Potash Hill

Students visit City of Dreadful Delight

During Spring Break, seven students and three faculty members traveled to Mexico City to explore local history, art and the development of Mexican society and culture from precolonial times to the present. The trip was an extension of a spring course called City of Dreadful Delight, Mexico City: From Tenochtitlan, Capital City of the Aztec Empire, to Post-Modern Megalopolis, taught by Spanish professor Rosario de Swanson and art professors Tim Segar and Cathy Osman. 

“This course focused on Mexico City as a case study in which to read the evidence of the historical, political, social, economic and cultural life of the country,” said Rosario. The March trip, made possible with support from the Christian Johnson Endeavor Fund, included visits to the ancient city of Teotihuacán, the historic canal district of Xochimilco and the house of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

“Frida’s house was truly amazing,” said freshman Caitlin Hargrove. “Her work hurts, because it’s so truthful and beautiful and ugly at the same time, and it tears away at you in a way that is good and healthy. Frida really lived, she really felt all her emotions with her whole body, and I think a lot of people these days can learn from that.”

Sophomore Daniel Kalla said, “A highlight was our day trip to Cholula to see the pyramids that were buried as protection from the Spaniards during the conquest, and visiting the cathedral built on the peak of the Great Pyramid.”

A two-day side trip brought the group to Puebla for a taste of colonial architecture, such as the 17th-century church Santa María Tonantsintla and other historic buildings. They also dropped in on alumna Jennifer Musi ’04, a former student of Cathy and Tim’s, who lives in a beautiful neighborhood of Mexico City, where she continues to pursue her interests in ceramics.

The students’ explorations of Mexico City brought to life what they had learned in class and helped inform discussions for the rest of the semester. “After studying the history of Mexico, the syncretism between the European influences and the indigenous influences is really apparent,” said junior Nicole Haeger.

“I learned more about gender roles in Mexico through just being there and observing,” added Caitlin, who is interested in women’s studies, gender and sexuality. “By watching the people and their relations with one another, you can learn a lot about the way that culture shapes thought processes.”

Sophomore James Munoz said, “ I enjoyed being fulfilled intellectually, culturally and emotionally.” Other Spring Break trips that played a similar role took students to Virginia to build houses for Habitats for Humanity and to the Navajo Nation in Arizona as part of an interdisciplinary class on service-learning with the Diné and Lakota peoples.