Wednesday, March 03, 2010

fault in the afternoon

I had lunch on Tuesday with a relatively new blogger -- Beth Berube of
Barra Beth's Blog.

She and her husband live part of the year in Barra de Navidad; part of the year in Seattle.

They settled here because, in her words:

My love affair with Barra de Navidad began ten years ago as soon as I wandered its cobblestone streets and drank in its color. It has multitudes of delicious restaurants. Some of them are fine dining eateries but without an ounce of pretense. If you are in the mood for dancing, there are some live music venues, too. Yeah, I have fallen for Barra, hook, line and sinker.

She contacted me about some blog questions before I started my trips in December, but we were unable to meet for lunch until today.

For two hours, Larry, Beth, and I talked about blogs.  How to post photographs.  How to monitor comments.  How to interest more people in reading a blog.  The type of topics that are usually handled at the Latin American Bloggers Conference.  (By the way, does anyone know if it is happening this year?)

And we talked about our experiences in Mexico. I always find these blogger meetings fascinating. I have yet to be disappointed in meeting a blogger who seemed interesting on line.  THis was no exception.

Every Mexico blogger has a personal take on living in Mexico.  Hers is "As the Taco Turns."

Her most recent blog started some of my own thoughts on Spanish construction -- the language, not the missions.

She correctly points out: "Mexicans have cultivated a guilt-free and blameless approach to life. Even the Spanish language supports this philosophy."

Whatever the reason (and some of us would lay it at the feet of the prevailing Ibero-Catholic culture that pervades Mexico), Mexican Spanish is built primarily on the passive voice.  The type of sentence where there are no actors.  Things just seem to happen.  As if the love child of a succubus and a poltergeist was in charge of nature.

You know the passive voice when you hear it.  It is the voice of bureaucrats and teenagers.  Where responsibility is a stranger.

The odd sentence in meeting minutes: "It was decided to delay any further discussion."

The hidden bandit in regulations: "It is a requirement that all businesses pay a fee of $5,000 each day."

The excuse of the tear-stained face of your younger son: "It went off the road -- all by itself."

Beth has her own take on the use of the passive voice in Spanish:

Mexicans have an innate understanding that grudges and finger pointing, especially towards themselves, are counter productive. At least when it comes to day to day annoyances. Maybe that is why they are so joyful in their dance, their music and their celebrations.

I am not certain I agree with her sanguine approach.  That "day to day annoyances" may save her -- but is is a huge qualifier.

Anyone who has listened to the blame-ridden speech of some Mexican politicians or who has read the bloody history of how Mexicans have dealt with one another in their civil wars would draw a different conclusion about grudges. 

But that history may be the reason that Mexicans tend to avoid confrontation when basic rights are not at stake -- such as who has the right to pass whom on a highway.

Take a look at what she has to say.  And comment on her take of life in Mexico.

I think you will enjoy both experiences.


- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Great post! So true, so true. My favs are 'it fell itself' = se cayó and 'it broke itself' = se rompió.
No one is to blame, it just happened!
Thanks for introducing us to Beth's Blog.

Anonymous said...

'Mexicans have cultivated a guilt-free and blameless approach to life'

That is not even close to being true. The women of our generation automatically receive and accept a heavy dose of guilt for everything that goes wrong in the house or family. This was instigated by the church, but the men kind of like it so it is sustained. It is changing slowly as more women work outside of the home.

The grammar examples are typical of all the romance languages, they are not spanish-only usage.

Anonymous said...

It was decided that no comment was necessary.

Steve Cotton said...

Mexican Trailrunner -- Or the vase fell from the table. Inanimate objects love commiting suicide.

Anonymous -- Some blogs have started the practice of requiring anonymous posters to at least identify themselves in their comment. I wish people would because it would be nice to know who we are engaging in conversation.

Your comment is just the opposite of what my Mexican neighbors tell me -- where the woman rules the house with a firm hand. I suspect both versions are self-serving stereotypes because there is always a wide range of behaviors in any culture.

But your obervation that romance languages favor the passive voice is well-taken. A quick look at the countries where romance languages are spoken actually proves Beth's point. It is not merely a Mexican phenomenon.

Anonymous II -- It was declared clever.

Islagringo said...

Mexicans, IMHO, have taken the phrase "don't sweat the small stuff" to the extreme.