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Stuff Mexicans Like #21: La Colita (The Mexican Ponytail)

10 Dec

The Mexican ponytail is a critical component in every Mexican girl’s life from the breast to the grave. It consists of brushing wet hair back, applying a handful of gel (see: “Stuff Mexicans Like #19: El Gel”), pulling the hair as taut as humanly possible, and twisting an elastic hair band around the tail, leaving the female with a death grip on the back of her scull for 10-12 hours each day. This phenemenon can be observed in each and every Mexican school throughout the republic, viewing from the back of the classroom: a sea of dark colitas.

Why the obsession with the tight pigtail in the rear-center of the head? There are a couple schools of thought. One is that the Spanish Catholic Macho influence has left parents with the desire to make their girls seem more masculine. Another is that of control. La Virgencita (See “Stuff Mexicans Like #2: La Virgen de Guadalupe”) is the center of Mexican culture and values. The idea of control, rigidity, and simplicity all jive with the image of a virgen or “niña bien” (good girl). Hair hanging loose all over the place swinging to and fro with the wind, doing just as it pleases is not an acceptable state for Mexican tresses. Nor is a single barrette, a simple loose braid, or 2 casually ribboned pigtails. It is all-or-nothing when it comes to Mexican hairdressing.

The last theory is my own, based on the deep-seated rascism I have felt and witnessed here in Northern Latin America. A Chicana (Mexican-American or pocha: ruined one, as Mexicans lovingly refer to them) friend of mine posted to her personal internet site: “I am Mexican. If you don’t believe me, I can pull back my bangs.”  She was referring to her very low hairline and almost non-existent forehead. This is a typical look for many, if not most, indigenous Mexican people. That being said, with the combination of the low forehead being equated with Indios (an insult in Mexico. See “Stuff Mexicans Like #10: Las Güeras”) and the desire to look more European, (namely white), it makes sense that many Mexican women may want to pull their hair back as far off the forehead as possibly, thus lengthening the start of the hairline, creating a somehwat more European, less Indio look.

Whatever the reason, I am always acutely aware at Mexican children’s birthday parties & social gatherings that my child’s sloppy side braid or loose curls make a stark contrast to other Mexican children’s tight, super gel’d du’s. I wonder if other parents at the party equate the loose hairstyles of me and my child to be congruent with their ideas of loose, uncontrollable Gringas in general.

Just for today, I am ok with that. Happy Hair scrutinizing!

Exhibit A: Little Mexican girl headed to a birthday party

Exhibit B: Little Gringa girl headed to a birthday party

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Stuff Mexicans Like #16: 20 en la Casa; 10 en el Carro; 5 en la Cama

