Westmont in Mexico: 2009 Archive

Archive of News from the Faculty Directors, Drs. Patti & David Hunter

27 November 2009 -- Thanksgiving Fiesta

Thanksgiving As the semester draws to a close, students, host families, professors, and friends gathered at the Hunters' for a Thanksgiving feast and fiesta. In addition to the Querétaro locals, Brad Berky, next year's director, visited us this week and was able to join the celebration. Indeed, we have much to be thankful for: new friends, improved language skills, knowledge of Mexican culture, and the many areas of growth that the semester has fostered. We feel a tangible sense of accomplishment, along with gratitude for God's provision in our time here.   Slideshow (new window)


16 November 2009 -- Mexico City

Mexico City Our final field trip of the semester took us to Mexico City for four days of fairly intense sight-seeing. Home to about 20 million people, the metropolitan area is a bustling and fascinating mixture of ancient, colonial, and modern sites. Our itinerary was packed: Teotihuacan, la Basílica de Guadalupe, el Museo Nacional de Antropología, Museo Nacional de Historia en Chapultepec, la Plaza de las Tres Culturas, el Templo Mayor, el Palacio Nacional, el Museo de Frida Kahlo en Coyoacán, el Palacio de Bellas Artes, and Xochimilco. Our time was mostly academic, but we also enjoyed a performance of the Ballet Folklórico and a relaxing boat trip along what remains of the ancient canals of Tenochtitlan.   Slideshow (new window)


6 November 2009 -- Art Exposition

Art Show Students have been working with a variety of media in their art class this semester: pencil, paint, papier maché, clay, and -- last but not least -- red string. This week an exposition of their work opened in the Museo de la Ciudad de Querétaro. The exhibit, titled Cuerpo presente, also featured work by Mexican art students of our teacher Raul. The opening festivities on Friday attracted a large audience, and the exibit will remain in the museum throughout the month.   Slideshow (new window)


2 November 2009 -- Día de los Muertos

Muertos The Roman Catholic holidays of All Saints and All Souls coincide with the Mexican observance of the Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). The ubiquitious mixture of Spanish and indigenous culture can make it hard to tell which holiday is being celebrated; regardless, the holiday gave us a free three-day weekend to relax and enjoy Querétaro. In the main plazas and in houses throughout the city, altars have been constructed to remember the dead, who are believed by some to visit their living relatives during this season. A scaled-down version of Holloween also exists here, but it seems like a slightly unwelcome foreign intrusion on this quintessentially Mexican holiday.   Slideshow (new window)


12 October 2009 -- Sierra Gorda: The Missions of Junípero Serra

Mission Our trip to the Sierra Gorda included visits to four of the five missions in the region: Concá, Jalpan, Landa de Matamoros, and Tilaco. These Baroque missions were founded in the 18th century by Junípero Serra, a Franciscan friar who trained in Querétaro. Serra was also responsible for founding nine missions in California, including San Diego de Alcalá, San Francisco de Asís, and San Buenaventura. The Sierra Gorda missions are generally much more ornate than their northern relatives; the detailed artwork reveals an fascinating collaboration between the Franciscans and the local indigenous people.   Slideshow (new window)


11 October 2009 -- Sierra Gorda: Tantoc and Tamohí

Tantoc On the banks of the Tamuín river there are two Huasteca archealogical sites, Tantoc and Tamohí. The Huastecs settled here around (500-300 BC) and occupied the region for about 1000 years. The site at Tantoc has only recently been discovered, and current work is causing archaeologists to rethink their theories about the migration of ancient peoples to the coast of Veracruz. The Huastecs were astronomers; much of the design of these settlements is based on the movements of the sun in relation to the Puente de Dios (Bridge of God), a niche in a nearby mountain range.   Slideshow (new window)


10 October 2009 -- Sierra Gorda: Las Pozas de Edward James

Las Pozas A patron of Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, and other surrealist artists, the British poet and millionaire Edward James (1907-1984) was enchanted by the tropical rainforests outside the small town of Xilitla. Between 1949 and 1984, James built Las Pozas (The Pools), an enormous surrealistic sculpture garden surrounded by lush vegetation, with tunnel-like paths leading to waterfalls and swimming holes. We spent the afternoon hiking, swimming, and appreciating this remarkable site.   Slideshow (new window)


9 October 2009 -- Into the Sierra Gorda

Chuveje Our second major field trip of the semester takes us northeast of the city of Querétaro into the Sierra Gorda. Our journey takes us from the dry plateau outside of the city to pine forests at an elevation of 10000 feet, and back down into tropical lowlands replete with waterfalls and lush vegetation. This region is a protected biosphere, and the diversity of plant and animal life is stunning. Between twisty bus rides we visited the the town of Pinal de Amoles, the waterfall at Chuveje, and the mission at Concá.   Slideshow (new window)


29 September 2009 -- Cooking Class

Cooking Class As we approach the middle of the term, we are keeping busy with homework, essays, tests, and what is now a familiar routine of classes. This week we took a little time to learn some basics of Mexican cooking. The menu included sopes, agua de guayaba, and sopa de calabaza, prepared using traditional tools: molcajete and comal. There is certainly no shortage of great food in Querétaro, from street vendors selling homemade tamales to elegant restaurants rivaling the cuisine of any major city. Of course, since the students stay in homes with Mexican families, their main diet consists of home-cooked meals, which tend to be excellent. Food is definitely an important part of the experience here.   Slideshow (new window)


