Puebla: adoptive family, murals and Lucy Rose

A couple of months ago one of my favourite artists Lucy Rose announced a string of free shows in Latin America, with a few in Mexico City and Puebla. As I’d been to Mexico’s capital a few times I thought I’d take this opportunity to explore new soil and finally visit a fellow Southampton student (Bex) in her new Mexican hometown of Puebla.

Over the weekend I stayed with her and her adoptive Mexican family which was quite different for me, as during my time in Colima I’ve experienced a host family/lodger situation, a Mexican student house share and living alone. Seeing how comfortable and confident Bex was with her Mexican parents and brother filled me happiness and only a tiny bit of envy.

Throughout the trip I kept thinking to myself how lucky Bex was for finding (or being found by) this lovely bunch. What would my year abroad have been like if I’d really got on with the host family I’d originally stayed with? Would I have met all the people I’ve become so close to? Would we be like a little family unit? These questions rushed through my mind but I knew deep down that everything that has happened so far has been because I’ve had the guts to tell people when things just don’t work for me. So I knew, as I stayed and admired this family that a setup like that wouldn’t function quite so well for me. I value and cherish my independence and freedom far too much to live with a Mexican family; they tend to be very full on, almost too loving and protective, especially if you’re a foreigner.

It worked out amazingly for Bex, and I’m so happy and pleased for her, but coming back to my flat on Tuesday morning reaffirmed how essential it has been to me to have my own space with the independence and freedom I’ve needed to appreciate these last few months in Colima.

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On my final day in Puebla, Bex took me to Xanenetla, a barrio known for its poverty, lack of resources, and dangerous streets. As part of a rejuvenation program, Colectivo Tomate began a transformation of the neighbourhood through a host of bright and meaningful murals. The artists speak to the families who live there, hear their stories, and work with them to design a mural that reflects them, which will cover the fronts of their homes.

Bex formed a great relationship with this neighbourhood and the artists as part of her YARP (year abroaders’ dissertation) and was lucky enough to be asked to paint a mural for one of the families. All of the house murals have a huge significance to the families, illustrating the heartache of losing a loved one, of the struggles of Mexican poverty, or the beauty of a close-knit family working through familial problems.

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As many of my friends know, I’m a huge fan of the Bombay Bicycle Club gang. Rae Morris, Liz Lawrence and Lucy Rose, all of whom have performed with the boys either touring with them, on their records or both. So when I heard Lucy Rose was coming to Mexico, I was over the moon. It was another chance to see her (for free, yet again) and meet her (for the third time). She is one of the most humble and genuine artists I’ve ever seen live, with faultless vocals, so I knew I had to make it to Puebla.

For the past seven weeks, Lucy Rose has been travelling all over Latin America visiting fans who have invited her to come to their hometowns. Completely out of her own pocket, with only her husband Will Morris (the brother of fellow artist Rae Morris) to help guide her through her shows, she has put complete faith into her Spanish-speaking fans to find her a venue and provide her with accommodation.

Puebla’s venue was Profética Casa de la Cultura, a library, café, bar and restaurant with a lovely sepia-toned courtyard in the middle. Rose jumped straight into her first track in the courtyard, and I think it’s fair to say that all of us fans sat cross-legged around her where in complete awe from the first second. Lucy Rose’s vocals are perfect and, in my opinion, better live than recorded, especially when it’s just her and her guitar.

During her set she thanked her Mexico City hosts and fans who had travelled with her to Puebla to see her perform again, her Pueblan hosts, and the whole venue. For an artist like Rose who isn’t “mainstream or commercial”, a fan-organised tour like this just goes to show how important music is to people and how it can travel. “Thank you for looking for me, for finding me. I don’t know how you did it, but thanks.” Through the wonders of Spotify and Facebook, fans all over the world have found Rose’s talent and she thanked her Mexican fans for caring so much about music that they discovered her albums and invited her to their hometowns to do what she is so clearly passionate about: playing music for true fans.

It was a gorgeous and powerful little gig. It was intimate and laid back, but with a strong message. It reiterated the power and influence of music, and the reality that the industry doesn’t have to be completely commercial and consumerist.

Have a read of my review of the gig here if you fancy.

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Feeling good

I’m feeling seriously (and surprisingly) good today, and also very grateful.

Last night was Artney Festival held in Colima’s brewery, which also serves as a very cute beer garden and restaurant. (Perfect for dates, by the way.) I was looking forward to it of course, but yesterday was a ‘low’ day so it took a little while (and a couple beers) for me to get back into the swing of things. The company obviously helped a lot. Although I bumped into a few mates, I stuck with my Couchsurfer friend and our mutual French exchange friend. Both are seriously great, bubbly and enthusiastic; so it didn’t take me long to rid myself of negative energy from earlier on in the day.

I love live music, and this festival was exactly what I’d been searching for since I arrived. Mexican indie, rock, and electro. Seriously good stuff. I completely lost myself in the music, which is an incredible sensation. That’s why I love going to gigs and festivals. Even here where I hadn’t really listened to the bands much, I was completely immersed.

So after last night I was a little worried that I’d wake up low – I sometimes get like that mixed with a hangover – but I did a bit of yoga, had a green tea, showered, dressed up a bit and waited for a mate to pick me up. This guy is one of the first people I met in Colima through Couchsurfing. His partner is Ukrainian and out there they’re celebrating Easter now. So to share a bit of her culture, she cooked a lovely Easter breakfast spread for some friends. I didn’t know anyone apart from the couple but it was really lovely to meet new people.

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¡Muchísimas gracias chicxs!

Being with this bunch of people made me realise that I love having friends of different ages. We ranged from 21 (me, the youngest) up to mid-30s. Not too old, I know. But here in Mexico, I’ve made a variety of friendships with different cultures, ages and ideals. It’s one thing I have to continue when I’m back in the UK.

I honestly had such a nice time and I really appreciate this couple for being so welcoming and open.

I Skyped a uni friend when I got back to the flat, and it made me realise just how lucky I am, and how amazing it is that I’m here in Mexico. I don’t think I give myself enough credit for what I’ve achieved living out here. Travelling, living alone, challenging myself with the language, challenging myself socially, to name just a few. Just deciding to do my Year Abroad in Colima is an achievement, and I never quite realised it.

So I’m in a seriously good, grateful and appreciative mood today. And I’m gonna try keep it that way.