2 Jun
Headed to Rosa & Fernando’s wedding at the Rancho.
Mexico is a Catholic country. Very Catholic. It is also, like Catholocism, full of contrasts and contradictions. Ie; It is not ok to be gay. It is not ok to have sex outside of marriage. It is not ok to use condoms or other birth control. HOWEVER, if you are gay and do happen to be having sex outside of marriage, you fall into a lucky loophole which says that you, sir, can use condoms! Unfortunately, poor Sra. Fulana, with 8 small mouths to feed and an overworked, under-paid husband, cannot. Go figure. (Did I mention that it is also not ok to refuse conjugal relations with your mate, even if you are already sleeping 7 to the “matrimonial” size bed, with 2 on the sofa?)
Well, this is orthodox Mexican Catholic thinking, anyway.Which brings me to the topic: highly populated casas, coches, & camas. Thanks to extremely strict catholic sex rules and extremely lax Mexican seat belt laws, one can find 16-24 people in any small home or flat-bed pickup truck at any given time. I go to visit some of my Sanmiguelense friends and while they slip off to the bathroom, people- men, women, teens,  small children, and the elderly- begin seeping out of every nook and cranny like kitchen-counter ants.
“Ummm…. Who was that group of people that just came out of door #2?” I ask inquisitively. Seems like a logical question to me. What people, he says. “That family of 6?” I say. “Oh, probably just my brother or my cousin, Juana.” He tells me. “And the three elderly men out on the patio?” I inquire. “Es el primo y los hermanos de mi mama,” I am informed. (It’s the cousin & the brothers of my mother.)
EL COCHE
When it is time to take a trip to el mercado in Celaya, which we all know is the biggest and most ghetto-fabulous of all Guanajuato markets, anyone and everyone interested heads out to the family’s 3 cylander pickup for an adventure. “You sat by the cab window last time,” whines Tia Carla to Abuelita. Eventually, everyone is squeezed in, often with Popis, the family Terrier-Retriever-Poodle-Rot mix, and a handful of livestock. No one usually falls out along the way, due to Mexican Personal Responsability (see Stuff Mexicans Like #8), but if someone does happen to take a spill on the carretera hacia Celaya (the freeway to Celaya) or at the Pipila Glorieta (the roundabout with the Pipila monument), no te preocupes! (Don’t worry!) Everyone works together to pull Great Grandpa Pablo back to the safety of the truck bed and all cross themselves, giving thanks to La Virgencita (see Stuff Mexicans Like #2), for Seguro Popular (Mexican Free Public Health Insurance). (See Stuff Mexicans Like #6: Personal Responsability.)
I digress. Back to this Mexican Population Mentality. When my 15 year-old niece, Amanda, and I flew back to Seattle after her 6 month stay with me in Queretaro, my sister, Melodie, and younger niece picked us up at the airport. Walking to the car, Amanda and I were still in culture shock over the luxury one can encounter in the SeaTac Airport bathrooms. Things like toilet seats, locking stall doors, and soap had somehow eluded us for a great deal of time. “Oh shoot,” said my sister, looking at her four-door sedan with fatality in her eyes. “I didn’t think of all the luggage. How are all four of us going to fit in the car with three suitcases?”
Amanda and I silently turned to look at one another, then burst into laughter. “What?!?” challenged Melodie. “Actually,” ventured Manda, “I’m pretty sure this vehicle could hold at least 12 or maybe even 13 people. With luggage.” Our thinking had changed. When instructed sternly to “Get your seat belts on!”  by my sister, before even inserting the key into the ignition, Amanda and I exchanged yet another glance that said, “Do not let your mother become aware of the fact that you haven’t worn a seatbelt for 6 months.” Ni modo. (See Stuff Mexicans Like #12: Ni Modo.)
LA CASA
Some 6 months after arriving to Mexico, I found myself with two teenagers, a small dog, and no employment. I reluctantly procured a large room for rent at a local frat house from UVM (Valley of Mexico University) for half of what I was paying in our spacious home. My 15 year-old niece; 13 year-old son; Mercy, the yellow Pomeranian; and I hauled our suitcases and mattresses (no bed bases) into the room with the concrete slab floor and thus began our one-room, “Night, John-Boy,” adventure. (I had to explain to the teens where “Night, John-Boy” originated. They just stared blankly.)
It was fun! At night I would turn on my cell phone flashlight and read short stories and poetry to them from my corner of the room. Though no light shone from under our bedroom door, laughter and loud English could be heard throughout the casa every night. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves or out-of-place because all my kids’ friends in their new public junior high had the same living accommodations or worse! I did makeovers on my girl and homemade haircuts on my boy. We each dressed in the bathroom after showering. The occassional late-night mellow college party was a welcome distraction from our sparse living conditions; we all practiced our Spanish and dance skills. When we needed space, we headed out to the one of the front yard hammocks or up to the roof to bask in the sun. My now young adult babies still laugh, telling people about the time three of us and a small dog lived on floor mattresses in one frat house bedroom in central Mexico.
Whether it’s 20 to a home, 10 to a car, or 5 to a bed, Mexicans love Family and Togetherness (See Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia).  Night, John-Boy!
Exhibit A:
This family is waiting for the rest of the relatives to arrive so they can leave.    
 On the way to La Placita (Tuesday Market).
Exhibit B: 
Siblings of all ages often sleep together in the same bed.
It’s always nice to snuggle & keep warm on cold nights.
       
