It appears that certain expats (or assimilates) in Mexico have crossed the border here.
Everyone who moves to Mexico, except Jennifer Rose (well maybe not, well maybe a sort of Jennifer line), will at some point, be forced to Draw The Line. It is the point where you finally admit you can’t fully assimilate; that point where you say “I can’t do that’. Once drawn you are forced to stand behind that Line and be called an Expat. For others there is no line, only the seriousness of living in Mexico where it is impossible to draw any line because their full time work is living in the moment in Mexico.
For some, the decision to be an Expat is drawn the moment they cross the border into Mexico when the the Line is Drawn.. At no point will this person change anything, that they did at home, even though they are in a foreign country. It might be an urban myth but when Mega opened in San Miguel, it is told that some expats prepared a list for the manager of products they wanted stocked in the store. In fact, only shopping at Mega might be the beginning of drawing the first line.
For others, who are delighted to be in a foreign country, the exploration and adaption to new ways of doing things is a joy. It is almost as if they refuse to Draw The Line or deliberately cross every line they can. Yet the day will come when they are forced to Draw The Line and become an Expat.
Drawing the Shopping Line
Early Line Drawing, for the newbie Expat, begins with Substitution. This is easy as Globalization has placed multinationals Mexico. North American brands have simply changed the label to Spanish, creating comfort with an ethnic twist.
This substitution is easy Canadians who see English and French on all products at home. Although it is rumored that some Anglophone Canadians who come to Mexico, think Spanish is simply French with a new accents over consonants.
While the label may stay the same, the product is given a spanish – corn niblets become Granos de Elote. But pictures ease the transition much like visual signs for drivers in Euope. People looks to the pictures on the cans to get the right substitution. This is an easy one as picture clearly shows
Day by day, these substitutions start to mount up.
New fruits and vegetables are added to the shopping list. New brands of dish washing powder, laundry detergent and soap start to appear in the maid’s pantry. Many expats, look daily in the cupboards to view how assimilated they have become. Bottled water is substituted for tap water. Soon the pantry is looking more and more Mexican and the new arrival feels justifiably proud of how well they are adapting to life in a new country. But really not much has changed except the addition of Spanish Labels for English Labels. No Line has been Drawn – only substitution.
The first test of substitution. is Mexican Brands. They are not substitutions but products made in Mexico for Mexicans. An example is milk in a box that is not in the refrigerator section. Many Expats balk at Milk in a Box even though the rest of the world seems quite prepared to drink milk in a box. It may seem like a silly line but remember, it is called a foregin country for a reason. But this is a rather simple line and does not get at the heart of the Drawing the Line.
It does gets tougher with Mexican toilet paper. Some people Draw The Line at Mexican toilet paper and so begins the transition to Expat. But for others, who wish to assimilate, toilet paper is not a problem. They have not reached the bottom line. But these aren’t really Lines, no leap of faith is required.
Drawing the Fashion Line
For some the bottom line is underwear.
Can they wear this underwear?.
Can they ask for the pole, to retrieve the red flying underwear, that they have seen inthe Tuesday market. Is this the first Line? wearing only only underwear from the US or Canada.
But the advantage of an underwear Line is that you can hide the Line to all but your most intimate friends and keep pretending that you have assimilated.
Staying with the Clothing Line Drawing theme, another line is soon approached – Mexican Clothing.
Mexican women have a unique style such as high heels, jeans and tight clothing. Must you dress like this to assimilate?
Or going further will you buy an outfit like this?
Will you go native?
Will you buy an apron Source: Billie Mercer?
There is something, about putting on this apron, that might indicate you have a crossed a Line but again it is a private choice unless you would wear it to go shopping or preparing lunch for the ladies.
Drawing the Bathroom Line
Sometimes the Line appears quickly and suddenly, summoned by a call of nature and the decision to enter the local Sanitarios.
The simple act of putting 3 pesos, in a steel turnstile and entering into the world of Mexican public bathrooms is a Line some people can not and will not cross nor matter how desperate they are.
But bathrooms present other Lines to cross.
Old plumbing and notes tell you not to put paper into the toilet. This is the ultimate Toilet Line - the number two dilemma.
Do you or do you not put your used toilet paper into a basket beside the toilet?
Or do you flush like the Expats?
Drawing the Eating Line
Would your organic, whole wheat inner child allow you to eat one of these? Could you eat one of these – the Jello line or the food colored Fiesta Cake line?
Or better would you eat something coming out of this pot?
Or could you eat here? Are you wiling to risk Turista?
Drawing the Decorating Line
Folk Art is the decorating choice of Expats. There is some Folk Art no-one would buy. But how far would you go to Assimilate. Would you make your bathroom look like this?
Drawing the Love Line
Another line for some is Sleeping with a Taxi driver lover?
There are Taxis in San Miguel, who don’t come with flowers like this lowers but some come with a very willing driver who will deliver more than groceries.
Drawing the Mexican Lie Line
Would you execute the Mexican Lie? Would you accept an invitation to parties and events that you had absolutely no intention of attending. Would you tell friend what they want to hear even though you would never follow through? Would you assimilate that far?
Where is your Line?
Thanks to Jennifer Rose for her insight into Mexico and to all the people in San Miguel who answered my question – What is Crossing the Line to you.
