Abroad: In Comonfort, Mexico
O+A staffers travel frequently and to all sorts of places—which is why we are launching this occasional series of personal travelogues. First up is Designer Alma Lopez, who recently visited her parents’ hometown in Comonfort, Mexico near Guanajuato. Alma grew up with her folks in Abilene, Texas, but remembers frequent childhood trips to Mexico to see her grandparents:
My dad used to take us almost every year until I was 7 or 8. We started going less and less after that. The last time I went by myself—I was 13 or 14. I’ve always been really adventurous that way. My dad used to say, “You always wanted to leave.”
I hadn’t been back since that trip. I always appreciated Mexico as a kid, but I’m 29 now, and you see it completely differently as an adult. I totally loved it. I definitely want to go back.
The purpose of this recent trip was to keep a promise my grandmother made when I first moved to San Francisco. She went to 5 churches at the time with a piece of my clothing and my picture and said a prayer at each one promising if Alma finished school and everything went well we would come back as a family together. Once I finished school in 2010, my dad wanted to go and pay back our respects, but we never had the time. Finally last year he told us we needed to go and do this, so that’s how this trip came about. We pretty much went to all those churches and said a little prayer of thanks. Every church I went to I got emotional. As soon as I walked in I started getting teary eyed. It was a beautiful experience.
I loved hanging out with my grandma and my relatives. Such strong women. They make everything from scratch. As soon as we got there it was like, “Do you want a drink? Are you hungry?” They always wanted to feed us. I remember at one point my brother and I had been eating all day. They were like, “it’s midnight, you should eat something”. We said no we’re done. I remember my mom looking at me like, “You need to just eat it and quit being rude.”
We visited San Miguel De Allende which is 15 minutes away from my parents. It’s become a tourist destination. All the houses are orange, yellow, and pink. When I think of Mexico, that’s what I think of: the bright colors. And the people. How they get together and have meals together. It’s not one big family. It’s one big community. I wish we had more of that here.
I really like the textiles there. The fabrics. I’m really into the weaving thing right now and I saw a bunch of that…quilts and beautiful textiles. I want to start incorporating that a lot more into projects. Also the furniture. There’s a place in Marfa, Texas called Garza Furniture and they use those Mexican colors. All during the trip I was looking for furniture pieces and textiles and thinking how could I make that… not more Americanized, but more refined? How could I bring that here?
We got lost a lot. My dad hadn’t been there in 10 years. He was going by memory driving from Texas to Mexico. When we were getting closer, he was like, “I think it’s this one.” I suggested checking Google Maps, but it doesn’t work outside the US. We ended up getting lost. We went on this dirt road for 45 minutes driving to the end of a cliff. We took another route but got lost again. My dad decided to go on instinct instead of Google Maps and finally got there around midnight. It was terrifying for 4 hours. Just dirt road, dark, and a bunch of cactus.
Going back to Mexico—I can’t express how humbling it was. I thought I suffered when I moved to San Francisco: I had to take the bus; I didn’t have a car, but that was nothing compared to what my parents grew up in. It made me want to come back and be somebody. Work hard, keep going, and never settle. My parents are such hard workers, and I think that’s why I have such a strong work ethic. I feel like I never get sympathy from them when I work crazy hours. I never get “You should rest.” They are like: “When there’s work, there’s work. You should just work.” I think I understand that now.