  Grandparents are no exception!

Stuff Mexicans Like #15: Extreme Baby Bundling

2 Jun
Babies are a gift from Heaven. It is a parent’s job to protect these little bundles of joy. In Mexico, this involves more swaddling than eskimos in Antarctica. Mothers can often be seen in San Miguel de Allende waiting for the bus carrying a gigantic lump of furry blankets. As the sweat drips down Mami’s forehead, she will peek under the four layers of cotton, wool, and polyester swaddling to check on her sleeping, or half-cooked bebé.

The reasons are multiple for this “protección.” Sun, breeze (mal aire), dust, sustos (sudden scares), and jealous looks from others (mal de ojo) can all hacerle daño (cause harm). Aparte, newborn babies cannot yet regulate their own body temperature, thus the pink beanies, thermal blankets, and fuzzy white booties. However in Mexico, babies of all ages are considered to have frio (cold) pretty much at all times without the help of Mami and Abue’s (gramma’s) coverings.

FRIO
Mexicans believe that getting cold inevitably leads to sickness, especially if the frio comes on suddenly. They do not walk around barefoot ever, even in their own clean tiled homes, even on very hot days. This is well-known as the fastest and surest way to get gripe (a cold/flu). It’s also known as one of the most naco (low class; uneducated) and tacky things one can do. My friend’s mother here in SMA shared a story with me about the time she went blind as a child for walking around in wet clothes all day after swimming in the presa (canal). Eventually she went to el DF (Mexico City) for a surgery that left her seeing blurry trees. Presently she squints most of the time. Por andar mojada, she explains (for being out & about wet). I’m not sure if she was trying to inform me or warn me with her cuento, as she has been appalled on more than one occasion by my daughter’s lack of heavy parkas…. in the summer.

CONSEJOS (advice)
I remember when I was pregnant here in San Miguel de Allende, the advice slowly started flowing to me from aquaintances and even strangers. No corras. Don’t run. No comas lo frio cuando hace frio. Don’t eat cold things when it’s cold. Duerme la siesta. Take a nap. Toma más té. Drink more tea. No tomes café. Stop drinking coffee.Toma más leche. Drink more milk. Come frijoles. Eat beans. Toma agua. Drink water. Desayuna. Eat breakfast. No trabajes tanto. Don;t work so much. Necesitas mas Jamaica. You need more hibiscus water. Cuidado manejando. Be careful driving. Ponte un sueter. Put on a sweater. No andes descalzada como India. Don’t go around barefoot like an Indian.Ya no uses chanclas. Stop wearing flip-flops. No subas la escalera. Don’t climb stairs. No levantes nada. Don’t lift anything. And this was just from the men!

When my baby was born, I really got an ear-full! Tápala. Cover her up! Ponla otra cobija. Put another blanket on her! ¿No tiene frio?  Doesn’t she have cold?¿No le das fórmula? You don’t give her formula? Dale un té. Give her a tea. Tápala. Cover her up! Toma cerveza para producir más leche. Drink beer to produce more milk. Toma atole para producir más leche. Drink Atole rice drink to produce more milk. Tápala. Cover her up! ¿No tiene frio? Doesn’t she have cold?¿Se va a enfermar. She’s going to get sick. El aire le hace daño. Wind and cold air will harm her. Tápala. Cover her up! El sol le hace daño. The sun will do her harm. Cobíjala. Blanket her. ¿No tiene una chamarra? Doesn’t she have a coat? Se va a enfermar. She’s going to get sick. ¿No tiene un gorro? Doesn’t she have a hat? Tápa su cabeza. Cover her head. Tápala. Cover her up. Tápala. Cover her up. Tápala…. Cover her up…

