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Stuff Mexicans Like #19: El Gel (Hair Gel)

7 Jun

A man’s manliness can be measured by three key factors: the number of children he bears; the amount of amantes (lovers) he maintains; and the quantity of hair gel he uses. All three are imperative. Let’s see how our 2012 Mexican presidential candidates stack up.

One candidate uses no gel (pronounced hail), clearly a bad choice for the future of the republic. This candidate has promised to drastically cut his own pay, as well as all other public officials’ pay. He is socialist and interested in protecting the rights of native Mexican landowners & farmers. Not very manly at all by European Spanish standards.

Our next candidate uses only a dollop or small squirt of hair gel, and that, only for the purpose of maintaining the shine and vitality of his luscious curls. He is all about women’s rights and prevention for addictions, which he calls enfermedades (diseases). Obviously the wrong choice for a country dominated by traditional Spanish manliness & alcoholism. He may as well be gay. Or a woman.

The third candidate is a woman. It doesn’t matter whether or not she uses gel. Her haircare is irrelevant. This candidate is concerned with preserving la cultura (Mexican culture). In the last presidential debate she said, “The child who picks up an instrument is highly unlikely to pick up a weapon.” The rest of the time she’s rambling on about adequate living conditions and proper nutrition for all children. She is not, and never will be, un rey, a king (as canonized by Guanajuato’s own Jose Alfredo Jimenez),and therefore is disqualified as a candidate for the race to be the next leader of the republic of Mexico.Gracias por su tiempo. Don’t call us; we’ll call you.


Our fourth and final candidate, however, uses a good handful, un chorro, of gel; more gel than Elvis Presley used in his lifetime.
This man is young, virile, and sports a gorgeous curvy Mexican telenovela (soap opera) star for a wife. A man’s man. He has read a total of two books in his lifetime, if that, according to his recount in a national radio interview, when asked to cite 3 books that most profoundly inpacted him on his journey. He is very liberal and generous with his hair product at least, if not with the Mexican people. The more the better is his policy when it comes to styling, but less is more is his policy when it comes to helping out the poor, young, indigenous, and female of this great nation. This is clearly a Whiskey & Tecate drinker. (See SML #18: Whiskey, Tequila, & Tecate.) Our hard-headed helmet-hair candidate supports big business, clear-cutting indigenous land, and privatizing basic human necessities. This is the obvious choice for Mexico. This is our front-runner.

The above is a spoof ad for the Mexican bookstore chain, Gandhi. Our frontrunner’s political party is called “PRI.” The ad says, “First, learn to read.”

Our new potential president may not read or know the national minimum wage off-hand, but he is a man’s man by all three counts. Check the bouffant.

Viva Mexico!

 

Stuff Mexicans Like #18: Whiskey, Tequila, & Tecate

2 Jun

 There are certain unfallible truths that all Mexicans hold to be self-evident: La Virgen de Guadalupe is everything. Family always comes first. Everything is better with limon and chile. Futbol (soccer) is the only real sport. Seat belts are overrated. Real men drink Tecate beer.

While Corona maintains a cult-following in the states as well as among those in Mexico who do not have access to Tecate or are on a Mega Caguama budget (pronounced cahWAHmah; the Mega Caguama costs only $24 pesos for your giant 1.2 liter brown bottle), everyone knows Tecate is the only option for true red-blooded, cock-fighting, mariachi-singing Mexicans.

El Wiski

Whiskey (pronounced WEE-ski for those of you trying to improve your espanol), is the standard drink of all fresas (literally strawberries, fresa  refers to snobby, money-hungry, high-society Mexicans). Whiskey is synonymous for wealth, prestige, and power in Mexican society. A bottle or 16 are bought for the whole fresa table at upscale night clubs, like our own Mint, on Mesones here in SMA. Wiski is normally enjoyed with mineral water on the rocas or with la coca (see SML #12: La Coca).

El Tequila

Tequila, the staple beverage of Mexico made from the agave plant in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, is classic. Timeless. Mexicans abroad who want to publicize their Mexican pride drink Tequila. Wealthy high-class Mexicans drink Tequila. Poor Mexicans and nacos (low-class, uneducated Mexicans) drink Tequila. Housewives drink Tequila. 12 year-old boys drink Tequila. Singer/activist, Mexi-Tica, Chavela Vargas, reportedly drank at least one shot of Tequila everyday.

