Sunday, July 27, 2008

the luckiest people in the world

Adventure. That is what I tell people when they ask why I want to move to Mexico. For that reason alone, the place I choose to live should at least have some opportunities to experience adventure in the people I will meet.

Melaque, like every beach resort town in the world, has two very different groups of people living side by side: residents and tourists.

Even my uneducated eye can see the difference. The tourists come to town for as many reasons as there are tourists. Most are simply there on a brief package tour from Guadalajara with their families. They are the calm, decent folk who you can see walking the beaches or through the beach shops with their families.

And then there are the hustlers -- some local, some tourists -- who are there to provide what the non-family tourists are seeking. I was a bit surprised to see how drug and sexual transactions could be made so openly. Subtly: yes. But still open enough that I could tell what was taking place.

The locals could live in almost any beach town around the world: realtors, shop keepers, waiters, small entrepreneurs. And nothing can bridge cultural barriers better than money.

Every person in a service trade -- whether male of female -- would talk directly to me, look me in the eye, and engage in personal conversation. Not so, people on the street. If I greeted a man, I usually got the Latin macho stare in return. If I greeted a woman, I would be answered with a shy glance to the ground. I know most of that is cultural. And it makes all the difference in the world if the person you are greeting knows you. But I found it somewhat reassuring that if money was a possible outcome, all cultural pretences disappeared. Another good argument for free trade.

Here are the realities. As much as I love social intercourse with strangers, that is simply not going to happen in a beach town. It does not happen in Oregon. It will certainly not happen in Melaque.

I made the point, however, of noting earlier: "it makes all the difference in the world if the person you are greeting knows you." That is why neighbors are a very important part of this mixture.

Let's talk about them next.


Theresa in Mèrida said...

First off, I can say that in Merida,if you greet someone they usually answer, which I think is the opposite of what is usual in a large city. I understand that Yucatecans are very friendly.
Secondly, when you live there, people will know and interact with you differently. Lots more people recognize Husband and me than I have ever met.

Steve Cotton said...

Theresa -- I think you are correct about the locals. As soon as you become part of the local scene, the greetings come freely. Some day.