Tag Archives: family

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 #4: La Television

18 May
Watching television is the #1 past-time for Mexicans, according to the super unscientific Garrison Survey of 2004- 2012. In fact, if you ever get out to the campos and ranchos where extreme poverty abounds (like, for example, say… my neighborhood), you may find communities with corrugated plastic roofs and concrete slabs for floors. There will be no refrigerator, no stove, and rudimentary plumbing. Children may be sleeping on a bean-filled mattress on the floor. But you better believe that every family has a television set! I’ve seen tin foil antennas, extension cords creeping out front windows to be rigged directly to the power lines, but it is essential in Mexican culture that every citizen be connected to every other Mexican via the medium of tv. Try to find a true Mexican restaurant or taco stand or tiendita or Mexican home that does not have a television on and blaring at full volume at all times. You’d be hard up to locate one. It is just common Mexican sense. It is good service and good entertainment. It is the most basic necessity of any business or casa. In the US, we might ask ourselves, “How can I open my new business without a phone line and a phone number so my customers can contact me?” In México the question is, “How could I open a business without a tv? What would I do when there are no customers? What would give my customers ganas to stick around and spend money?”  My friend here in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, informs me that at his last visit to El Seguro, (the “nicer” health clinics for people with insurance), there was no soap or toilet paper in the bathroom…. but there was a television set in the waiting area!
 
The Government Loves TV, too!
“La television es nuestra cultura. Leer libros requiere mucho trabajo y atención. La television hace el trabajo por ti.”  (Television is our culture. Reading books requires a lot of work and attention. The television does the work for you.) This is a common sentiment my Mexican friends have shared with me over my time here in México. One of my buddies in his mid 20s in Querétaro made the following comment upon learning that I was opening a bookstore in San Miguel,”Lo que pasa es que después de la conquista de los indígenas, el gobierno Méxicano le declaró a la gente, ‘No es necesario que lean Uds. De hecho, ni es importante que sepan leer. Nosotros vamos a ser sus representantes. Tenemos estudios y educación; nosotros leeremos por Uds. y les diremos lo que necesitan saber. No se preocupen por estudiar ni dominar el español. Lo haremos por ti.’ Así que la gente no tomó la iniciativa de aprender a leer y escribir y el gobierno no hizo nada para apoyar el aprendizaje del público.” (What had happened was that after the Spanish conquest of the indigenous, the Mexican government declared to the people, ‘It is not necesary for you to read. Actually, it’s not even important to know how. We will be your representatives. We have studies and education; we will read for you and we will tell you what you need to know. Don’t worry about studying or dominating the Spanish language. We’ll do it for you.’ So the people didn’t take the initiative to learn to read and write and the government did nothing to support the education of the general public.) Today we continue receiving information hand-selected by the government, via the television. 
 
Knowledge is Poder
In most Mexican homes, the television is located in the center of the sala as a kind of shrine, as the one consistent source of information. of Education. of Knowledge. of Power. If I have a 4th grade education level and still can’t read or write well, at least I have the faithful television to keep me in-the-know. Just as my insightful friend in Querétaro stated, the government/church (can we even make a distinction in México?) is still choosing and interpreting the information it deems acceptable for the average Mexican to know. Whereas in the US we may find important news on the front of a newspaper, magazine, book, public radio show; in México the culture continues to be anti-reading. But no fear, it’s all on the television set.  
 
Happy tv watching!  See below for recommended viewing on the Televisa/Telemundo channels:
  • Laura: talk show representing women and children’s rights: Televisa M-Th 3pm central Mexico (see photo above)
  • Por Ella Soy Eva: telenovela/comedia about a cross-dreesing man who does so to win back his girl: Televisa M-F 8 or 9pm central Mexico
  • 100 Mexicanos Dijieron: Family Feud style celebrity game show: Televisa Sundays at 5or6pm central Mexico
  • Pequenos Gigantes: childrens Talent Show Competition: Televisa Sundays at 8 or 9pm central Mexico
  • Hoy!: Daily show: Televisa M-F 9am central Mexico
 

Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia

17 May
Image
Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia 
In fact, “la familia” (referring to anyone and everyone even remotely related), is so important and provides such a staple source of well-being and joy that Mexicans often forego matrimonio altogether and remain at home with the papás til age 35 or 57 or “til death do us part.” Mexicans can be compared with “pack animals” in the sense that they value the inter-dependence of a team and are happiest and feel most successful in a close-knit group whereas many native English-speakers are more solitary beasts, preferring privacy, autonomy, and independence or to surround themselves with 1 significant other and 2.5 children.. or a dog who is physically unable to comment on what “is not working” for him/her in the relationship. 
 
“Success” or “éxito” for a Mexican is measured by the state of your relationships, as opposed to monetary wealth or goal-attainment. This is why Pedro, your jardinero, is considered highly successful and is well-respected in his community in Mexico, while Doctor Felipe, on the other hand, may be ill-reputed and considered a fracaso, depending on the state of his marriage, parental/sibling relationships, and amistades.