Malinchistas (sell-outs)

Many of my Mexican male friends, however, claim that Tequila makes them bravo (aggressive/violent), thus the standard replacement beverage: wiski. I don’t buy it though. When I hear the bravo argument, I interpret it as, “I have shame because I am Mexican but prefer to drink a foreign alcoholic beverage over my country’s own specialty:Tequila. The real reason I prefer Johnie Walker to Don Julio is because I am Malinchista.” (Malinchista refers to a Mexican who prefers a foreign culture over his or her own, usually due to an inferiority complex. The root word is Malinche, the Spanish name of the beautiful Aztec lover of Cortez and original sell-out/second mother of the Mexican race. She is the root of the famed Mexican word Chingada, the violated one)

Tequila is usually taken straight with sal y limon (salt & lime). It is sipped like tea, not downed into a greedy open throat, like some of my paisanos (fellow countrymen) are so fond of while on vacation in Cabo. Tequila is also popular in margaritas and palomas. Literally dove, a paloma is tequila with lime, salt, and grapefruit flavored soda, like Squirt, (or Esqueert, for those of you who are improving your espanol). Lastly, no visit to Mexico is complete without experiencing la bandera. La bandera (the flag) consists of a red, white, and green shot, just one of many drinks and recipes representing Mexican pride. In this case, you need a shot of white Tequila, a shot of fresh squeezed lime juice, and a shot of spicy bloody-mary mix. Don’t forget the salt. You take a sip of each, swirl them in your mouth, and swallow. Repeat. Yum! 

Top Shelf Tequilas

While Patron is the king of top-shelf Tequila where I come from in the states, Don Julio reigns south of the border. “Patron who?” my Mexican friends asked me when I first mentioned the big time label. Patron is a nobody in Mexico. Opening a bottle of Patron at a real Mexican fiesta would be like busting out the Taco Bell at Doña Maria’s rancho. It is not the same as the original. Not even close.

How much is too much?

“No menos de tres, no mas de seis” (no less than 3, no more than 6) is the conventional Mexican wisdom. I find, however, that this little gem of advice is only used for women, as men drink no less than 12, no more than 22. Double A, as Mexicans call it, is also quite popular for those who don’t know when to say when. This binge drinking is not, however, at all related to indigenous Mexican societies. Though Tequila was well-known and cultivated, it was punishable by death to get inebriated in Aztec culture. It was the benditos españoles (blessed Spanish) no less, who brought with them the love of excess and el machismo to the New World.

Want to get around a Mexican’s extreme manners (see SML #3: Manners) and hear what he or she really thinks? Offer him or her a drink or 5 of Wiski, Tequila, or Tecate. Los niños y los borrachos siempre dicen la verdad.”  (Children and drunks always tell the truth.) Or so goes the Mexican proverb anyway.

Salud!

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.

#12: La Coca (of Coca Cola)

21 May

What is the one beverage Mexicans prefer over tequila and agua de sabor? La Coca! It may as well be considered the 5th food group here in Mexico. In some, if not most, of my Mexican friends’ homes, if the garrafón of purified water and the Coca run out at the same time, the garrafón can wait. The Coca, however, is replaced immediately at the nearest tiendita (little store located in one’s garage or entry hall). Most family comidas (the most important meal of the Mexican day) are not complete without a bottle or five of Coca on the table. Coca is fed to the elderly, to babies in bottles, and to everyone else in between as a staple in the beverage diet. When a señora or a niño asks you for money or a stranger does you a good deed, like helping you change your tire in the street, the standard request is “Dame para una Coca, nomás.” Enough to buy a Coke is all I ask.

“According to Coke’s 2005 annual report, Mexicans lead the world by drinking some 533 8-ounce servings of Coke beverages per capita annually.”

(Read more at Suite101: Coca-Cola Global Sales: India Most Promising International Market | Suite101.com http://daniel-workman.suite101.com/coca-cola-global-sales-a8625#ixzz1pb4itYy0)

Water: A Basic Human Right?

