to take up space as queer enamoradas, unapologetically queer and in love.

Living and Traveling Mexico during Pandemic Times
They made sure to get tested anytime before getting on a flight, wore masks when indoors and around place with people around, and followed the strict regulations enforced in Mexico. They avoided crowded places and destinations like Cancun, Cabo, Tulum, etc and made sure to stay at small, private boutique hotels to avoid having to deal with too many people.

I can’t wait to see where else this lovely pareja will travel to in their motherland. The opportunities are boundless, and I feel that they will make unforgettable connections, catalyze collaborations, and have life-changing experiences enough to write a book about. Let’s hope that in a couple of years we get the opportunity to interview them again to debrief. Who knows, maybe they will live in Mexico for the rest of their lives! May their story inspire you to connect with your native motherland in this unique and unforgettable way. ¡Que viva el amor, y que viva la oportunidad de conectar con tus raíces ancestrales!

The Latinx Traveler – A Latinx Heritage Month Virtual Presentation to TCS World Travel

I’ve never been invited to present anything like this before, which makes it exciting to witness in real time the way companies are taking issues of Diversity & Inclusion increasingly more serious. A representative from TCS World Travel located in Seattle, WA invited me to speak virtually to the company to commemorate Latinx Heritage Month on September 22nd, 2021. The part that I found most incredible was that she wanted me to present on the ideas from my article “Travel is Political.” Growing up Latina and as a WOC, especially during my college years, I was constantly told by mostly White Midwestern people I knew that I was being “too political” and “why do I always have to bring up race” when I brought up serious issues that impacted the most marginalized populations in our society, of diversity & inclusion, and/or of race & ethnicity. Usually they would say it in a way hinting at my moral inferiority, and/or to get me to drop the ‘taboo’ subject immediately. Never in a million years would I have thought someone non-BIPOC would be interested to hear my take on why travel is ‘political.’

The presentation started with an intro to the Latinx/Hispanic identity, data on the Latinx Wage gap, and market research on the Latinx Traveler. Unfortunately, the “Travel is Political” section was at the very end, and because of time constraints, I was forced to speed through. Nonetheless, I would love it if you would watch my presentation in the video below and give me some constructive feedback to improve.

I’m excited for and hoping for more opportunities like this in the future!

Introducing: Michelle Lizet Flores

Being a native Floridian and current resident, Michelle Lizet Flores is happy to have returned to the land where trees don’t sleep. She is a Cuban-American from Miami, a graduate of FSU and NYU creative writing programs, and currently works as a 5th grade teacher where she fosters the next generation of American writers. She has previously been published in magazines such as The Miami RailFreezeRay, and The Bookends Review. She has also traveled to over 16 countries and territories, 23 states, and is working on visiting every National Park in the US. You can find her on most social media with the name @shellyflowers. Find out more at michellelizetflores.com.

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Michelle, her daughter, and her cousin, Celene, before a hike to the farm.

Introducing: Cepee Tabibian

Born a citizen of the world to a Colombian mother and Iranian father in West Virginia, Cepee spent all but 9 months of her childhood growing up in the Lone Star State and proudly considers herself a Native Texan. Although her parents were from South America and the Middle East, her passion for travel didn’t start until high school when she befriended a group of foreign exchange students.  Convincing her traditional Iranian father to let her travel solo the Netherlands for her 17th birthday was no easy feat. Little did they know that his support of her trip to visit a friend would become the most pivotal moment in her life. Her first trip abroad prompted a deep and magical love affair with travel and self-exploration that continues till this day, 20 years later.

Her education includes a bachelor’s in marketing and a master’s in international relations. In between her travels, she has worked in a variety of fields including marketing, sales, education, and travel. In 2015 she moved to Madrid, Spain and recently snagged her first remote job, a dream position that allows her to balance both work and travel. She is a running and yoga addict with a slight obsession for podcasts and social media. Cepee spends most of her free time building her brand Wanderlicious, a plant-based food + travel blog about Madrid and beyond. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or reach her at (and send your podcast recommendations to) wanderlicious.es@gmail.com.