“BEBI SHAUGÜERS”
En fin, if you want to get in good with Mexicans, make sure the baby shower gift you bring is a blanket. Always a blanket. Multiple blankets of all sizes, fabrics, textures, colors, and thickness. If you have your own baby and will be in viewing range of Mexicans, keep the child covered up, for crying out loud! As far as blankets go, the Mexican rules are,  “When in doubt, wear it out.” And, “When not in doubt, wear it out.”  If you are caught unawares by a Mexican and your child is not wearing a parka, snow hat, or multiple layers of quiltings, don’t panic! Always keep a spare thermal blanket in your diaper bag and immediately cover the child’s head, shaking your own head, confused, at your temporary recklessness. Mexicans all around will release a collective sigh of relief and you will be “in” again if you can avoid future neglect.

COMENTARIOS

As far as your comments go with other Mexcians, especially in public places, a solid question-suggestion passive-aggressive combo like, No tienes frio?” (You’re not cold?) or “No quieres un sueter?” (You don’t want a sweater?) lets Mexicans know that you know what time it is. You are all on the same page with the frio debate. You will be much more likely to be invited to the next 5 de mayo fiesta.

EXHIBIT A
My baby on a warm day. Absolute negligence.
       
Mexican baby on a hot day. Proud parenting.
      
You be the judge.

Stuff Mexicans Like #13: Los Santos & Angeles

2 Jun

Saints and angels are quite popular these days. Perhaps your colonia (neighborhood) in San Miguel de Allende is named after one: Guadalupe; Santa Julia; San Juan de Di-s; San Rafael; San Antonio, etc. In Mexico, they are more than just key chains, good luck charms, or statues in the church. They are a key component of the Mexican Catholic faith, worthy of worship and regular offerings and petitions.

 PEREGRINACIÓN
In addition to their adoración via offerings in the iglesia and at home, one may also worship, express gratitude, or make a request by completing a peregrinación (pilgrimage). This consists of walking miles, often for days or weeks in a group from your home town to another church or pueblo where you will visit, deliver, or pick up a relic of the saint or angel and leave it in another town’s church. One may also create a home altar for his or her saint or angel.
SANTERÍA
When the respect and adoration for saints and angels becomes worship, it is known as Santería. It is its own religion and is in the same category as la brujería (witchcraft). With origins from Nigerian faith, La Santería mixes Catholicism and Nigerian spirituality to form a union of the two. La Santeria originated in Cuba from slaves recently immigrated, where only Catholocism was permitted. Variations of the original Santeria are used in daily Mexican Catholocism. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santeria
SANTOS POPULARES de SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
* Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuestra_Se%C3%B1ora_de_Guadalupe_%28M%C3%A9xico%29
La Virgen de Guadalupe is La Reina de México; Nuestra Señora; La Virgen Morena; La Madre de México. She came for the Indigenous of Mexico to represent the poor, undesireable, and downtrodden. She came to give them comfort and hope. (*Also believed by many to be an incarnation of Tonantzin, Our Revered Mother, Principal goddess of the Aztecs. See Stuff Mexicans Like #2: La Virgen de Guadalupe.)
San Miguel Arcangel is the Patrono de San Miguel de Allende and is a protector who carries a sword. He helps you when you need protection (physical, emotional, or from witchcraft).
La Virgen de los Dolores understands the pain of losing a child. Of watching one’s own child suffer and die.
San Francisco is the saint of animals and had stigmata.
San Benito y San Rafael protect against witchcraft, spells, and evil against you or your household. The ruda plant (rue) is also known to be helpful to keep at the entrance of your home and/or business as it absorbs bad energy and negative spiritual influences, as well as coconuts strategically placed throughout the home.
San Benito
Rafael Arcángel
* San Antonio de Padua: (Santo Patrono de la Colonia aqui en San Miguel): http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_de_Padua
San Antonio Abad carries a baby in his arms and helps you find a pareja (partner/boyfriend/girlfriend) for yourself or someone else. You must hang him upside down so he’ll get the job done faster. When he sends you your pareja, you put him right-side-up again. This is the rhyme:
“Tengo a San Antonio
puesto de cabeza,
Si no me da un novio,
Nadie lo endereza.”
“I’ve got San Antonio
Sitting on his head.
If he doesn’t give me a boyfriend,
He’ll be left for dead.”*
*Ok. I took my own liberties with my translation for the sake of rhyming. The Spanish version just says that no one will upright him. Pobrecito de todos modos.
San Antonio Abad is the saint of animals. When your cow or prize-fighting gallo becomes ill, this is your go-to guy. Here in San Miguel, he is the sponsor of the Blessing of the Animals day and Blessing of the horses, too.
* San Judás Tadeo: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Judas
San Judas Tadeo, saint of impossible situations, helps you get a job and maintain your finances. He carries a coin. You say the prayer of San Judas and light a green candle for him until you find and retain gainful employment.
San Juan de Di-s helps the sick, mentally ill, addicts, and downtrodden.
La Santa Muerte is a Mexican’s “best friend, his daily companion” according to revolutionary Mexican artist, David Alfaro Siqueiros. This idea is also well expresed in the book and movie, Macario, by Mexi-German, Bruno Traven. While death is regularly mocked in Mexico, it is also highly revered. With roots in Aztec faith, Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of death, now is combined with Mexican Catholic Santeria.The skeleton wearing a cape representing holy death is the saint and protector of criminals, gang members, those who do evil, and narco-traficantes (drug-traffickers).
 File:Muerte-Blanca 6.jpg

