...I'm back from Mexico. And as of the last couple days, I'm over the double-whammy of Montezuma's Revenge and respiratory infection that I left with. It was a good experience until the last couple of days, but I might sound racist if I describe it from my ugly American perspective.
I'll take that chance though, because otherwise, what's the point in writing this journal? This is my experience; your mileage may vary.
Being in Morélia felt like I'd been thrown into a tossed salad of time, if your time metric is the development of the US. Buildings from the 1700s (the colonial architecture was absolutely astounding) up to maybe the 1960s, but practically nothing that looked any newer that. Fashion from the early 90s. Hairstyles from the 50s. Cars from the late 80s, and streets that looked to be of similar age. And then walk-signs and cell phones from the present. Hell, I'd say some of the walk signs looked more advanced than you'd find in most of the states. Downtown looked like the downtown of a central Florida city, but in the outskirts there'd be compounds that looked like they belonged to the merchant classes of imperial China, and then dozens of buildings in a row almost attached to each other where the 2nd floor appeared to be either destroyed or unfinished, but the lights were on and people were home. Factory and business buildings that would be considered abandoned and probably condemned in the US were bustling in the suburbs of Morélia. One side of the road every available surface in arm's reach would be covered in graffiti whether a modern storefront or a colonial masterpiece of a church; and on the other there'd be a beautiful, spotless walled garden of jacaranda, roses, and Mediterranean cypress. My impression was that the differentials in wealth that we usually see separated by miles in the US tend to show up in Morélia separated by a few blocks at most, and sometimes on two sides of the same block. The contrast is quite dramatic.
Also, one thing that pleasantly surprised both me and several of the people I knew/met at the conference was that as long as you were walking around in the daytime, it felt very safe in most of downtown Morélia. Sure, there were panhandlers, and more graffiti than I've seen in the US in my entire life, but there were also unaccompanied middle and high-school students in uniform walking many blocks between school and wherever they chose for their lunch venues, and again in the evening when it was time to go home. I did a lot of solo exploring on my lunch breaks (which is how I got all the awesome cathedral pictures) and I gotta say I felt at least as safe in downtown Morélia as I've ever felt in the downtown area of the city I grew up in, if not more so. I can't say the same at night—I never went out on my own after dark—but you wouldn't do that in the US either.
By far the hardest part for me was finding safe food. I struggle with that in the US as it is, and here a lot of the time my safest food is salad. Not so in Mexico where you can't drink the water, can't have drinks with ice, and can't eat anything that's been washed in the water unless it's been peeled or cooked. I avoided any water that wasn't bottled, ice, and unpeeled raw fruit and vegetables religiously. Still I got sick. TBH I'm amazed I lasted as long as I did. My poor brown eye turned into a flaming red eye—the EYE OF SAURON—in a matter of hours and stayed that way for days. I also had nobody to contact for help (the one person whose contact info I had could only be reached by email and didn't respond until 6 hours after the havoc started), so I had to stagger several blocks to the nearest pharmacy between episodes, only to find their equivalent of a 7-11, OXXO, has more supplies for stomach ailments than the damn pharmacies. Nearly passed out in the hotel lobby when I got back and asked for more water bottles before I went back to my room (to find I'd locked myself out, at which point I just started crying). So yeah, the first 5 days were nice. The last day and the trip home sucked. The Au Bon Pain prepacked salad I ate during my layover in Dallas, TX, my first raw veg in a week, was the best shitty salad I've ever had.
Lesson learned: Morélia was beautiful, but my fellow Americans, thank your government every day for clean tap water and the ability to shower or brush your teeth without worrying what might happen if the water goes down your throat. Even if it's so chlorinated that your burps could rust Bender.