Staring at my reflection through a French mirror
At the end of 2017 I was blessed with an amazing ten-day trip to Paris, France. I had no idea this experience would change the way I view myself and the world around me. As I entered the country I was greeted with a warm welcome, many smiles, and the most helpful human beings in a very confusing subway-system-address-finding country. As I rode my first train heading towards Paris, I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) by all of the graffiti, rundown homes and apartment buildings, and factories such as H&M stationed next to these neighborhoods. I was instantly reminded that in the cities we often idolize, many lives are forced out and relocated right outside, where resources are not as attainable, poverty is a common struggle, and violence is high.
After a few days into my trip I notice something I have never truly felt before. I felt very American while also being viewed as Spanish. In the U.S. the dominant label that follows me around is Latina; and although it has never bothered me to be labeled as so, due to my immense love for my roots, it felt very unusual having to explain to the French that I am from America rather than from Mexico and El Salvador; like I do in the U.S. My accent immediately caused the people around me to smile and sometimes even giggle which lead to eye contact and exchanges of appreciation for each other. It was inevitable to not feel like such an American. Often, I was also spoken to in Spanish which caused my heart to be filled with joy; although, I’m not really sure why, it just did.
In a place so far away from home, the universe will force you to do some self-reflection. One thing I noticed instantly while my stay in Paris was the importance on valuing resilience, community, family, healthy meals, the uniqueness in people and the true emphasis on natural beauty. I was inspired by everyone around me. They all dressed in such elegance, carried themselves in a professional and confident manner, and promoted a sense of connection with greetings filled with hugs and kisses to complete strangers but in a welcoming way as they looked over the menu posted outside of restaurants. I slowly started to be intrigued with the idea of minimal makeup and embracing the features that I once chose to see as flaws but now appreciate as beautiful unlike-no-other features that set me apart and radiate as its own definition of beauty. France is beautiful for its scenery and attractions but it’s not these things alone that make France beautiful. The people of France make the scenery beautiful. My heart knew it was in Paris: The City of Love because not only did I fall in love with the city and the people, but I was taught to fall in love with the natural and true essence of who I am.