Stuff Mexicans Like #11: Ni Modo (Oh well./Nothing can be done.)

21 May
“Ni modo,” I often hear when a friend finishes sharing his or her burdens with me. “Ni modo,” people say after expressing their frustration at the corruption, narco tráfico, and uselessness of voting in Mexico. My neighbor’s daughter had 4 front teeth knocked out after falling down the concrete steps of the Plaza Civica in downtown San Miguel. “Ni modo,” she said, in response to my horrified open-mouthed shock. She had already taken her child to the dental clinic and to her pediatrician, where she was informed that they would not transplant the lost baby teeth. “Ni modo” is a common phrase used in Spanish to express powerlessness and surrender.
The Art of Surrender
On the bright side, the art of Surrender is a critical element in living fearlessly. When I surrender to the way the universe is today, I accept. I am no longer resisting, no longer in friction, no longer struggling. This may allow me to flow and harmonize. Powerlessness can be just what I need to recognize if I have tried every solution on my own with no results. It can be the channel to Faith and recognition of a Higher Power. It can lead to health, wellness, and prosperity.
Helplessness
On the contrary, powerlessness seen as helplessness can be toxic. It can paralize me, produce fear, and keep me from purposeful action on my own behalf or on behalf of a collective group. It can excuse unacceptable practices and tolerate injustices. It can maintain my mediocrity.
Whatever your motive for using it, use it and say it with conviction and sincerity.
¿Mande? You say my Spanish is jodido? Pués, ni modo.” 
So….. What?

Stuff Mexicans Like #10: Las Güeras (WAY-duh: Light skinned/blonde women)

21 May

This is me at my favorite taco joint in Juriquilla. I was cold, so I was permitted to stand at the grill and touch their utinsels. A special guera privilege. 🙂

Most scientists concur that the human race began on the continent of Africa with exclusively dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed people (the dark hair, skin, and eyes allow protection from the sun). After generations of migration and mixed breeding, however, deviations, adaptations, and mutations or defects began to pop up in the world. Many people who migrated to colder climates with little sun exposure began to produce offspring with hazel, green, or even blue eyes (the lighter the eye color, the more light can be absorbed). Others came out with light brown, blonde, or even red hair (the lighter the hair color, the more sunlight can be absorbed). Little by little, the migrants also produced children with light brown, tan, and even white pigmented skin (the lighter the skin, the more benefits one can absorb from rarely exposed sunlight).
 
