POSTCARD FROM OAXACA: The Report From Mexico
OAXACA, Mexico—An average day:
7:15 a.m. Wake up due to extreme heat, bright sun in eyes and recurring, intense, ulcer-like pain in stomach that has lasted several days—or if no ulcer, then extreme indigestion.
7:15-8 a.m. Try to get back to sleep. Fail.
8-9 a.m. Get ready, put on sunscreen.
9 a.m. Step outside. Sunscreen melts immediately into eyes, causing burning and redness. Teenage girls point and laugh.
9-10 a.m. Find Internet café. Use Internet.
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Approximate work. Take cabs to small villages and look politely at pottery. Alternately, check hours at post offices, banks, hotels, restaurants.
1-2 p.m. Eat lunch. Feel ill before, during and after eating fried salty food. Actual physical yearning for Taco Bell takes place.
2-5 p.m. More “work” or something like it. Hot as hell. Backpack melts. Hair catches on fire. Approached by more laughing teenage girls. At first, this was funny. Now, annoying. Old women give me the evil eye. Old Mexican women distrust me. I look at back at them with ice in my heart, peeling skin on my back and hot sunscreen in my eyes.
5-6 p.m. More email.
6-7 p.m. Eat. Bleh.
7-8 p.m. Think about doing work. (Writing.)
8-8:30 p.m. Maybe work a little.
8:30-10 p.m. Sit around.
10 p.m. Sleep.
After a great deal of research, I have determined the three most important elements of Mexican culture:
1. Making out. Every park is filled with visibly amorous couples of all ages. I write this in an Internet cafe and the teenage clerks are necking loudly and enthusiastically.
2. Littering. There is a canyon I took a boat tour through the other day which is very famous—when the natives lost a battle to the Spanish, they threw themselves heroically off the 1,000-meter-high canyon walls into the river rather than surrender. Today, people who are finished with colas or snacks heroically throw their trash into the water.
3. Music. The music is generally accordion-based. The ballads last 1,000 minutes and are sung by men in big hats.
Some other important Mexican facts:
Cockroaches seen in hotel bathroom: 4.
Times I used bathroom in attempt to perform immersion cure of insane cockroach fear: 4.
Insane cockroach fear cured: No.
Times woken up during Sunday nap by firecrackers set off ritualistically in courtyard of hotel at 5 p.m.: 1.
Dreams during said nap about man-eating house cats: 1.
Dreams about attending concert featuring Britney Spears and Shaquille O’Neal: 1.
Translation of word “pasta” into English on menu: “Noddies.”
“Booty” in Spanish: Botín.
A typical moment: I walk into a hotel. Receptionist says, “------.” I say, “What?” She says “-----.” I say, “Huh?” She says, for the third time now, “Buenos días.” We are both embarassed.
Names I was called by a roving gang of young hoodlums at the Monte Alban archaelogical site: “Chino” (Chinaman), “Jew,” “Kike.”
Update: I think the male clerk in this Internet café just grabbed the female clerk’s ass. She is making some sort of squealing noise. I am going to get a better look.
Benjamin D. Mathis-Lilley ’03, a history and literature concentrator in Adams House, is associate magazine editor of The Crimson. This summmer, he is working for Let’s Go as a researcher-writer in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Tabasco and Chiapas. Contrary to popular belief at Monte Alban, he is of mixed European descent and is neither Chinese nor Jewish.