Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12TH, 1999 – UXMAL (CONT.)

As we drive back from Uxmal, I ask our guide to characterize a young professional, "Joan" from the modern area of the city. It's possible that he could have relatives who lived in a straw hut back in the village, but only distant relatives -- it would be very selfish of him to keep close relatives in such poverty. Jorge's mother has 11 siblings, and they have extended family reunions.

Big companies will give a "13th month" ("aguinaldo") of pay: an end-of-year bonus of about 45% of one month's salary. Joan might be competitive and have the "I'm better than you" attitude. She would be not rich, but not poor. She would try to get her company's owner to like her and "give her a hand". $1000 a month is a good, modest living, salary. Jorge's uncle the accountant earns $600 a month.

Most people who leave the village for a career never return. Possibly the people remaining in the village feel some resentment. Usually, Mexican youngsters stay in frequent contact with their parents. There's no social obligation for them to return to the small town -- after all, they can still attend church with their small town friends.

There's some machismo in Mexico. At the workplace, women get respect, but at home, the man might say "you have to be looking after my children, don't get a job". Lots of jealousy. In last 20 years, men are thinking more progressively, but still many treat women this way. Husband may say "You may have a career, but I'm still the one responsible for the household." Many men accept a career woman because they want the extra money. Also, families tend to have no more than three children.

In the new generation, typically in a couple, both work. Mexicans who leave to go to the USA (for financial success) get homesick about stuff like the Virgin of Guadalupe festival. Eventually they forget and move on. Jorge says "perhaps success lies not in material things but in things can live without."

Merida has plenty of poverty, but in Chiapas, there's misery. Half-naked undernourished children. Crime rates are high in Chiapas because people are trying to survive.

I ask our guide about a section of my book, where the hero asks the Zapatistas for assistance against the Mexican government. He says, Mexican gov't will pursue anyone who aids the Zapatistas. Zapatistas won't want to talk with the guy because he's an American. He would have to explain himself and convince them. They wouldn't trust him: "You have come to Mexico & now you're fleeing... why?"

Mexican saying, "When there's nothing to hide, what is there no fear?" or "One who owes nothing has nothing to fear."

We ask our guide, Jorge, to take us to the rich area of Merida: the north side. There are two big towers, both banks. Surprisingly, all these USA companies start popping up, in roadside shopping centers that look very much like the USA: TGI Friday's, Sam's Club, Wendy's, Sears in a big mall, Office Depot, "7 Eleven" (abierto 24 horas), Pizza Hut, Domino's, Nokia, Grease Monkey, Ace Hardware, "farmacias". The buildings are all low. Chevrolet. A convention center which holds up to 3000 people.

There are Mayan names for all the meeting rooms. They use the ancient Mayan architectural ideas in the convention center. Only 25% of the city lives in the modern area; it's expensive and new. Many people prefer things that come from abroad (Usually USA), ("amalinchista"), that's fashionable. Honda, Goodyear.

We come to a stop sign, where a 10-year-old is juggling lemons and begging. Give him 2-3 pesos. 5 pesos is generous. North Gym, Pizza Hut, a private club for tennis. The rooftops have that cylindrical clay shingle thing, which Jorge calls "cantina" architecture. The fences aren't high on rich houses because the crime rate is low in Merida.

There's a private school here, too. "Bienas Railes", real estate, carved into grey rock. Kid's Planet, in bright cartoony letters. Gambling is not legal in Yucatan. Hooters, Burger King. Superkin(?) a minimart ("24 horas"). Carmen Travel Service. Ozzy Collection "magic fashions". Coconut trees. We see grey stone everywhere; that's limestone.

I return to the Festival of Guadalupe, still in progress, with Amy. At 4pm, the sun is already dropping, making long shadows. There's wind. The heat roils of the food vendors and onto me as I walk past. Only 20% as many people are around tonight as last night, maybe less.

There are speakers outside the church that let you hear the guy at the microphone inside. Mass and mass and more mass for all the pilgrims, one mass after another. Inside the church they're singing a hymn.

Outside, there's rock music. There's a guy with a flat cylinder on his head to which is strapped lollipops for sale! On the way back, we stop at an Internet Cafe and read our email. The Mexican keyboard has some oddities. On Windows 95, "start" is Inicio. "run" -> ejecutar. "telnet" has "OK" -> acceptar, and "cancel" -> "cancelar".

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