I am standing in the middle of the dance floor at a glamorous wedding at a hacienda outside of Puebla, Mexico.
It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited with old architecture, lush grass, beautiful flowers and secret hideaways.
There is a large band on stage with entertainers; everyone is dancing, laughing and celebrating. The bride’s father approaches to ask if I am having a good time. "This is the real Mexico," he says, before he walks away, motioning around him, “Not what you hear on the TV and in the papers.” And he was right.
The day after the wedding, we shared a ride back from the after-wedding party in the historic town of Cholula, Mexico with a French couple who had also attended the wedding. We got talking to the driver when he asked us how we liked Puebla. We explained how in each of our countries, Mexico receives such negative press that you never hear about the positive aspects of the country, as that is not newsworthy. The French couple shared their surprise at the nice supermarkets that even carried French products and many other things—it was not as poor as they expected. My husband confessed he was a bit worried about the level of danger, given all we hear about cartels, drugs, violence and kidnappings in Mexico. The driver shared his view: “Probably 30% of the country is bad—dangerous people, problems, violence. But that’s a minority. The majority of the country is like this.” Other Mexicans have put that percentage much higher (and yes, I have heard scary stories that have happened to people I know). But whatever the case, there are many great parts of Mexico worth visiting that are relatively untouched by violence.
We spent the day before the wedding exploring the old town of Puebla, a world heritage site.
The colonial architecture dates back to the 1500s, with bright colors and unique patterns.
Out of everything we saw that day, my youngest daughter was most fascinated by a statue of Jesus, covered in blood that was in the old cathedral.
She stared at it for 10 minutes asking questions and more questions. I explained to her in simple terms about Jesus. I left out that he was the son of God, because as non-Christians, we don’t actually believe that. Even though my husband is Muslim and I am not, we share the same views on Jesus, which is that he was a prophet. I explained this to my daughter, that he was a very kind person, a great person, a powerful person. She listened intently. I tried to gloss over that he was nailed to a cross as that seemed a bit gruesome to share at age four, but she kept pressing for details of all the blood. As each of the visitors stopped to cross themselves in front of Jesus, Lila informed them, “Did you know he was a very powerful person?”
Lila also loved the dresses you see in storefronts everywhere as often as you find Starbucks in the U.S. “When I grow up, can I be a princess and where that dress?” she kept asking.
My older daughter loved the pigeons and fountains.
But perhaps the best thing of all about Puebla and our trip to Mexico was watching one of my best friends glow at her wedding and witness her perfect wedding day unroll, with every single detail exactly as she had always dreamed.