These “defects” with light skin, light hair, and light eyes were rare, unique, and therefore highly valued and coveted. Although there was no intellectual, emotional, physical, or spiritual superiority to these people (in fact, they were inferior physically due to their vulnerability and inability to adapt in warmer climates), they were treated as though they were better than others. They were given better education, treatment from family and society, and offered more opportunities because of their unique pigmentation alone. Even today, having blonde hair and blue eyes is the epitomy of desirable physical features and is associated with the highest social status one can achieve.
 
White Privilege
We all know that being white has its benefits. One can count on one hand the amount of societies conquered by dark-skinned peoples. One does not have enough fingers on both hands to count the number of brown-skinned societies conquered by light-skinned persons. White is synonymous for Power, Prestige, and Wealth. In her now famous 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh broke down some of the most common but often overlooked unearned priviledges/birth rights given to anyone happening to be born white. Here is an excerpt: 

 1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.

11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

20. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

23. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the place I have chosen.

24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.

25. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
http://nymbp.org/reference/WhitePrivilege.pdf

Baby Dolls in Mexico
Almost all little girls, by natural instinct to nurture and create, are attracted to baby dolls and Barbies in childhood (and beyond) and playing the role of the Mother. Most Mothers want to provide dolls for their little girls, to develop these innate abilities and satisfy these natural urges toward caretaking. However, what effect does it have on a young girls mind, emotions, and beliefs if none of her dolls look like she does? Is there a difference if the little girl comes from a conquistador group (white!) and plays with dolls representing los conquistados (dark-skinned) vs. little girls from a conquered society (brown-skinned) playing only with dolls from the conquistadores (white)?
 
A dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed child has little-to-no chance of producing a light-skinned, light-eyed, light-haired baby in the future. Knowing this, why would a Mother give her daughter dolls to play with with these unattainable features? What psychological effect does this have on that little girl? What does it tell her about her own color and her own babies who do not posess these features? How is her self-esteem affected? Her World-View?    
 
http://danielhernandez.typepad.com/daniel_hernandez/2011/12/mexico-racism-1.html “Mexicans Confront Racism with White Doll/Black Doll Video” (December 2011)
 
In an informal survey of dolls and race in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, our town located in central MEXICO, where the overwhelming majority of citizens have dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes, I counted the number of dolls (large babies as well as Barbie dolls) with dark colored eyes, hair, and/or skin in the two largest, most popular chain stores in town: Mega (Comercial Mexicana, owned by the owners of Costco) & Bodega Aurrera (Walmart, owned by the owners of Sam’s Club). The results were startling, but much better than two years ago, when I could not find even ONE doll with dark eyes in either store to purchase for my dark-eyed Mexican daughter.
 
                                  MEGA                    BODEGA AURRERA
Total Dolls:                 128                        104
Brown Skinned:          15 (11.7%)             5 (4.8%)
Dark Haired:               18 (14%)               18 (17%)
Dark Eyed:                  20 (15.6%)            17 (16%)
 
The remaining 85% + of the dolls in both stores had blonde or red hair, white skin, and blue, green, or purple eyes, a vast discrepancy with the real-life Mexican society physical representation. You may be saying, “But Michelle, we are in San Miguel, “Mexico Light,” where there are more than 5,000 light-skinned foreigners here in town on any given day, thus the high number of light-skinned baby dolls.” NO! San Miguel actually has more dark-skinned, dark-haired dolls than the rest of the republic! We foreigners with dark-haired, dark-eyed children purchase more of these dolls than Mexicans, thus the higher availability here in town.
 
Supply & Demand
My friend, Adriana, owns a Papelería here in town that also offers a nice variety of toys. She tells me that the two dark-skinned official Barbies she has in the store have been there collecting dust for more than two years while the blonde dolls, even the poorly made generic ones, fly off the shelves. She’s stopped buying dark-complected dolls for resale. I asked Adriana’s sister why she thinks people don’t want buy the “dark” dolls at the store and she said it’s because everyone just wants “pretty dolls.”
 