Well, isn’t the Coca-Cola empire delighted, then, that Mexicans are drinking less water and more Coke? No! Either one is just fine with Coca-Cola! That’s because Coca-Cola owns Agua Ciel, the nationwide door-to-door provider of purified drinking water and mineral water. So is the love of juice a problem for Coca-Cola? Of course not! Coke also owns Jugos Del Valle, Nestea, and Powerade! As one student in class said, “I wondered why the government of Mexico has not filtered its public water supply, seeing that it is relatively simple and affordable. Then I heard the cry in the street advertising door-to-door service for Agua Santorini, and it hit me. I wonder what Coca-Cola and Pepsi pay the Mexican government to maintain the pollution in all public water sources?” Bingo.

“Es importante tener en cuenta que pese a que en México existen unas tres mil marcas, son 4 grandes corporaciones, extranjeras todas ellas, las que hoy controlan la extracción, el envasado, la distribución y la venta de agua en México. Específicamente estamos hablando de Danone (con sus marcas Bonanfont, Pureza Aga y Evian); Nestlé (con las marcas Santa María, Nestlé Pure Life y Pureza Vital); Pepsi-Cola (con el agua Electropura) y Coca-Cola (con la marca Ciél).
México es el país que más refrescos consume por habitante en el mundo. Ingerir alimentos y bebidas con altos contenidos de azúcar (incluyendo los refrescos) es una de las principales cau- sas que provocan problemas a la salud: como la diabetes. Una persona que padece esta enfermedad siente una sed permanente , por lo que debe mitigarla bebiendo agua. Como el agua de la llave esta contaminada, debe comprar agua envasada y así se cierra el círculo de las compañías fabricantes de los refrescos (como Coca-Cola y Pepsi-Cola) que producen la diabetes en determinadas personas, también venden el agua que alivia la sed de esos mismos enfermos. ¡Todo un verdadero negocio!”

From Euromonitor International: Bottled Water in Mexico (http://www.euromonitor.com/bottled-water-in-mexico/report):

“COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

  • Danone was the number one player in bottled water in 2010, claiming 26% of total volume sales. The company led still bottled water, the dominant category, with its Bonafont brand. It also ranked second in flavoured bottled water, where it offers the Levité brand. Coca-Cola was the second leading company overall, accounting for 24% of total bottled water volume sales. Coca-Cola offers the Ciel (still bottled water) and Ciel Naturae (flavoured bottled water) brands. Pepsi Bottling Group was the third leading player, claiming 13% of total volume sales thanks to its Electropura still bottled water brand. Other prominent players included Envasadora de Aguas en México S de RL de CV, Nestlé, Pepsi-Cola, Grupo Peñafiel and FEMSA.”
From Wikipedia: Bottled Water: 
“The United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, National Council of Churches, National Coalition of American Nuns, and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation are among some of the religious organizations that have raised questions about whether or not the “privatization” of water is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.[27]
The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and more ecologically sound than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has received largely positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle.”

Problems with BPA found in the plastic that houses purified water (Wikipedia):
“The Beverage Marketing Corporation defines the bottled water market segment as “retail PET, retail bulk, home and office delivery, vending, domestic sparkling and imports”, but excluding “flavored and enhanced water.”[28] The Plastics Symbol no. 7 is a recent concern worldwide on discovery that large numbers of no.7 plastics are made with Polycarbonate plastic which, experimentally were found to leach bisphenol A. This chemical is a known hormonal disruptor causing miscarriages and birth defects, according to a study conducted by Case Western Reserve scientists. “Synthetic xenoestrogens,” one of which is Bisphenol A or BPA “are linked to breast cancer and uterine cancer in women, decreased testosterone levels in men, and are particularly devastating to babies and young children. BPA has even been linked to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.” Responsible baby bottle industries are producing BPA-free bottles that are clearly marked.

Reverse osmosis water purification systems can remove up to 90% or more of certain inorganic chemicals. These inorganic chemicals include: fluoride, sulfate, nitrate, iron, copper, lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, silver and zinc. Reverse osmosis can even remove some microbiological contaminants, including Giardia cysts. However unless equipped with an activated charcoal post-filter, reverse osmosis by itself does not remove dissolved gases and organic chemicals such as radon and trihalomethanes,<http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/water/az9419.pdf>.

