Un mes bien lleno: depth, breadth, much bread, new friends, bikes, discurso
Hola de Mérida en el estado Yucatán, México, 30 de enero 2015! Escribí hace muchos días; el tiempo tiene maneras extrañas de torcerse. Todavía estoy manejando mi vida poco por poco, y entiendo como dejar las cosas como sean porque todo, pero TODO, es impredecible. It’s been a while since I’ve last written; time has a funny way of twisting and changing itself. I’m still learning how to manage my life here, little by little, and how to let things go as they are because everything, I mean everything, is unpredictable! Bear with the length, it’s my style/due to procrastination I invite you to either skim or delve in!
- Miguel models his own bigote (mustache) next to an exhibit on colonial uses of chocolate—a special taza/cup JUST TO PROTECT MEN’S MUSTACHES….—in Choco Story, the chocolate museum next to the Uxmal ruins (which are incredible, extensive, on various levels, elaborate and bright, and we were able to climb the pirámide adivino)
- Gay Mérida map
- The Mayan goddess Ixchel at the Oxkintok ruins
- The Mayan phrases incorporated into Spanish here that I’ve been learning
- Dad Roberto and terrier escocés Tasha (named after his grandmother Anastasia)
- Out-of-place white heteronormativity at Choco Story (man, that place was a trip…)
- Strike at UADY!
- Magnificent bird carvings at Uxmal
- Huevos motuleños in Motul
One of the more pressing issues to relate is that of the strike! La huelga. It’s been on for two weeks and two days now, at UADY, and is still in full force—as evidenced by the black and red flags hanging obligatorily on the front doors of every UADY-related building, which include theaters, high schools (prepas), and upwards of nine facultades around the city. Someone (usually more than one someone, for solidarity) has to be stationed at each entrance in order for the huelga to be sustained and considered valid. The beginning of this year, an incrementation of salary by 3.4% was established nationwide by the government, but one of the two sindicatos (unions), Autamuady, which comprises the administration, caretakers, and other non-professor personnel/personal, rejected this increase and instead demanded 10%. And the government responded with an insulting offer of 40 pesos per YEAR increase…more meetings are happening more often to iron this out. In the meantime, however, this means that we have moved to taking classes at the private Universidad Modelo—beautiful campus, palm tree courtyard, not the same as the awesome, sunny, cheerful rotunda staircase and gardens at UADY, but of course a different kind of impressive. Un poco hipster; great art and studio spaces, ample cafeteria (I’ve eaten several packs of plátano plaintain chips), SUCH friendly students (I’ve befriended a Gilberto, Priscilla, Nicole, Mar, Cintia, Brigitte, Diana, Ana, and Itza so far, by which I mean those are the students I’ve successfully talked to!), chill atmosphere but jam-packed with info and interest and student presentations and teachers platicando, talking casually, with students about everything brainy and cool. Which by the way, are: auditing History of Mayan Civilization at IFSA offices, obligatory Spanish class with IFSA, Educational Psychology, Modern Yucatecan Literature, Culture and Thought in Hispanoamérica, and Human Sexuality (we watched a movie today about Alfred Kinsey [if you don’t know him, YOU SHOULD] who awesomely graduated from Bowdoin!!!).
- 7 pesos to ride the bus anywhere; 3 pesos with student credential (except weekends and feriados, holidays).
- Altabrisa, Plaza Fiesta, Macroplaza, Gran Plaza are the main malls.
- Mambocafé, the salsa club I went to on Friday night, 30 January, has a cover of 100 pesos (and one bottle of any liquor is upwards of 1.000 pesos, but the group we were with was able to fanagle a free bottle, or pomo, because they have birthday promotions and mine fell in the month of January) but the live music from Havana Energy was soooo worth it; they are a pack of fiercely AWESOME dancers. Video included.
- Casa Pompidou has a cover of 50 pesos for hombres after 10:30 pm (read 22:30 pm) and after 12:00 am for mujeres. Tough luck, guys…and playing favorites for ladies, hmm…
- I’m including a photo of all the Mayan words integrated into Yucatecan speak that I’ve learned so far. Also, equis is used to mean something akin to me da igual, to describe something neutral/so-so. I’ve heard it a lot this week.
