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Letter from abroad: S/pace of Life

Guanajuato is shaped like a bowl. Brightly painted houses squeeze haphazardly onto the rising hills; downtown plazas, gardens, and shops collect at the bottom; and cars and people go down and climb back up the narrow, winding streets. Unless you drive around the panoramic highway or otherwise reach the rim of the bowl, you cannot see the horizon.

Being nestled in the confines of Guanajuato’s basket can make you feel warm and situated, swaddled like a baby. Or it can make you feel crazy. Landlocked. Trapped.

It’s not unlike being on Mills campus, and, similarly, it’s good for one’s sanity to make it out the front gate from time to time.
Push down the edges of the bowl of Guanajuato and flatten them out with a rolling pin. Widen the streets, raise up the buildings, turn the geometric, intersecting chaos into a grid of right angles. Now stretch it out for miles and you have, where once stood Tenochtitlan, the booming, the bustling: Mexico City.

A couple of weekends ago I made the five-hour bus ride southeast to the gargantuan metropolis. Going from enclosed colonial town to sprawling urbania was a bit disorienting, but wonderful.

My second night there I went out to the La Zona Rosa, the famed gay section of town, to check out the scene, and, you know, the ladies. After a couple of drinks I stopped analyzing obsessively over what it meant for me, with my specific social location, to be occupying this space and just took it in.

Maybe this will sound strange to you Millsians, but I was super excited just to see gay people again. I mean, I couldn’t really claim it as my space or my community (so many complexities going on there!), but I was grateful for its existence as a traveling queer looking for some refuge. Being there, even for just a few hours, recharged me and put a bounce in my step.

Coming home produced mixed feelings.  The gayness was gone, no glitter to be found.  But I had missed my host family and home cooked meals and knowing my way around.  Small towns and big cities both have their pluses and minuses.

Maybe I’m idealizing, but it strikes me that Mills offers a unique combination of the two:  it’s homey. And homo-y.

My hope is to realize that same fulfilling mixture here.  I just found out that there’s a gay bar tucked away somewhere a few blocks from my house.  I must have walked past it a hundred times.

Well, I know where I’ll be this Saturday night.  And I know where I’ll be Sunday morning: eating pancakes with my host family in my PJs.

Terra Mikalson is a junior and an Ethnic Studies major currently studying abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico.  Read more of her writing on her study abroad web-blog, “T(i)erra Mexican” at