Familia y Fiestas

A few weeks ago, I hopped on a plane in LA heading to Mexico with my aunt and two of my first-cousins. A second-cousin left at the same time on a different flight and met up with my aunt’s fianc√© and his son. We landed in Guadalajara just before another first-cousin and his girlfriend and were greeted at the airport by her immediate family… Are you confused yet? This was just the beginning of my amazing week exploring new regions of Mexico in a slightly chaotic way that always seemed to work.

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The group that arrived at various times on Friday night!

So why were we all there? To celebrate, of course! My cousin Brett, the one I visited in Chile in 2012, just graduated from UC Berkeley in May and his girlfriend, Sofia, is Mexican. So our family seized the opportunity to visit and meet her extended family for two and a half weeks this summer. I jumped on the trip for my week off between spring and summer sessions at school. All I knew going in was my flights and what main cities we would be traveling to. The rest of the details had been graciously worked out by my aunt and Sofia’s mom.

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Street performers in Guadalajara

After all landing sometime late Friday (or early Saturday), we stayed in Guadalajara for the night. Saturday we got up and explored the central part of the city. I’m not a huge fan of cities, but it was nice to get a taste of the history and culture while we walked through the older squares. There were some dramatic dancers performing, which was entertaining to watch. In the afternoon, we piled into the cars and headed about 1.5 hours southwest to the town of Sayula. This is where Sofia grew up and where her family owns several houses, two ice cream shops and an avocado farm (on the outskirts of town). We were greeted by many of the extended family at a fiesta that night, complete with tons of grilled meat and guacamole!

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Sofia’s mother, myself, and Skylar getting ice cream

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The Graduate!! Proud of you, Brett!!

Sunday we went to a family-style restaurant on a ranch that is incredible and only open on weekends. I tried so many new food that I can’t even begin to list them here. Suffice it to say that my definition of good Mexican food has expanded! After eating, we explored the grounds and checked out the peacocks and horses. Sunday afternoon we drove up into the hills surrounding Sayula, where the avocado farm is located. The family has over 6,000 trees of various ages and it was really interesting to hear Sofia’s parents describe their process of planting, tending, and harvesting the two species of trees they have. For a late dinner that night, we went to Tacos Panchos in town. Not only were the street-style tacos out-of-this-world, but the men making them were like food ninjas! I was mesmerized watching how quickly and efficiently they worked.

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View from the avocado farm

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Street taco ninjas

Monday morning we wandered around Sayula checking out the local attractions. My favorites were the mini-tour we had of the knife factory and the samples of cajeta (a creamy, wood-fired treat similar to dulce de leche). In the afternoon, we piled back into the cars for the three-hour trip west to the coast of Mexico and the city of Manzanillo. We couldn’t leave Sayula without one more scoop of delicious ice cream (pistachio for me!) and then we were off! The drive was actually quite beautiful until we got into the city of Manzanillo. We entered through the shipyard, which was the more industrial side of town and not so pretty. But just north of the city we turned into our condo complex and were thrilled to see how close we were to the beach!

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“Our” cove, infinity pool, and water slide in Manzanillo

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Iguana basking in the sun.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent soaking up the sun at the infinity pool with excursions down to swim in the cove of the Pacific Ocean. There were plenty of card games, lots of book reading, tons of sunshine and even some intense water-sliding! We even saw some fairly large iguanas both on the rocks by the beach and in the trees by the pool. Dinners were delicious each night and no one could say they went hungry. And to top all of that off, my family is hilarious so most night were spent laughing, dancing, singing, etc. Never a dull moment with the Oliver/Butler clan, lol.

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My extended family is pretty awesome!

Unfortunately, I had to head home Wednesday evening so I showered after the beach day and caught a ride to the Manzanillo airport. After a long(ish) layover at LAX, I landed back in San Diego late that night. This was an incredible trip with wonderful people and I am so grateful to have gotten to tag along on part of this adventure. It also got me excited to start my Spanish classes this week, but more on that later!

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