Introducing: Kayla Zapata Fory

Kayla is a native Californian of Afro-Colombian roots with family on four continents and cousins seemingly everywhere. Her passion for travel started after an amazing summer study abroad to Havana, Cuba. The more Kayla traveled, she realized the exceptional fluidity of identity within different cultures and environments. Kayla was inspired by these experiences to launch a bilingual travel blog called Tejiendo Experiences that curates content from the African diaspora and shares her adventures around the world.

Kayla is passionate about promoting international social enterprises and sustainable development. Since graduating with a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University, Kayla now lives in Accra, Ghana where she works for an ethical fashion brand supporting local artisan communities. She hopes to apply for an MBA program to learn more about scaling social impact in emerging economies. When she is not solving international fashion crises, you can find Kayla drinking coconut water, hunting for new fabric deals or reading at the beach around Accra.

See her features on a vibe.com and melaninass.com and follow her on Instagram @kaylafory

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Kayla in Busua Beach, Ghana

Introducing: Emely Roman

Emely R. is a first-generation immigrant from Costa Rica. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA and loves food and masterfully done cocktails. She must watch anime and play video games every day – it’s her mantra. When not traveling, Emely is still traveling, exploring the Philly streets, looking for the next great treat in the many restaurants around town. Some things that she is passionate about are: Gender and LGBT rights and equality, cultural education and preservation, creative writing, photography and creating YouTube videos. You can find her many random musings about wine, Philly, her adventures, and thoughts on her blog: xcupcakezombiex.com

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Emely in San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

Introducing: Raquel Cruz

Raquel Cruz is a Honduran-American and was born in Madrid, Spain. When she was still a baby, her parents moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She lived in Honduras until she was 18 years and she moved to Los Angeles, California for college. There, Raquel studied Fine Arts with a concentration in Drawing and Painting at Biola University.

Currently, she lives in Seoul, South Korea with her cat Chilaquil where she has lived and worked as an English teacher, and soon, Art teacher for the past 3 years. When she is on vacation she enjoys visiting new countries around Asia. She loves learning more about a continent that has always interested her and whose culture shares many things with the Hispanic culture she grew up in. You can usually find her hunting down new restaurants, eating her way through a city or checking out new galleries and museum exhibits. She likes to draw what she sees or am experiences to have a better connection and remember things better. Currently, she is working on creating more art, building her art portfolio and becoming more fluent in Korean.

Please follow Raquel on her blog the Cargo Collective and on IG @raaqueelc

 

Why There’s More to Medellin Than Escobar

“Whatever you do, please don’t do the Pablo Escobar tour. That would be very indignant for me,” Gina said to me. Gina was my host in El Retiro, a sleepy, crisp-weathered, mountainous town an hour outside of Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia. I had just flown into Medellin that night from Nicaragua, and Gina had been kind enough to pick me up from the airport during an important soccer game. She was helping me plan for what to see and what to avoid. When I told friends I was visiting Medellin, most of them innocently referenced Pablo Escobar, a drug lord whose ruthless chokehold on Colombia’s cocaine supply left Medellin victim to decades of violence.

We stopped at a typical paisa (a term representative of the northwest region’s people and culture) restaurant. In between glimpses of the Colombia vs. Chile world cup game, she broke down the political, economic, and cultural history of the region for me. The waiter asked if I wanted sugar in my guayaba juice, and I was surprised that I had an option. I don’t even remember what I chose.

She asked me what I knew about Medellin. “Well, I know that Escobar was a very violent man…” I trailed off, embarrassed that I didn’t do my research. Gina clarified that there was more to life in Antioquia than Escobar. I listened eagerly as I poked into some crunchy fried pork rinds with a toothpick.