The U.S. is the largest consumer market for bottled water in the world, followed by Mexico, China, and Brazil.[41] In 2008, U.S. bottled water sales topped 8.6 billion US gallons (33,000,000 m3) for 28.9% of the U.S. liquid beverage market, exceeding sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks, they are followed by fruit juices, and sports drinks.[28] Americans drink 21 US gallons (79 L) of bottled water per capita per year.[42]

Global bottled water market
Per capita consumption by leading countries, 2002-2007
2007 Litres Per Capita
Rank Countries 2002 2007
1 United Arab Emirates 133.2 259.7
2 Mexico 142.7 204.8
3 Italy 167.3 201.7
HEALTH HAZZARDS OF COCA-COLA CONSUMPTION (http://bolsonweb.com.ar/diariobolson/detalle.php?id_noticia=26208):
“La sucia verdad detrás de Coca Cola: Es peor que el tabaco

Como antecedente: En el libro “The Coke Machine – The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink“, el autor Michael Blanding examina la historia oscura de The Coca-Cola Company. El libro comienza con una descripción gráfica del asesinato del sindicalista Isidro Gil, hecho ocurrido cuando Coca-Cola fue acusada de complicidad con paramilitares para llevar a cabo asesinatos de sindicalistas en América del Sur. El prontuario de esta corporación es largo teniendo en cuenta que fue querellada en La India y México, ya que sus plantas embotelladoras drenaron contaminantes en las fuentes de agua locales. Diagnostico medico: Coca Cola, Pepsi y todas las gaseosas son peores que el tabaco acorde a los daños que causan al organismo.”
Marcas/Brands of Coca-Cola en México:
Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Light, Coca-Cola Vanilla, Beat, Delaware Punch, Fanta, Fanta Multi-Sabores, Fresca, Fresca Toronja Rosa, Lift, Lift Manzana Verde, Quatro, Senzao, Sprite, Ciel, Ciel Mineralizada, Keloco, Kin Light, Mickey Aventuras, Nestea, Jugos del Valle, y Powerade

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 #9: La Responsabilidad Personal (Personal Responsability)

20 May

Despite the apparent lack of personal responsability noted in the Spanish universal accident phrases: Se me cayó; Se te olvidaron; Se me hizo tarde; etc. It fell by itself (on me); They were forgotten by themselves (on you); It was made late (on me), Mexicans truly are all about Personal Responsability. For those who live in Mexico, when was the last time a Mexican police officer told you to put on a seatbelt, to produce proof of insurance, or to strap the small child into a car seat? How many times has an officer stopped by your home late at night to ask you to keep the noise down or to remind you of the forbidden firework statute? Has an animal control representative ever rebuked your barking dog or suggested you offer more water to your small roof poodle? It just doesn’t happen. These are personal decisions that one is offered the Dignity and Personal Responsability to choose in México.

