Cuatro de Julio en México – 4 July 2004

by Jim on 2014/07/04

[Jimbaux just needed . . . to realign.]

Experiencing an American holiday in another country was weird – in a good way.  On the previous day, I said goodbye to my roommate Michael and then went and gave a railroad slide show a to a group of local railroad enthusiasts.  A question posed to me during that slide show had me thinking plenty, and that is how I started Sunday 04 July 2004.

Here are some more excerpts from my Wednesday 07 July 2004 journal entry (my first journal entry since July 02.)

There is much about which I must write.  I said goodbye to Michael on Saturday.  This was a big deal for me at the time, but with what has transpired since, it seems like a distant memory.  Still, I miss him very much.

A big part of “what has transpired since” was, as I already mentioned, the thought process in which I found myself after the slide show that Saturday evening, but more happened between July 04 and the night of July 07, as you will see in two upcoming posts.

Here is more from that July 07 journal entry, as it relates to July 04.

This past weekend, my mind was running at high speed.  It was an emotional and memorable weekend.  It is very difficult to organize my thoughts about it here and now.  I would probably do better to wait until I get home to sit in front of a computer and type it, but I’ll write as much as I can about it now before I go to sleep.

The obvious problem with waiting until being in front of a computer to type one’s thoughts is that many of those thoughts will escape the mind, some permanently, during the wait time.  That seems to have been the case here as it all too often is, but what I did write subsequently in the journal entry is still revealing.  The “condition” mentioned in the first sentence in the next excerpt of that journal entry was my hyperactive brain that weekend, in an obvious state of sensory overload.

Several factors contributed to the condition in which I found myself.  Among them were Michael’s departure, the Independence Day holiday in the United States, a question posed to me at the meeting of El Club Amigo de Ferrocarril de Monterrey before my slide show about why I am here learning Spanish, and the quinceañera that Michael and I attended Friday night, and my knowledge of my impending departure.

Much of it was thought in terms of “What does Independence Day mean for me today?”  I would have written this entry on Sunday afternoon, but the afternoon was clear, which has been rare here; so, I went in search of trains to photograph.  I didn’t find any, but I shot a picture of a grade crossing sign.

Here is that picture of a grade crossing sign.

That picture was taken 1t 18:55 on the road to the TFM intermodal facility at Salinas-Victoria.  This area is now double-track, and the ballasting for the new track was about to begin or had already begun, as you will see in upcoming posts.

One decade later, after much more evolution of thought and philosophy, I saw much more about how hollow cries of “freedom” and “independence” are in the United States of America.

Later that evening, I took this picture of what appeared to be some new apartments.

My photography notebook includes no information about this picture.

Here is the rest of my journal entry’s writings on what was going through my mind that day, partially prompted by a question at the slide show the night before.  Before I started showing slides but while I already had the attention of just about everyone at the club, one of the members of the club who was about my age asked me why I was learning Spanish.  I was stumped.  I had no answer to his question.  I only told him that it was a good question.

I ended up spending most of the night thinking about how to best answer [his] question.  By the time I got back here, showered, and got read for bed, it was midnight, which meant that it was the 4th of July, Independence Day.  I celebrated by listening to the soundtrack of the movie Glory twice.

I couldn’t sleep.  I had slept late the previous morning, and my brain was at work, thinking about [his] question, and what my answer to it would mean as I celebrate Independence Day – celebrating my home culture while trying to learn about another.

Furthermore, when I woke up, there was a program on BBC World about reassessing the role of the United States in today’s world.

In writing that, I failed to fully capture what I meant and thus failed to really articulate what I meant.  Reading it might have been a let-down for you.

The question of why I was learning Spanish should have been easy to answer, but an easy answer would have been an incomplete answer.  Still, “self-betterment” would have worked, along with a hope that that self-betterment would also serve to make the world a better place.

Indeed, it was and has been my hope, as expressed on this site before, to increase other people’s understanding in away that reduces conflict, strife, and threats to harmony.  By portraying Mexico as the real place that that it is and its people as the real people who they are, with their own issues and their own nuances, I hope to educate (while entertaining, if possible) in a way that reduces unnecessary and unfair stereotypes and to therefore crumble the walls that are supported by those stereotypes; also, if this is true for Mexico and Mexicans, then it can, by extension, be true for all other cultures.

There is absolutely nothing on its own wrong with celebrating one’s national independence day, but there is a dark side of self-centered nationalism that often accompanies such celebrations.  Since 04 July 2004 fell on a Sunday, we did not have classes on that day anyway, but I don’t know if ITESM would have had class for international students that day anyway; I seem to vaguely remember a discussion about this with our professor, wondering what the institution does when the 4th falls on a weekday, but I don’t remember what the answer was.  Thinking about it, though, if I were an administrator at ITESM, I’d have the international students come to class on July 04 like it was a regular day; as part of the cultural immersion that such an experience is, treating July 4 the way that any other Mexican treats it would reinforce to the mostly-American international students that they are not in their home country anymore.

Just like with the journal entry, I seem to be unable to articulate my thoughts here.  I have, though, more recently come to see many of the ways that US Independence Day is celebrated as hollow, particularly because, as I was unable to see in 2004, we are not truly free.  My eyes were only starting to open then.

Here’s to hoping that your own eyes become more open,



1 Nathan Kaufman July 4, 2014 at 16:04

It’s eye opening to be in far away places and see how normal and ordinary days are that we as Americans hold so highly. I’ve been in Europe (Spain I think) and Israel for the 4th of July, and the only people I could share that with was those I was traveling with at the time. We were a little too busy to celebrate anyway, so it was like “another day at the office” or as much as it can be being in another country and another culture.

2 BobE July 4, 2014 at 20:31

I have “celebrated” July 4th in rather subdued fashion for 36 years now. Most often at the office, since I am a working stiff. If it’s a weekend, yay, it’s a weekend. Wasn’t a day off during my student years, since I had part-time jobs all through college and grad school. (Even had I remained in Canada, I probably wouldn’t have had off… part-time work was in retail) NBD, really.

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