Hi, Jess Mason here! The only proper way to get to know someone is sitting around a campfire. Agreed? If we were having a nice fireside chat, becoming fast friends, I’d tell you that I was born and raised in rural Iowa, transplanted myself to Colorado for over a decade and am now an immigrant living in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.
What started out as a classic, rural, Midwestern upbringing in a tiny town of 100 people, quickly became unusual due to my annual summer vacations spent in Bogota, Colombia.
Half farmgirl. Half Latina city slicker.
Half of my summer spent detasseling corn. Half spent eating empanadas on the street corner.
Half Iowan. Half Colombian.
I had the fortune of growing up in a bicultural and bilingual family; a bit of an oddity for the place and time. I grew up in a magical world where I lived two very distinct lives connected by a long day’s travel – one in Nemaha, Iowa and one in Bogota, Colombia.
Somehow, I managed to completely compartmentalize the two versions of my life and until I was nearly 27 I had no idea how to blend the two together. I was either in South America exploring my Latina-self, or I was in the States, completely ignoring the Hispanic within. I spoke Spanish with my immediate family, but rarely let anyone hear me doing so anywhere else.
It wasn’t until I found myself on a solo backpacking trip around Latin America, that I really started to define, explore and embrace the bicultural aspect of my life. I started the journey in Peru as an all-American backpacker but something slowly started to morph inside me and as I came full circle and returned to Peru many months later I discovered myself identifying as a Latina, simply exploring her roots.
Basically, I found myself well into adulthood scrambling to make up for lost time and doing what most people do in their teenage years – exploring their identity.
Now, married to a Mexican and living in southern Mexico, another cultural layer has been tacked on. As a party of two we now live our lives, make our home and travel far and wide whenever possible, while I continue to explore the blending, banging and mashing of cultures, what it means to me, and how others perceive me when I’m out in the world.
And so, the current incarnation of From Muddy Waters is about a Colombian-American immigrant living in Mexico (me!), exploring what it means to blend and identify with three very distinct cultures.
In previous lives, the blog has served as a travel journal and has helped me document and reflect on living and working abroad for extended periods of time. As my online home since 2007, this has been a space to share snippets of an semi-nomadic life from a Midwesterner’s point of view.
What makes my heart beat a little faster?
I’m a sucker for airports, Asian street food, cafe cortado, campfires, soup, Spanglish,and overland travel through wide-open spaces. I will happily traverse an entire country for something as simple as a sentence or short paragraph in a guide book, blog or article with key words such as, “sleepy fishing village,” “colonial,” “world heritage site,” “fabulously remote”. I prefer to visit fewer places but explore them well. I thrive off of change, movement and uncertainty, and get a kick out of dancing to the beat of my own drum.
And lastly, why Muddy Waters?
If you travel to 45° N 95°W you will find yourself in the mighty small town of Nemaha, Iowa. Population, 100. Nemaha means Muddy Waters in the Chiwere language, once spoken by some of the original inhabitants of this region. Being named after muddy water might not exactly sound flattering, but it is a beautiful place, if you know where to look! If you are one of the fabulous people who loves 50567, drop me a line to let me know you found me!