Huecos (ooh-AY-koes: holes)
Shortly after arriving to live in Querétaro (kay-RAY-ta-row), I was strolling with a friend in my posh neighborhood in Juriquilla, home of one of the best golf courses in the republic. Just as I negotiated to avoid a large sink hole in the sidewalk, I said to Beto, “Ok. I love the country. Love the people. The food. The culture. The music. The architecture… But what the bleep bleep is this??” (gesturing to the deep uncovered pit in the cement.) “How about if I fall in one day? Huh?”
Beto looked amused, with a duh expression in his twinkling eyes, as if I were proposing some kind of trick question. “Evítalo,” he answered. (Walk around it/avoid it!)
How simple. So simple that I began to laugh. I told him that I liked his no-nonsense approach and would need to meditate on it a bit before commenting.
“Ok, so I’ll evitarlo,” I said. “Now how ’bout if my 2 year-old is playing outside and she falls in the hole by accident? Huh? How bout that, Beto?”
Again, the same amused, perplexed look in his face. “Cuida a tu niña,” he says, with a shoulder shrug. (Watch your kid.) 
Beto stared at me hard as I was shaken to the core with his simple genius. “¿Que harías tú en tu país?”  (What would you do in your country?) he asked, as if he could think of no other option.
“¡Demandar!” (Sue!) I informed him without hesitation.
“¿Pero no es tu responsabilidad ver donde caminas?” he asked. “¿Y cuidar a tu propia hija?”  (But isn’t it your responsability to look where you walk? And to take care of your own child?)
Beto did not understand on what grounds I would or could even consider suing the city, even after I explained that the city is responsible for the sidewalks. When I told him I would call the city to report the hole, he said, “Por qué no lo tapas tú?”  (Why don’t you just cover it up yourself?)
Topes (TOE-pays: speedbumps)
When I moved to Colonia Mexiquito here in SMA, my neighbor, the cock-fighting taxista (taxi-driver), proudly informed me, “People used to drive too fast on our street; then I built the topes.” He was concerned about the speed on our child-friendly cobble-stone street, so he personally installed two large speed bumps! As far as sweeping the sidewalk in front of my home, I, in my Gringa mind, consider the sidewalk to be property of a larger element… the city of San Miguel, for example, the state of Guanajuato. My neighbors, however, feel the Personal Responsability to go outside and clean it every morning. Chin. Damnit.
Mas Ejemplos (more examples)
When my girlfriend, Stephanie, came from Seattle to live in San Luís Potosí, one day she asked the bus driver, “Is it ok to bring my large basket of dirty laundry on the bus? …That lady has a goat.”
One day I pulled into the Oxxo (Mexican AM/PM) to get a Nescafé (instant flavored coffee beverage) but all the parking spaces were taken by vaqueros (cowboys) on horseback. You better believe I snapped a photo. (And you will enjoy it just as soon as I find it and update this post!)
On another occasion I struggled to pass the truck carrying 16 standing people in the truck bed. On the freeway.
 
Only in México goes the dicho, referring to anything and everything crazy you see in day-to-day life, all related to Mexican Liberties and Personal Responsability.  
You don’t like the neighbors barking dog? You go speak to your neighbor with extreme Mexican Manners (see Stuff Mexicans Like #4: Manners). The dog continues to make noise all night long? You climb onto your roof and throw apples and limes at it until the barking ceases. Personal Responsability. (Note: This example is taken from my own life, as a 9 month pregnant woman in Colonia Allende, who was awoken like clockwork at 3am each madrugada by the ferocious Rottweilers next door.) Note 2: The hardened fruit works. Mature fruit only makes a sticky mess and the dogs will mock you in Spanish as they make agua de sabor (fresh fruit water) in their water bowl.
Pinches Gringos Idiotas (and I say that in the nicest way.)
On my friends’ first visit to San Miguel from the Pacific Northwest, they decided to take their two young children to the circus here in San Miguel. Rob, we’ll call him, the husband/father, noticed that the lions’ and tigers’ cages were right out in the open to enjoy as closely as you wanted. Naturally, he got as close as possible and began waving his arm inside the cage dangerously near the tiger’s face, growling and provoking the captive beast. His wife pulled out the camcorder to preserve the memory. On his 4th or 5th aggression toward the animal, it suddenly leaped at his white limb, bearing its teeth and roaring ferociously. Rob, the Doctor, pulled his hand out just in time and nervously laughed on camera at his bravery and his good fortune for having got it all saved on tape to one day show the grandkids.
Back at their rented home, they hooked up the camcorder to enjoy the show over and over again with popcorn and refresco (soda pop). Laughing hysterically as his fingers are narrowly salvaged from harm, it suddenly dawns on Rob. “Look at all those people watching the ‘show.’ Why are none of them sticking their arms in the cages or even getting close? Even the grown men are keeping their distance. …How very odd.” 
Rob’s wife put herself in the shoes of the Mexican circus-goers and arrived at a profound realization: “Mexicans don’t need large signs and fences telling them that it is dangerous to stick your arm in the lion and tiger cages. Somewhere along the line in life, they learned that lions and tigers can be aggressive. That they can attack or even eat other mammals. Like humans, for instance. Perhaps they saw it on Animal Planet or maybe they deduced as much in the circus show. One way or another, these Mexicans became privvy to the danger of certain wild carnivores and made the decision to become responsible for protecting themselves against them… With or without a sign.”
Read the Signs!
In the United States, we are bombarded with instructions and warnings everywhere we go. Seattle: 10 Miles. Seattle: 5 Miles. Seattle: 1 Mile. Do not Step on the Grass. The Conair 695 Hairdryer can cause electrocution and even death if submerged in water. Suffocation Risk. Keep away from Children. Deep water beyond the Buoeys. Hot coffee can cause severe burns. Speed Bump Ahead. Line Forms Here. Take a Number. Thank you for choosing Bartell Drugs. Come back soon. Open 10am- 6pm Monday through Friday. Never strap a carseat in the front seat.  Careful: wet floor. Return Policy. Do not use the  while bathing or in the shower. No U-Turns Allowed. Falling Rocks. Deer Crossing. Smoking Prohibited. Don’t Drink and Drive. Just Say No. Never use the Remington CI-95 Series Curling Iron while sleeping.  (I am not making that last one up. WHILE SLEEPING.)
When these signs are not present, often we feel lost. Confused. Insecure. Defensive. “Well, how was I supposed to know you close from 2 to 4pm? There was no sign!”  “Had I known the scalding coffee would cause 3rd degree burns on my body, do you think I would have cradled it between my thighs while driving?” “Officer, there is no sign for 10 miles specifying a speed limit. How was I supposed to know?” We not only appreciate and crave more instructions from Big Brother, we expect them and demand that someone else be responsible for our errors that could’ve been avoided using common sense when there is no sign present.
 
