Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Traces of Mexico

A year ago, I never imagined mexican culture would fascinate me the way it does. I never thought I'd daydream about what my life would be like anywhere in Central or Latin America, let alone Mexico, or of being fluent in Spanish. More and more, I find traces of Mexico in my story, for now remaining on the surface of culture. My cravings for Mexican cuisine dominate. I listen to salsa music in my car and while I'm cooking, my body responding almost involuntarily, swaying in beat to the vibrant rhythms. My grocery staples now include avocados, limes, onion, tomatoes, corn tortillas, serrano chiles, canned chipotles, pickled jalapenos, Tapatio sauce and beans. I've purchased several mexican cookbooks but most enjoy the recipes Ricardo and I whip up spontaneously in the kitchen, depending on which ingredients we have on hand.

Maybe six months ago, I saw a Groupon in my email for a year-long language course online. I signed up for a Spanish course right away. I own a pocket Spanish dictionary, several books covering the history of Mexico, and am working my way through several books about life in a small town among the mountains in central Mexico. I've attended a handful of Catholic masses with Ricardo, attempting to understand God not only through his eyes, but also through the eyes of the majority of mexican culture, where Catholicism is deeply woven. I attempt to converse with my Spanish-speaking customers and feel a little sigh of happiness when I hear Spanish spoken elsewhere, straining quietly to make out any of the words, smiling as if we shared a secret, knowing I am all but invisible to those speaking.

Lately, as I've been reading Tony Cohan's On mexican time, my senses become lost in the sights, sounds, tastes, colors, celebrations, warmth, smells, pace and priorities of life in the small town he and his wife relocated to in central Mexico when escaping L.A. It sounds romantic without being romanticized. Something in me yearns for the quality and simplicity of the life he describes. And something in me fears the changes, wondering if I have what it takes to adjust my life to Mexico. I desire it, the challenge and opportunity to expand my life, to go deeper into another culture, to go deeper into the hearts of people both like me and unfamiliar to me.

I desire it with a sense of urgency, now that I'm thirty and realize that I'm growing more set in my ways with each year. I hate to admit it, but I like the familiarity of my culture, the way things are, in general, as I expect them to be. I understand the way time works here, the way it's valued, the way it's violated. I understand how relationships work here. I don't have to worry too much about whether or not the people I'm communicating with will understand me, will understand the same things about our culture that I understand. I know how to get around here, with my eyes closed. How would it be starting over in a brand new town in a brand new country? Ricardo did it, but could I? I admire his tenacity, knowing I barely appreciate what it's cost him to make a new life for himself here. I long to know that I, too, could rise to that challenge. I long to take in all the facets of the rich culture that has shaped him into the man he is today. I long to know it's not too late; I'm not stuck in a comfortable, status quo life here.

I am filled with a growing curiosity and desire to know our distant next-door neighbors, across that politically charged border that separates our two countries.

No comments:

Post a Comment