Expatriation, Part Dos (August 29, 2007)

I’m at a disadvantage here, writing for the AVA. I don’t have a clue if anyone is even reading this stuff since I can’t get the AVA here in Mexico. The mail service here sucks. The internet is great, tho, but the AVA isn’t on the internet except mostly for “archives” from years ago. Bville’s a little backward, as far as world-wide communications are concerned.

I left off the last Mexico piece saying that Mexico would be different for me but that I had no idea of how different it would be. That’s a lie. I was raised in a Mexican neighborhood of San Jose and all of my friends and neighbors were Mexican. I can still remember hanging out a Sra. Alicia’s house at lunch time waiting for her to hand us hot, fresh off the grill tortillas to eat. Her son, Richard, was my best friend. We used to wander the hills in Alum Rock Park above San Jose constantly in the summers. I remember the time some gringos thought he had stolen their shoes and started screaming that some “Chinese” guy took them. Racists were pretty primitive and innocent in those days.

There are no more good old days to reminisce about so I’ll skip the rest of my youth. It was pretty much bunk. My Bville days included getting fired by KZYX five times (a record at the time), and training horses for Nick Alexander, the millionaire from Pasadena whose father co-starred in the original Dragnet, and selling herbs of varying legal degrees at the Bville farmers market. That’s about it. I was married to a crazy woman (no offense if you’re reading this, Dayla, because I still love you but in a familial sort of way…) and I was extremely unhappy. Everything I wrote for the AVA then was met with displeasure by my neighbors. It got to the point that if I was at a shopping center with Bruce (the editor or whatever of this paper) and someone came by and muttered angrily, “Fascist,” I didn’t know if it was Bruce the guy was talking to or me.

Mexico is different. Here you know if someone calls you a fascist.

Most people from Mendocino wouldn’t like Mexico. People sweat a lot here. There are plastic bottles thrown everywhere (because Coke has decided to not use glass recyclables any longer — remember that the ex-Presidente Fox of Mexico was the head of Coca Cola before the election) and because people weren’t used to tossing banana peels and coconut shells into non-existent trash containers. It was recycling to toss these things alongside the road. 

And there’s too much reliance on public transit. Most of the gringos I talk to don’t like the busses here because they bounce too much, they’re noisy, the seats are too close together and they have Guadalupe Virgins above the gear shift and they are driven by madmen. Of course, the buses run everywhere every five minutes, as any efficient public transit should, but they don’t all look the same (each driver customizes his bus with black lights or diablo flames or long-lost love poems).

People who live here always say to the driver, “Gracias” when they leave the bus. Imagine saying this to a Santa Rosa or San Francisco bus driver (we all know you can’t say anything to Mendo bus drivers).

Right now (summer) we are in the rain season. It rains almost every day, usually in the evenings, and, if you’re lucky, there are spectacular thunder and lightning storms to go along with the torrential rain. The streets become flooded enough that kids could wake board behind the VWs or buses, if kids here had wake boards. The river in front of our house will rise a meter in an hour. Pretty impressive display of mother nature.

People here are fairly religious. Some taxi drivers will cross themselves when they drive past a church. Even some bus drivers (those not drunk or talking on the cell to their girlfriends) will. I’ve tried to learn this “head, heart, tit, belly” method to fit in, but it never feels right. 

The “evil eye” is real here. I was attacked with it a while back because I told someone who was moving in on my land not to. She was pissed and you could feel the bad “vibes.” But I’m pretty good at that stuff, myself, so I “won.” At least for now. Everything is for now, here.

The Church here is dominant. There are crucifixes and virgins everywhere. It’s appropriate and quite normal here that the religious store also sells lottery tickets. I like that attitude. I bought a glow in the dark crucifix there. 

During holidays, the Church doesn’t just ring bells to get you to mass, they set off rockets loud enough to scare the shit out of any god-fearing FEMA clone. And they do this starting at 6am, continuing, on special days, til past midnight. Some days church people parade around the Colonia (“barrio” in the States) and set off rockets every 30 or so feet. One morning I was having sex with Sarah and a rocket went off just as we orgasmed. I saw god. Before this I would get mad at the Church for such rude intrusions. Now I just smile.

I’ve been warned about the Federales here. So far, they’ve been nothing but nice, much nicer than that old Sheriff what’s his name, in Anderson Valley (the one who would sit above a tank of water in the Fair and have kids throw baseballs at a lever to try to dunk him) who nailed me once for dumping a dead horse off of Flynn Creek Road. 

I’ve been warned about the bureaucracy here, how it’s all run by mordidas (bribes), but having been through the process of getting building permits, hiring people, applying for immigration work papers and a business license, etc., I’ve actually only had to bribe three people. Two were worth it and one wasn’t. This is a much better ratio than I encountered in Mendocino County. The good old boy network in Mendoland is too strong for an outsider to get by easily. A friend of mine who runs a coffee shop here said that the main difference between here and the States is that Mexico is free. He then rubbed his forefinger and thumb together like someone counting money. He is right. One cab driver, when I asked him if he wanted to go up north said, “No.” And he made a motion like someone holding a machine gun. Another woman said that in El Norte you had to be too “perfect.” You couldn’t be human.

There are poor people here. There are “Marias” who sit on the sidewalk and look forlorn and hold out their hands to you, begging. There are kids and the elderly who bag your groceries for tips in all of the major stores. There are guys sleeping on the sidewalks sometimes (mostly in the “Low” season, now, when few touristas from up north are here). There are kids who cruise the beach and sell Chiclets and little magnetic animals made out of seeds and shells. There are Time-Share salesmen and women who will follow you down the street trying to get you to go to a sales presentation in exchange for tequila, a meal, a canopy ride, some drugs, a woman, a boy, etc, depending on your dew point. And there are pot holes in the cobble stone streets.

Puerto Vallarta is the gay capital of Mexico, fortunately. I’m not gay but I hated living in Bville where all of the kids were so homophobic that the place was a caricature of Alabama. And Vallarta is an international tourist destination. Dutch, Australian, French and German, South American tour ships dock here, with corresponding flights. We have a weekly expat get-together each Saturday at a local beach bar and half of us are French Canadian, half are gringo Canadian, a quarter are Brits and a quarter are US gringos. Plus one or two Mexicans so we don’t look like a bunch of tourists. All of us work here, some as performers, teachers, time-share salesmen/women and just plain hustlers. 

The tour books say that foreigners can’t work in Mexico in menial jobs, but that’s not true. Nothing in the tour books is true, or, rather, it’s all true, but not all of the time (this is a part of that Mexican freedom I mentioned earlier). If you want an idea of what expat gatherings are like, here is a link to a video of part of one: http://www.vallartascene.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=7678.

We’re mostly just a bunch of old drunks, at least on Saturday nights. I’m the one holding the camera. This link is from an expat forum for Puerto Vallarta that I run. It’s kind of like a second rate online AVA if you read between the lines.

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