Little Mommy Doll
My three-year-old, María, has always wanted a Little Mommy interactive doll by Fisher Price. They are widely available here in town, but generally sell for more than $850 pesos. A month ago, I found one at la Placita (the Tuesday/Sunday market) that was a better model with more features than any offered here in San Miguel. She sits down, stands up, speaks, responds when you touch her, sucks on her bottle, and commands you to do things. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! “Cuánto es?”  I asked, getting mentally prepared to talk her down to 500p (about $40 USD) for the little treasure. “Esteeee….. 200 pesos,” said the booth keeper. I stared at her in disbelief, wondering if I understood correctly. “Bueno… 150.” (approximately $12 USD)  She lowered the price on her own, figuring I was having second thoughts. I snatched her up and María is still quite happy playing with Paola regularly.
 
Paola is brown.  
 
Being called güera/güero by anyone is considered a compliment, while being called morena/moreno (dark-skinned), or worse, negra/negro or prieta/prieto, (black skinned) is a depreciation. Racism is alive and well in Mexico, although rarely recognized or challenged. Perhaps 2012 will bring the much promised, much hoped for Mayan prophesy of a Drastic Change of Universal Consciousness. Until then, enjoy the steals on expensive American dolls in Mexico. Brown dolls only.

#3: La Cleanliness

17 May
 https://i0.wp.com/images.travelpod.com/users/kupdegra/copper_canyon.1188405000.p1020554.jpg
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” had to have been originally quoted by a Mexican. Mexicans value cleanliness so much that it is the first thing one does after arising and the last thing one does before bed. During the course of the day, one needs helpers if things are to be kept adequately clean. First things first: the sidewalk in front of your house. You don’t want your neighbors seeing a surplus of fallen leaves just outside your gate or dog urine or an empty Coke bottle. This is what “not taking care of your house and family” looks like. As for before bed, well, there are dishes and teeth to be washed, faces to be scrubbed, and showers to be had by all. One person alone could never take on all the dirst that comes your way during the day. This is why my maid has a maid. And her maid has a maid. And I’m nearly certain that if I were to investigate, I would discover that my maid’s maid has a maid. Maid service in Mexico is like having a garrafón or basic cable. It is not optional.
A male Mexican friend of mine was watching my then 15 year old sweep and mop the tile floor of my bookstore one day. I felt proud and content, like Mother of the Year. Unfortunately my friend interrupted my self-satisfaction with, “Why don’t you teach your hijo to clean?” What?!? Was my son not there, sleeves rolled up, pushing a wet soapy mop around like nobody’s business? “He is cleaning,” I replied. “I mean real cleaning,” retorted the Mexican. I gave the Mexican permission to “teach” my son “real cleaning” and I stood back to take notes. A hand-held scrub brush was produced, as well as a bucket of fuming bleach water mixed with purple Fabuloso. I pulled out the camera as the two young men rolled up their jeans, hit their knees, and began to sweat profusely while manually removing any trace of dirt from the last 500 years from my antique floor. A Mexican taught me to clean a floor.
 
I never felt so dirty as when I started dating Mexican men. The same scrubbing that applies to a Mexican floor is generally applied to the entire body, including eyelids, scalp, behind the ears, between the toes, etc. (I prefer to wash the hair once every other day to avoid dry-out.) My sidewalk woud shame even the dirtiest street person. I use only a standard mop from the tiendita when doing my twice a week rounds. My maid is called in for emergencies only, and that only being once a month on avergae. I do not wash my clothes by hand with the outside patio clothes-sink. (That is already occupied by Christmas items waiting around for next December.) It is a rare occasion that I stick my hand in the toilet, the obvious best way to get it clean, according to Mexican ways. I leave the cozy seat on my toilet, to avoid unintentional drownings. (Many-most Mexicans remove this seat with tools upon purchase so as not to pose any interference with typical hand-in-the-bowl daily cleaning.
(Note: I am pretty sure that this extreme cleanliness business ties in with the national adoration of La Virgen, also! What Virgin do you know who isn’t sparkling soapy clean?)