- It’s dangerous and genial (awesome) to have a family who owns a pizza place, and Roberto assumes that I’ll eat all the pizza he brings home because it’s off limits to hime after he had a heart attack for years ago…
- Always ask for crema de cacahuate instead of mantequilla de cacahuate or you’ll end up with a tub of butter, not peanut butter, in your host family’s fridge…yay butter with everything!!!!…
Mi familia is currently at a tornabodas—like a reception but more of an event and, it seems, the day after the wedding—after a weekend of festejando this same couple, the niece of my Yucatecan father Roberto, who, by the way, was apparently part of the entertainment, playing his guitarra clásica flawlessly and soulfully as usual. Meanwhile, I embarked on a wonderful journey en la biciruta de la ciudad this morning—every Sunday, a big loop around El Centro of Mérida is closed and various rental places pop-up for the purpose of biking, skating, tandem-biking, etc. Many people turned out (although today coincided with a triathlon happening at the same time, very impressive), including myself and a new friend, Rex, who studies at FCA (Facultad de Contabilidad y Administración, part of UADY), to rent bikes at 20 pesos/hour. The morning turned into one of the most sustained conversations in Spanish I’ve had with one person, even counting my Yucatecan familia. Our topics touched on a range from what typical weekends look like, to his involvement in local political campaigns, which have slowed down his schooling but which he’s really been passionate about), to the reactions by mostly older generations toward maricón—“ostentatiously” gay—behavior. Rex explained to me that his cousin was in danger of getting a serious whipping-into-shape/scared-straight lesson by their grandfather, until their grandmother protested, and that the usual rite of passage of manhood for the men in his family was to go to strip clubs…Rex recounted his first visit when he was an innocent 13 or 14 irreverently and hilariously. We talked openly and easily about youth relationships to their sexuality, about his grandfather’s real fears of having maricones in the family, about his understandings of bisexuality. He also showed me the Salvador Alvarado sports complex, the biggest free arena, track, and courts area in Mérida, through which we biked after stopping for huge styrofoam cups of iced tea and horchata, and before eating at Lonchería Boxita for panuchos and relleno negro—the former=turkey or similar meat piled with avocado and purple onions on tostadas, the latter turkey or similar meat with a boiled egg on tostadas and all drowned in a special recado negro sauce. Rex’s favorite.
Visiting the grutas (caverns) of Calcehtok and the Mayan ruins of Oxkintok last weekend, with the student-led group Mexplorando, one German intercambio student, Anika, on the excursion and I made the realization that there is so much more humanity behind the staunch, sterilized, grandiose tales of the cultures of old whose ruins stand as testament to their unfathomable powers of architecture, physics, and astronomy. Victor, our guide at this site, which was the first to be excavated in Mesoamerica, I believe, took a good amount of time to explain one particular stone monument, long, cylindrical, pointed at a 45º to the ground. Well, turns out, that is a fairly common penis monument, symbolizing the fertilization of the earth. The other guide Lourdes also showed us the goddess Ixchel, whose figure has been worn by hands—as legend has it, any woman will likely become pregnant upon touching the stone likeness, such are her powers of fertility. Learning about the male/female balance in many Mayan symbols was also fascinating, and how the genders really had more discursive and connected than oppositional qualities.
Leah, Miguel and I have been using Tinder for queer meetups (others on our program are also using Tinder, and Miguel can tell you a little more about the other apps he uses), stories from which have been funny to share. I have been talking to really interesting women on the app who know a lot of random cool places I hope to visit in Mérida, and I imagine will be good resources to discuss politics and what it’s like for a twenty-something woman to live in Mérida. I met with Karyn after chatting, and we embarked to the small town of Motul just outside Mérida, where the awesome dish huevos motuleños was born. Also ate elote ice cream—elote is corn but also corn on the cob on a stick sold at many vendor carts around the city, with mayonesa, chile, and limón. YUM. Tasted like super buttered ice cream though…ha. We talked about her relationship with her mother, who herself became involved with a close family friend/godmother type shortly after Karyn came out to her, and just about political realities, her thesis on youth access to communication tools and Internet, and other topics. Karyn shared with me a myth about the gay community in Mérida: the son of Porfirio Díaz the dictator was caught fraternizing with a party of 41 men in the D.F. (Ciudad de México), where half were dressed in suits and the other half were dressed in drag. The police began to arrest them when upon receiving a noise complaint, but when they realized Díaz’s son was there, their only option to save face was to exile the lot to Mérida for forced labor, protecting Díaz’s son from punishment….and hence the gay community here (again, urban legend, funny story though). Also, to note: Mala Santa is a gay bar I hope to venture to for fun and for ethnographic purposes, not to be confused with Mala Vida, where I went on Thursday (2 for 40 pesos whiskey soda…).
Feeling more of a set rhythm and schedule taking shape with classes this week, and making plans to go to Palenque in the state of Chiapas to visit a very awesome person—Denise (mother of my incredible friend Riel at Pitzer College, shout out), who works with women’s cooperatives in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Just bought my tickets, actually!
Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University
Peace, people! Over and out,