Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On the inside

I have had some trouble posting due to technical difficulties lately, so this post is from two weeks ago. The blogging continues, and I have a lot to say lately, so stay tuned!

After returning from Boston last week, where I saw my mom run 26 miles along with thousands of other people, I see Mexico once again with the eyes of an American. The glitter on their clothes, the ceaseless grunts and rumblings of the buses, the sporatic whiffs of a struggling sewer system, and the thickness of the polluted air all seemed intense and foreign the day I got back. After stepping out of my shoes as an American immigrant to Mexico, it was hard to put them back on. The first day, I longed for the quietness of the traffic back home, the reliability of the transportaion systems. I longed for English and grass fields and crisp, cool air.

But a week has passed now, and the readjustment period is over. It's funny, the same things that annoy me about the attitudes here--the ceaseless need for action without thought, constant spontaneity and tendency to change plans--are also the things that lure my attention and interest time and again. While in my mind, I am headed home to study Spanish and go to bed early, in actuality I am going to talk talk talk in the kitchen with my housemates Mario and his mom, Mari and maybe head to a club to try my feet at salsa. And the distractions don't end at the door of my house. The streets are full of distractions. When I am walking home, I usually get stopped for one reason or another. People solicit spare change, sell tamales, ask for directions, strike up random conversations, all with seeming earnestness.

In the kitchen, we talk and talk and talk. I ask Mario how to spell different words, and the conversation expands to world politics and then bigger issues. He tells me about his experiences living in Canada, where he endeavored to market Mexican beans and meat to restaurants, and when he discovered that the culture he admired from Mexico seemed strangely closed and uninterested in the culture of Mexico. These issues always send me talking about the importance of cultural awareness, and my desire to learn more about Mexico.

The other night, Mario let me in on one of the most colorful and interesting aspects of Mexican culture--its variety o music. As the notes of Mexican music spilled out into the room, I was enthralled. The music conjured images of bubbles floating out from some heaven source. The sounds transported my mind to another reality. The band, Cafe Tacuba, is not popular in the U.S., and when I told Mario I'd never heard of them before, he said what a shame. When I said that I also hadn't heard of the legend Luis Miguel, he was a bit repulsed.

"They were born, became famous, the whole world said wow, that's incredible, this is wonderful. Then they died. And you guys never knew it." He's holding his arms up in an exagerated shrug when he says this, his lips pursed in a pittying smile.

I laugh and laugh. It seemed ridiculous, and I pictured a cartoon image of this situation, where all of us Americans were standing on our own map, facing inward, working on our computers and then heading to our couches, all of which face Hollywood. Down below on the map was the rest of Latin America, and they were all having a party together, the entertainment flowing in like multicolored waterfalls from various corners of the gloe--Mexico, France, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, the U.S. The people were laughing and jumping and moving to and fro, looking every direction to enjoy the fruits of so many different lands. And in this movie in my mind, we Americans didn't even hear the noise they are making. I laughed, and then I felt embarrassed for us, and then I thought about my reality back home, before I'd heard about these bands, and I realized I am a classic example of the oblivious American. As much as I enjoy other cultures, even pride myself on knowing about them, my work-hard-and-then-relax-mindlessly lifestyle cost me a lot of great music. And the music is only a symbol. As we look inward, and sometimes to Europe, for everything, we miss out on the rich culture of Latin America.

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