15 September 2009 -- Puebla: El Grito

Puebla Mexicans celebrate Independence Day with a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo's historic cry of independence, "¡Méxicanos, Viva México!" In each state capital, the grito (shout) is performed by the governor in the central plaza. The group spent the 199th anniversary of Mexican independence in the capital of Puebla, the country's fifth largest city. Puebla is also home to a magnificent cathedral, the second largest in Mexico and the tallest of its kind. Construction of this enormous stone structure began in 1562 and took nearly a century to complete. It was a day to experience Mexican patriotism and pride.   Slideshow (new window)


14 September 2009 -- Oaxaca: Mitla

Mitla Mexico contains wealth of spectacular archaeological sites, many of which are still not completely understood. Mitla, a short drive from the capital of Oaxaca, is home to a collection of well-preserved pre-Hispanic structures: temples, tombs, and intricate abstract designs. The significance of the frieze patterns is a subject of debate among experts; they appear Mixtec in style, but could also have conveyed religious significance for the Zapotecs. On the way back, we stopped to see the Arbol de Tule, a cypress tree believed to be more than 2000 years old. Antiquity abounds.   Slideshow (new window)


13 September 2009 -- Oaxaca: Monte Alban

Monte Albán Monte Albán, one of the most important archaeological sites in Mexico, sits on a large mesa in the mountains above the city of Oaxaca. Founded in 500 BC by the Zapotecs, Monte Albán became a thriving city of 20,000 by the time of Christ. When the Spanish arrived in Oaxaca, the city had long since been abandoned, so the site was left untouched until its excavation in the early 20th century. The giant stone structures--pyramids, tombs, ballfields, housing for priests, and observatories--are even more impressive considering that water and supplies needed to be hauled up from below,.   Slideshow (new window)


12 September 2009 -- Oaxaca: Centro, Museo, Barro Negro

Santo Domingo We are spending the long Independence Day weekend in the state of Oaxaca, an eight-hour bus ride from Querétaro. Our first day included a tour of the city center, a trip to the spectacular Templo de Santo Domingo, and a visit to the Museo Regional. After comida, we took a short trip to the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec to see how artisans make the famous regional black pottery of black clay (barro negro). Like Querétaro, Oaxaca is a Spanish colonial city with a strong indigenous influence. It has been interesting to notice comparisons and contrasts with our "home" city to the north.   Slideshow (new window)


6 September 2009 -- Pizza and Nerts

Nerts As we enter the fourth week of classes, we can appreciate how far we have come as well as the challenges that lie ahead. We have adapted to living with host families, gotten used to having all our classes in Spanish, and learned how to function in a foreign city. Students have attended a variety of church services, explored the markets, watched a Division I soccer match, and seen local theater and movies. Tonight we took a little time out from cultural immersion to play games (Nerts, mostly) and enjoy pizza (from Pizza Hut, no less) at the Hunters' house. We are grateful to be sharing this experience with each other.   Slideshow (new window)


28 August 2009 -- Student Tour Guides

Centro Since the University of Querétaro (UAQ) sits on the western edge of the historical center of the city, there are ample opportunities for local field trips during class. Today a group of students took turns as "tour guides" for several famous sites associated with the Mexican independence and the founding of the city. All tours were given in Spanish, of course, and professor Alejandro was available to supplement our limited knowledge of the city. ¡Fascinante!   Slideshow (new window)


22 August 2009 -- La Peña de Bernal

Peña de Bernal The third largest monolith in the world towers above the small town of Bernal, about an hour outside of the city of Querétaro. The group enjoyed a short but strenuous hike up the rock (peña), whose peak is at an elevation of 2800 meters. Later we ate comida together, followed by a leisurely stroll around the town. Muy agradable.   Slideshow (new window)


21 August 2009 -- First Week of Classes

Art Class As the first week of classes draws to a close, students seem to be enjoying the process of settling in and getting to know the city of Querétaro. Classes are being held at three sites in the historic center of the city: La Universidad Autónomo de Querétaro (UAQ), El Centro Intercultural de Querétaro (CIQ), and the beautiful Museo de la Ciudad. Students are learning Spanish grammar, composition, conversation and literature, Mexican history and political science, art, and dance (pictured). All classes (except the Engaging Cultures class with the Hunters) are taught entirely in Spanish, which can be quite challenging. However, little by little (poco a poco), our language skills are improving.   Slideshow (new window)


15 August 2009 -- Welcome Comida

Las Monjas Restaurante Today all the students and their host family representatives (i.e., Señoras) shared a meal at el Restaurante Las Monjas. Afterwards we spent some time walking around the city, getting oriented. Lots is happening today in Querétaro; as I type I can hear the conchero music in the distance accompanying one of the many religious festivals that go on in cities across Mexico.   Slideshow (new window)


14 August 2009 -- Students arrive in Querétaro

Students meet their host families This evening, all 13 Westmont students arrived safely in Querétaro, Mexico. All flights were on-time, and no luggage was lost. ¡Gracias a Dios! The students were driven to the Centro Historico to meet their host families, who took them home for the evening (and for the next four months). Tomorrow we will celebrate their arrival with a welcome Comida. Tonight we rest.   Slideshow (new window)


5 August 2009 -- Hunters settle in

wall detail The Hunters have arrived in Querétaro and are settling in. Our home for the next four months is an approximately 400-year-old house in the center of the Spanish colonial section of the city. As we attend to the mundane tasks of transition -- finding groceries, registering the kids for school, getting cell phones to work -- we are appreciating the challenges of operating in another culture and language. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival the Westmont in Mexico class of 2009. ¡Hasta pronto!   Slideshow (new window)