Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

MONDAY, DECEMBER 13TH, 1999 -- BIOTECH PLACES & DZIBILCHALTUN RUINS (CONT.)

Ten years ago, Jorge's father was studying & was invited by a travel agency to work in Cancun. The first tourists were coming to Merida in the 1970s and 1980s. But Jorge's mother didn't want him to go: the schools in Cancun are dangerous and there's drugs there. The mother had a veto over moving. She didn't like the quality of life there. "All the people my son will be dealing with will be different: discos, bars, drugs, because there's money flowing."

Teenagers get too much "experience". Parents try to protect their kids from drugs. There's now a drug problem in Merida, too, but less than bigger cities. Cancun is the fast life.

Kids have pinatas at birthday parties until the age of 11 or 12. They have clowns. For food, tamales or spaghetti, or sandwiches, plus a cake with candles and they sing Happy Birthday. First, you break the pinata, then sing. Chant "mordida" or whistle while the birthday kid bites the cake. They wait until the kid is distracted and then push his face into the cake. Then maybe a show. All relatives prepare the food. Adults also have this face-in-the-cake ritual.

An office party: refreshments, sodas, perhaps a cake, spaghetti, nachos, usually beer or bacardi rum, potato chips, refried black beans pureed w/nachos, cheese chips, also jalapeno & chili next to the chips & melted cheese.

Young ladies have a debutante-style coming-out party when they're 15: it's both a social and a religious thing. You rent a special place and invite 500 people. It can cost 30,000 pesos. You buy her a dress.

The most important thing is having a mass at the church, to show gratefulness, before the party. Afterwards, a reception which may go to 3 or 4 am, during which the father gives a speech, like "She's always been a good girl and we pray to God she'll have a good life." They talk about her childhood and all the things they've taught her. Dancing and music. They play tropical music & disco in English and Spanish. Then at midnight, they have dinner. 95% of teenagers love this party and look forward to it for years.

nina = girl up to 12. senorita = young woman, unmarried. A senora is someone married, but anyone 35 years old or older is senora. When in doubt, call someone a senorita, because it's a compliment. It's like saying "you look young".

I take a taxi ride. There's a white braided rug over the driver's car seat. A plush interior. It's a compact car. The driver accelerates right into traffic that's clearly stopped at a light, and then brakes heavily. Ugh. The same rug-like white material covers the back seat. He couldn't speak any English, so I wrote down the street numbers for him.

We pass dark green buses -- the community buses -- with yellow on the windshield giving their destinations. There are ads on the sides and back in plain yellow script. It's very much like the MBTA but not as extensive. The sidewalks are often too narrow. Once I had to turn my back to a wall because a bus rode up very close, right up to the curb, missing me by only a foot.

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