Tag Archives: spanish

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

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 #8: Poco a Poco (Everything a little at a time/Little by little)

20 May
 
One of my favorite scenes as I drive or stroll through any Mexican town are the varillas (metal rods/rebar) that extend from the roofs of casas. These homes seem to be shouting, “You may think I look shabby now; but just imagine my potential!” House upon “finshed” house have these stakes protruding from concrete ceilings like cold shafts of HopeUn día… they whisper. Some of these rods go on to form the stable structural base for a second, third, or fourth level on the house. Others remain untouched, uncovered, until the day the homeowner dies and passes the house on to parientes (relatives) or sells the place. The great poet, playwright, author: Hughes, speaks of the latter situation as a Dream Deferred and holds bleak expectations for its outcome. Mexicans (as all Spanish speakers), however, believe to Hope to be synonymous for to Wait (esperar) and often seem unfazed by long delays and promised rewards. 
 
La Esperanza (Hope)
Poco a Poco is the expression used to plant Hope in dismal circumstances that appear to remain steadily unpromising. So you live in a concrete square with no furniture, appliances, or bedding? Poco a poco. You say your partner left you for another and now you are trying to repair the damaged relationship or move on? Poco a poco. You’ve dreamed of writing a book, getting published, and travelling the world doing book tours, changing lives along the way, but no one want to read your manuscript? Poco a poco. Poco a poco embodies an attitude of unwavering Faith that all things will get better en su momento (in their time). It is a relief, a respite from the need to control, to worry, to expect, to be impatient. It is a promise for a better mañana.  
 
El Apatia (apathy)
On the flip side, one may become so comfortable in his or her poco a poco mentality that (s)he no longer battles, no longer strives, no longer works toward the dream. Driven is perhaps one of the top adjectives I would use to describe my paisanos (fellow countrymen), the United Statesians. Mexicans are also driven, but they are driven to different motives: driven to maintain peace, to keep the family united, and to maintain status quo as another means of being united with all other Mexicans. Putting another floor on the house takes a back seat when money gets tight and is often forgotten altogether, like the silenced rebar on the techo. Other times it is more serious; a woman’s decision to leave her abusive partner by getting work, maybe returning to the family of origin for a season, becomes poco a poco instead of today it is too much. Today I will leave.   
 
While effort mixed with intention always produces change, sometimes it is slow or invisible to the naked eye. These are opportnuities to beef up your fe (faith) and to remain steady. Next time you find yourself in despair, RESIST alongside your Mexican hermanos by repeating your new mantra, Poco a Poco.