Mexico is in full election swing. Yesterday I was wandering through Villa Obregon taking photographs of the various posters.
The photographs were for a post I had considered drafting about the Mexican elections. A post that may or not find its way to the internet. Mexico's constitution has some rather strong things to say about foreigners tampering in its elections.
Article 33 wags its fingers in the face of outsiders: "Foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country."
The same article warns violators that a quick trip home may be in the offing. "The Federal Executive shall have the exclusive power to compel any foreigner whose remaining he may deem inexpedient to abandon the national territory immediately and without the necessity of previous legal action."
Of course, all of that is in the constitution in Spanish. Not English.
And that brings me to my story.
I was taking a photograph of a wall next door to a fishmonger. The shop owner was curious what I was doing and came out.
He greeted me in Spanish. (I will use the blog universal translator to keep all of us in this tale.)
"Good afternoon. How are you?'
I responded with my trademark: "Practically perfect in every way in this best of all possible worlds."
We then exchanged a few more pleasantries in Spanish.
Then, out of the blue, he asked: "Are you Italian?' But he asked in English.
I started laughing and asked him if my Spanish was that bad. Because I certainly do not fit the usual Italian profile.
In true Mexican fashion, he changed the topic. It turns out, like many Mexican men of his age, he spent some time north of the border. In my old home state of Oregon.
We talked about his experiences in Oregon. My little story about the young Mexican men standing in line at a Salem Taco Bell. His fish business (where I lied that I would be back when I find more culinary pleasures in tofu than in fish).
The encounter reminded me of an earlier event involving my "practically perfect" response. One morning at church before I moved to Mexico, a congregant, a Cuban-American, greeted me in Spanish. I responded with my Poppins-Voltaire trademark.
She stopped. Looked me in the eye and said: "I'm sorry. I don't speak Latin."
Italian. Latin. There seems to be a trend there. My Spanish sounds foreign to native speakers.
But I intend to do something about that. Later this summer I will serve time in the highlands. And it will not simply be a pleasure trip this year. This time I am going to attend a language school.
When I return to Melaque, I will be able to speak Spanish as well as -- any other tourist from Salem.