One of the assignments for my photography class was to find people, places or things that represented my identity in New Zealand. Most of the people in my class were international students, so my professor gave us this project to encourage us to find our place in New Zealand.

My Mexican heritage is very important to me and I was afraid I wasn’t going to see any Latino people or culture represented in New Zealand. As time passed, I felt more comfortable there and began to think of it as my second home. I eventually found small pockets of Latino culture throughout Auckland.


I admit it took some searching, but I found places that were touched by Latino culture. Every time I found a place, I felt as if I was closer to home, despite the miles separating me. By having these comforting places and food near me in Auckland, I was able to better acclimate to life in New Zealand.


I went to a farmer’s market at the wharf and had arepas, a sandwich-like food from Colombia and Venezuela. They are filled with savory meat, cheese, and fresh avocado.

I also found a little food stand run by two men from Mexico City. They had all the Mexican food classics that I was missing from home: burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas and chile rellenos. I remember taking my first bite of the burrito and tasting beans that came from Mexico! It was something I missed very much.


I even found a little store called Iko Iko that had all types of fun items! There were fluffy pillows of Frida Kahlo, really nice leather goods and the cutest New Zealand stationary. But what I was most drawn to was this big glass box in the middle of the store. It was filled with items that all represented something in Latino culture. There were many Day of the Dead skulls made of porcelain, the Virgin Mary statues, little cactus like the ones seen all over Mexico’s deserts and many more cute little items. It was like seeing Mexico in a box. And despite the fact that there is so much more to Mexico than these items, it was nice to see an honest effort to bring small items together that represent some of Latino culture.


I really felt like a local when I realized that I knew my way around Auckland. My search for Latino culture and people not only led me to these pockets of my culture but also allowed me the chance to really explore Auckland. I found my favorite stores, parks and restaurants by walking around and searching for Latino places.

It was thanks to this project that I realized I felt like a local. Auckland was no longer an unknown place but a haven where I felt safe and comfortable.

Kristy Plaza is a TEAN Alum and graduate of University of Southern California. She studied abroad with TEAN in Auckland, New Zealand.