Medellin, she explained, was Colombia’s center for textile production in the first half of the 20th century. The city of over three million people even boasts a skyscraper called the Coltejer Building, which is shaped like a needle. Today, Medellin’s economic legacy includes high-quality coffee production and it’s famous for beautiful leather products. Oh, and Latin America’s biggest fashion show, Colombiamoda. I should have taken advantage of the sales at the Velez leather outlet while I had the chance.

Once Escobar’s drug cartel took over, Medellin became as violent as Beirut, Gina explained, shaking her head. Car bombs went off frequently in the city. She grew up being used to the violence. Once Escobar died in 1993, the violence decreased. I felt safer in Medellin than I did in Nicaragua. Gina suggested that we go for a walk when it was dark, and I wondered if it was safe to do so. In Nicaragua, once the sun goes down, it’s usually time to head home and lock the doors. Gang violence isn’t as prevalent there as it is in Guatemala, but petty thefts and muggings in isolated areas after dark are common.

Unfortunately, it was drizzling, so we couldn’t go for a walk. Instead, we went to bed early and I slept like a rock. When I’m in a new place, my mind feels the need to rest up as much as possible in order to absorb its surroundings when it is ready to.

I decided that in order to understand the region’s history, that I would eventually go to the Museo de Antioquia. I walked to the bus stop in El Retiro, and spoke with other people waiting to confirm that my bus was the one going to Medellin. Five minutes later, a woman honked her horn and asked if I were headed to Medellin. This was the first time a woman had offered to give me a ride, but I declined. In retrospect, I wish I’d done it, but I didn’t do it, and I was safe.

I spent the day in Medellin with a fellow Wellesley alum, Vero, who graduated with me, but who I had never met. Thanks to a mutual friend, we were able to meet and to reminisce about our college days. We also bonded over how driven Wellesley women are, and about how we just cannot seem to sit still. We always need to be doing something and doing what some people call “overachieving.” To us, it’s just “achieving.” That’s what happens when you are privileged enough to go to school with some of the most driven, independent, and intelligent women in the world. It was nice to be with someone who got me. I didn’t have to really explain why I was spending three weeks traveling alone.

Eventually, I made it to the Museo de Antioquia. As a child, I dreaded museums. I thought they were the most boring, lifeless places. It wasn’t until I studied abroad in France that I began to appreciate museums, especially art museums, for being portals into a region’s history. These histories are never completely inclusive of different racial, socioeconomic, and gender identities, but that’s why I allow myself to be critical of these spaces in the first place.

Medellin-Transportation

In February 2013, the Urban Land Institute chose Medellín as the most innovative city in the world due to its recent advances in politics, education and social development, beating out NYC and Tel Aviv. The metro is spotless. People aren’t even allowed to eat on it! Riding the metro here reminded me of riding the spotless, quiet, efficient metro in Tokyo.

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Introducing: Danica Liriano

Danica is a 29 years old Dominican-Salvadorian, born and raised outside of New York City. Her love for travel began when she studied abroad in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Now as a NYC history teacher, she encourages her own students to go out of their comfort zones and explore other cultures as well. She taught Global History in New York City for four years before serving in Peace Corps Nicaragua for two years as a TEFL teacher trainer. Besides being passionate about education and travel, Danica also enjoys dance, photography, and FOOD! She loves food.

Introducing: Michele Tracy Chavarriaga

Travel Latina would like to introduce a new “Science Series” with collaborator Michele Tracy. The following articles will take us along the adventures of a Latina in science and the journey of discovering how it is possible to travel by studying or working in science. These articles will teach you a couple of simple geologic terms while also exploring the importance of WOC in STEM. Michele is a geologist who received her undergrad education at the University of Michigan and who shares a passion for climate and ocean science.

Michele, who is Colombian-American, majored in Earth Sciences after a childhood of spelunking and rock collecting in the United States, México, and Colombia. She currently works as a Geoscience Technician in California and dreams of getting a PHd in Climate Science while also traveling the world. Follow her on Instagram as @michcata89 if you want to see her adventures with the cutest dog ever named Penny and her little red Jeep named Thalia.