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A Warm Embrace This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

When one thinks of Mexico, the first image that usually comes to mind is of a place reminiscent of Cancun- with sandy beaches, warm breezes, and bikini clad women. Yet, Cancun was the absolute last place I was thinking of as I sat in the backseat of a van being driven by a man who I had met five minutes ago. Crammed amongst luggage and various other wedding guests, I was barely able to get a proper look at the changing landscape around us. Slowly, we went from the white walls of Merida-the capital of the state of Yucatan in Mexico , to country sides riddled with stray dogs and houses with peeling Coca Cola signs plastered on the walls. Finally, we reached our destination- the Hacienda San Jose Cholul.

My cousin Maggie was getting married to her college boyfriend, and when I first heard they had chosen a restored hacienda in a remote area of the Yucatan I couldn’t help but wonder at her sanity. Despite my initial hesitations, the hacienda was definitely not what I expected, and not in a bad way. The Hacienda San Jose Cholul dates back to the 16th century, where it had been used as a plantation. The days were balmy and humid, making every movement seem a little slower. To say that the hacienda was beautiful would be an understatement. With its lush gardens and towering trees that seem older than time, one cannot help but feel like nothing has changed much in this little patch of earth for the past hundred years. The employees at the hacienda did not seem to be there to solely serve me, but because they and their families have worked at the hacienda for generations- long before it had ever become a hotel.

Although I was content to stay at the hacienda, a trip was arranged the next day to tour Chichén Itzá, the Mayan ruins that lie approximately 120 Km from Merida. My first glimpse of the gray stoned pyramids and buildings was framed by an almost unreal blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. It was hot, but somehow I forgot the heat and the thousands of other tourists. In that moment, I was surrounded by history, and there was nothing else. Hundreds of people wandered in the vast expanse, selling everything from hand woven handkerchiefs to wooden panther heads carved by men sitting cross-legged in the dirt; their only tool a dull knife. By the end of the day I was exhausted, both by the heat and by the awe I felt.

The rest of the trip passed both slowly and quickly. There were breakfasts of authentic dishes made by a gourmet chef working with an elderly Mexican lady hand making tortillas, hours spent lazily swatting at bugs in a hammock, and dinners spent by candlelight, bathed in the pleasant Mexican air. The day of my cousin’s wedding dawned bright and blue, almost as if the world had conspired to create the perfect atmosphere for a wedding. Adorned in a simple but beautiful white gown she was escorted down the aisle by my uncle, and was married. I spent my last night in Mexico dancing with strangers underneath a starry sky. The aroma of the plants embraced me, and I never wanted to leave. It has been almost two years since the trip, but if I close my eyes and try hard enough, I can still feel that warm and familiar embrace.



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