Evolution
My concern is that this blind faith in signs is damaging the human gene pool. We are no longer the alert, quick response, intuitive people we once were. It is like the difference between my daughter, María’s, fat, long-haired hamster, Pelusa (Fuzz), and the tiny grey wild mice in my new home. The mice are extremely fast, jump excessively high, and sense danger from 2 rooms away. Pelusa, on the other hand, is slow and confused when a threat enters his glass homefront. He is unaware of a large hand getting closer until it actually touches him, in which case he rolls quickly onto his back in surrender and waits, frozen in terror.  The mice are a far superior specimen. So who are we? Wild mice or caged hamsters?
Rescue 911
This kind of absolute faith in systems, the responsibility of others to warn me or tell me what to do, creates a false sense of security that Mexicans simply do not ever rely on. Once I asked my group of savvy, wealthy 4th grade students in Querétaro, “What is the phone number you call in Mexico in case of an emergency?” Crickets. “You know, if someone breaks in your house and you are there all alone, what is that number you would call?”
“¿Mi Papá?” they answered. “La abuela?” “El Tio Toño?”
It took several minutes and hand gestures to get the correct answer: 066. They recognized 911 immediately from television and movies but didn’t know what number to dial in their own country. There is a lack of faith and trust in the government here that runs deep and strong through the blood of all Mexicans. “Why would we call a stranger in a moment of danger? ¡Y mucho menos a alguién del gobierno!” (and much less someone from the government!) My 10 and 11 year-old students explained.
Where to go for Help
In a class for parents in a private school here in San Miguel about child sexual predators, I once suggested that when taking children to a crowded place like the feria (fair) or el jardín (town square) during días festivas (holidays), they should instruct their children that if lost, to first look for a Police Officer to help, and if none were available, to always approach a woman.
The parents burst into laughter and were unable to compose themselves or lower the murmurs going around the room for several minutes.
“What? What’s so funny?” I asked them, hand on hips.
One mother wiped the tears from her eyes and cleared her throat to explain to me slowly, “Maybe that is what children should do in your country,” she said. “Here the Police Officers are often the most dangerous characters in a crowded public place. If I want to avoid a ransom call, I’ll just tell my daughter to find a woman to help her if lost, and skip the police bit altogether.” 
 
After 5 years in the republic, I am slowly but surely becoming more mouse-like in my decision-making. When 066 did not respond to several of my neighborhood violence emergency calls years ago, I created a back-up safety plan.  When I asked a respected neighbor what to do about the problematic gang-related neighbors beside me… whether or not I should go speak to the mother, the matriarch, she looked at me sideways and said, “Move.”  Just 15 months later, I moved. 🙂