Saturday, April 29, 2017
welcome to toontown
I missed semana santa in Mexico earlier this month.
And I mean that in both the temporal and emotional sense of the verb. I have always enjoyed the press of flesh locally when our villages transform into pleasure palaces for highlanders. Maybe because I am a roar of the greasepaint, smell of the crowd kind of guy.
This year I missed one of our prime holidays because I was in Colombia watching massive traffic jams as Bogotanos returned from their Easter outings. But it was not the same ritual as semana santa by the sea.
It turns out I am in luck. And so are you if you like being in the midst of crushing crowds.
Mexico is celebrating a four-day weekend federal holiday -- labor day. We will get to that in a moment.
Thanks to Mexican taxpayers, there is no longer any reason to confuse Melaque with Barra de Navidad. Town names are now on display in vivid technicolor.
I first saw the signs in Guadalajara on one of my tours with Mex-Eco. As befits the second largest city in Mexico, the sign was a bit more sophisticated, and far less garish, than our local signs.
But, after all, we have tropical weather here. Why not have tropical colors?
And -- we do. Here is Barra de Navidad's sign. Appropriately placed on the malecon on the way to the jetty. It is a perfect setting.
Melaque's sign is just as colorful, but not as appropriately situated in a rather stark plaza.
Poor Melaque has something of an identity problem. What we call Melaque is really three villages: Melaque, San Patricio, and Villa Obregon. But, collectively, they are Melaque. Ironically, this Melaque sign is in San Patricio's square -- a fact that a number of residents grumpily point out.
I am not grumpy. My post office box address is just as ambivalent "San Patricio, Melaque," it says. And it is nowhere near as colorful as the sign.
But the town signs are not the only new greeters to our occasional visitors. Several years ago, someone decided that visitors should be welcomed to Melaque with a gateway. It was quite the eyesore, painted a rather sickly brown.
No more. Someone recently painted it white and its decorations were accented in gray. Then someone added a welcome -- to someone named "Mel." You have already seen it at the top of this essay.
It turns out the message was truncated for viewers by a palm tree. Of course, it is a welcome to Melaque.
And, on the reverse side is an even more colorful and eccentric "adios."
The font for that sign and the colors of the town signs kept gnawing at me. I knew I had seen them before. Then, it occurred to me.
They look as if they came out of Toontown -- where all of the cartoon characters lived in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
But whatever the signs look like, they are welcoming our guests for Labor Day. Here, that is a four-day holiday because 1 May falls on a Monday.
Around the world, it is known as International Workers' Day. The day that the remaining cadre of socialists, communists, and anarchists break out their red and black flags to politicize work, when most other people are happy to see work as an Aristotelian moral virtue. The type of socialists P.J. O' Rourke describes as: "Most Sanders supporters were still DNA molecules the last time a major nation tried to turn the clamorous words of Bernie into calamitous deeds."
The Second International (that socialist gathering of know-better-than-you-dos) decided something had to be done to commemorate the Haymarket Riot of 1889 in the name of labor solidarity. (Recent studies have cast doubt on the founding myth. But myths have their own utility, despite the paucity of facts.) So, the International conducted a hostile takeover of the ancient church festival honor workers on 1 May. Thus was International Workers' Day born.
Other nations, such as Canada and the United States have decided to honor the virtue of work in September, and instead celebrate another philosophical virtue -- Law Day -- on 1 May.
Mexico has joined most of the world in celebrating labor on 1 May. It has its own Haymarket Riot myth. Mexican labor day honors the 23 Mexican workers who died in the Cananea Riot of 1908. Some historians mark the day as the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Non-Marxists tend to consider it a symbol of what was wrong with the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
For those of us who are concerned that work has been politicized, I am here to tell you not to worry. Of the several young Mexicans I surveyed today, only one knew why we were celebrating a four-day holiday. And he had even heard of the Cananea Riot -- even though he thought it was an uprising against the Spanish.
And that is what happens in non-totalitarian societies. Politicians may attempt to abscond with our ideals, but we can live our lives as we choose.
That is why, while scruffy students (mainly without jobs) in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Beijing march around proclaiming the goodness of the proletariat, my Mexican neighbors will celebrate the virtue of work by frolicking in the surf and sun.