Navigating our way through the bustling streets, Elena, Olivia, and I threaded our way through the crowds of people. Glancing up at street signs, we turned many corners and passed a variety of vendors before we finally arrived at our destination. Aléjandro Martinez, an artist that our group had been arranged to meet and learn from though our professor’s connections, had invited the three of us to his students’ art gallery at one of Oaxaca’s local art academies. It was here where Olivia and Elena would be able to interview him, to better grasp the generational impact that his artistic style has produced. In charge of taking photos of the outing, I was to camouflage into the background. As the diversely beautiful paintings, sculptures, and photographs absorbed me into the gallery’s surroundings, and the students, teachers, and patrons began to pass by me with ease and little regard, I had a sort of epiphany.
Lowering my camera, I became fascinated with the capacity to which the trip had allowed me to evolve. Knowing next to no Spanish, I was amazed at how immersed I had become into local Oaxacan life. While some credit is due to Olivia and Elena, whose Residential College Spanish proved most useful at times, I realized that having a purpose in Oaxaca beyond leisure had enabled me to integrate. This purpose stemmed from our GIEU project. It had given me and my site mates a point in which to begin. It localized our focus, and pushed us to adapt. The navigating of Oaxaca’s streets, the vendors who had familiar faces, and the community events that we were partaking in are just a few examples of how the creation of our project went beyond helping local Oaxacan artists; it was providing us opportunities to coalesce with Oaxaca.
For more information on the GIEU programs, visit the CGIS website.