It’s easy to step back in time in Mexico. A walk through the Centro Historico or the Panteon de Belen cemetery in Guadalajara can take you there in minutes. So can a stroll down the cobblestone streets of Gaunajuato or crossing the threshold of any of the colonial churches that dot the skylines.
But it’s not always the historical sites that send me traveling back in time. Just as it’s not always colonial times that I find myself traveling to.
I was in Mexico City last weekend, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a wealth of history to be absorbed from its architecture, public parks, museums and historical sites. It wasn’t these things, however, that sent me time traveling during my recent visit. No castles or revolutions for me. Instead, I came home stuck somewhere in the mid 1960s – taken there by a single sign that I saw on my taxi ride into the city. A sign that stood in the middle of a parking lot of a shopping mall and announced in big letters, “Woolworth.”
Woolworth was a store I went to on a near weekly basis growing up – every time my family drove the 17 miles from our small hometown to go shopping in the bigger town of Terre Haute, Indiana. It was a store where a young girl with a little change or a few dollars in her pocket could wander the aisles and always find something to buy. A place where I routinely held back at least one quarter to put into the photo booth at the back of the store and walked away with a string of four selfies before that term had even been invented. A place with a lunch counter that my grandmother could sit at if she came along and where we would all meet at a designated time. It’s a place of fond memories and personal history. And it’s a store that no longer exists in the United States – one that I hadn’t seen in years.
It wasn’t the first time that some of my own history has been reawakened by something I’ve seen in Mexico. The metal slides I see in parks and playgrounds take me back to elementary school yards and memories of wax paper and burning bottoms. Pay phones on street corners take me back to a time when I never left home without a dime in my billfold and a reminder from my mom. A horse and rider strolling beside railroad tracks or in the boulevard near our house takes me back to small town parades and county fairs. And the prevalence of original VW Beetles in traffic takes me back to my college years when a yellow and beloved “bug” was my not so trusty transportation.
Mexico, I’m finding, is an eclectic mix of old and new – the same description that sums up my decorating style. No wonder it feels like home.