Tuesday, December 13, 2016

a mist is as good as a smile

"You don't live in Mexico. You live in Disneyland. I live in the authentic Mexico."

It was my pen pal Carlotta. She was participating in one of the favorite games of expatriates: "My life in Mexico is more authentic than yours."

Usually, the game is heavily laden with sardonic irony. But some players take it very seriously. Not Carlotta. After all, she lives in Ajijic -- Scottsdale with a lake. (See what I mean?)

I thought of her today. When I bought new gray sheets for each of the guest bedrooms at Sam's Club in Manzanillo, I stripped the shelves of the entire stock in that shade. And when my family made a Sam's Club run last week, we discovered none more were to be had.

Because Wednesday is linen exchange day at the casa with no name, I had to do something. Otherwise, there would be no linen to exchange. And what better way than to drive to Costco in Guadalajara to eat up a leisurely day?

That is exactly what we did. We took the toll roads inland for a four hour drive, and then spent an hour cruising through Costco -- all four of us undertaking our own missions.

Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea. Who would think Costco in mid-day on a Tuesday would be busy. Well, it was. Looking at the carts, I suspect people were getting a jump on Christmas.

Visiting Costco is always an exercise in patience. Today was no different.

Most of the lines were about seven carts long. And everyone in line patiently waited his turn. Even when two women with their Armani boots and Louis Vuitton bags tending three over-filled carts allowed what I assumed were their boyfriends or spouses to push into the line with four equally-bulging baskets, no one even muttered.

Mexicans are one of the most patient people on earth. And I suspect, from their sense of entitlement, the line jumpers had enough social clout to stifle any complaint. After all, Mexico is a very hierarchical society masquerading in egalitarian togs. I could learn a little more patience from them.

As I shopped my way through the store, I could hear Carlotta's voice in the back of my head claiming Costco is not authentically Mexican.

I wonder what all the Mexicans shopping there (including the Rodeo Drive wannabes with their designer clothes) would say to that?

I suspect I know. Several years ago, I joined a Mexico message board where the topic of authenticity came up amongst the expatriate rabble rousers. If I remember correctly, the topic was genetically-modified food, but it quickly turned into a progress-is-destroying-Mexico tirade.

After the nattering died down, a young Mexican woman responded. And I paraphrase. "I am a little tired of hearing outsiders, who have moved to Mexico, expecting all of us Mexicans to dress in serapes, ride burros, and eat nothing but tacos. Mexico is a young, vibrant nation. Certainly, we cherish our historical heritage. But, sometimes the old must die for the young to survive. I live in a country with the 12th highest GDP. My generation wants growth, not to be mired in the mud of the past."

If I had to choose, her voice strikes me as being authentically Mexican. Certainly, there are many Mexicos. Where I live is quite different than Carlotta's Mexico and the Mexico of the young woman in Mexico City.

So, I will patiently wait in line at Costco, where I can often see Octavio Paz's Mexican masks on full display.

And I am the better for it.

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