Since my conversion to Islam, I have spent every Ramadan in Canada. My Ramadans are often filled with the fasting experience and sumptuous iftars in my local mosque, as well as visiting fellow converts, for whom Ramadan can be a very lonely experience.
This year was different. My life is currently in flux, first because I am moving from one city to another to pursue a Masters Degree and will be leaving behind the part of my family that lives in Canada, and also because I decided to visit Mexico, my home country, after three years of not visiting the capital and seven years of not seeing my maternal side of the family, which lives in southern Mexico.
This year I started Ramadan with the “left foot” (a Mexican expression that indicates starting something in the wrong way) having to make the decision not to fast while traveling in Mexico. Despite the negative judgements that I experienced from fellow Muslims and even converts, I did not want to antagonize my Mexican family by showing up without eating in the few days that I was going to spend there. But I felt guilty not participating in the regular Ramadan rituals, so I decided to look for mosques that I could visit in Mexico City.
Although lately I have come across some media reports that make it sound as if Latin America is becoming Muslim, the reality of things is that outside the United States, Islam is still barely known in many Latin American countries. Mexico, being one of the biggest, has a small Muslim community that is difficult to find and that does not have a proper mosque space that Muslims can enjoy. After contacting four different Muslim groups, I received no answer from three and the fourth one directed me to a prayer space in a creepy building in a very bad neighborhood in the city (by the way, that is a no-no when traveling to Mexico City). [Read more...]