It is always nice to update stories. You might recall the Story of Mary and the Rosca de Reyes and the Miracle Babies.
Here are some pictures of her children – so tiny, so precious, so loved and so miraculous. They are twins and not that hard to distinguish between, given the comment below.
Impersonators exist everywhere.
Las Vegas is full of people, who look like Cher, or Joan Rivers, or Diana Ross and of course the King.
But you won’t find any of those impersonators in San Miguel. They simply don’t belong in an Artist’s Colony.
But there are impersonators, as the post on Reinventing Yourself suggests. There are special people, who everyone will recognize, are considered artists, loved by gay men and who everyone will want to hear lipsynch.
Here is the local Judy Garland impersonator in the Jardin. (NOTE - to her this is not an impersonation)
Once the hand goes up then you know, Somewhere Over the Rainbow is not far behind.
Sing it Judy.
And the nearly famous just walk the streets of San Miguel, living among us and always eager to be recognized and have to answer
I didn’t know you lived here.
And the chance to add to the reinvention.
Second childhood is a very popular theme in San Miguel. All those lost opportunities of childhood can be easily regained, with a hat, or a stick, or a hairdo.
Sometimes, it is not a choice. Some people are unaware that their second childhood is following them. They don’t understand the real reason they choose that hat. They don’t understand the Magic of San Miguel.
Yes Paddington bear has come San Miguel.
He is hard to see at first. But if you look hard enough and wish hard enough you will see him.
The sidekick is a supporting character who assists the main character. In early cowboy movies Roy Rogers had Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine, the Cisco Kid had Pancho, the Lone Ranger had Tonto, Luke Skywalker had CP30, Batman had Robin and of course the most famous Lucy had Ethel.
But it takes a special person to be a sidekick. You are always in the supporting role. Your identity and actions are tied to that of the main character. They were always the kid who you could get to run home and get what you need and never complain.
This Gang is not really a Gang because if they got together nothing would happen.
A sidekick reacts and doesn’t initiate.
Once they find their Lucy then they are set for life because Lucy determines the Gang and the hijinks.
Ethel just goes along for the fun.
Of course it is obvious who is the sidekick in this picture.
Leopard Cowgirl has taken her sidekick Backpack Girl to Pozos for an Art Walk.
The hijinks begin when the leopard top comes off and Leopard Cowgirl forgets she put it in her own bag. Wide eyed panic about the lost Leopard Top. She and Backpack Girl go back to the Art Shops asking in English if they have seen the Leopard Top. The sheriff is called to find the escaped leopard and the slap stick begins.
Barbie had Ken until Ken switched sides and Barbie was left with only her best friend and sidekick Midge.
They shop, they get their hair done and at night have a few drinkie poos and then the fun begins.
A sidekick has to complement the lead character without detracting from the star quality of of the lead character.
Dame Edna Everage picked her sidekick Madge for that very reason.
Madge had no more personality than Dame Edna’s purse but provided someone to fill empty space and be a foil for Dame Edna’s hijinks and conversation.
Generally a sidekick should a weaker version of the lead character.
These gals make it difficult to figure out who is the lead character but the scarf suggests who is the lead character.
But this picture reveals the true main character and how the sidekicks sits back and watched the wolf work his magic.
Getting on a horse in San Miguel is one of most common hijinks. The lead gets on the horse and yells commands to the sidekick whose main job is to photo document the hijink and yell encouraging comments such as
Tina, be careful
It won’t be long before Tina’s horse takes off and the hijinks begin.
Sometimes a lead character is such a star that they need more than one sidekick to keep the hijinks going. Today Marjorie makes her sidekicks walk in front of her while she yells out commands. The first sidekick is a bit confused as she is more used to following and not sure where the hijinks will happen. No doubt some horse will have left a gift ahead and Marjorie has seen it
Soon Cynthia and her sidekick Wanda will be on this local bus heading in the wrong direction. The inability to speak a word of Spanish will only heighten the hijinks and lead to some interesting purchases and a case of diarrhea
Okay where are the male sidekicks?. Usually sitting on the wall talking about the past. Not many hijinks. Women are far more interesting in San Miguel than the men.
One male sidekick gang has been done.
Everyone says in Mexico,
Don’t drink the water
But much better advice is
Don’t go near the water.
And in particular don’t go near the waters of Lake Chapala.
There are stairs in Chapala that lead out of the water into the town.
Something comes up those stairs and one night at dinner, in Chapala, meters from the shoreline, appeared these former lake creatures.
They were eating the Friday Night Eat All Your Can Dinner Special oblivious to their surroundings.
They ate and when they wanted more they reverted to earlier sea creature behaviour and clapped for more.
And then, they decided to shop. Little was left afterward.
So a word of advice, don’t go near the water in Mexico.
Gangs have initiation activities for new members.
First the clothes - you have to buy a Man’s Straw Hat and then a pair of Cocktail Combat Sandals.
Dressed in Gang Clothes, your next task is to go to the Jardin to capture Local Color.
This Gang Noviate has heard and then seen the guitar singer. Politely, she walks over to him, to ask permission to take his picture.
She aims her camera and takes the first snap. Her body tingles with that first push on the camera button and in her Gang Heart she believes that she is now an artist.
She has chosen well her first subject – local color. She is now possessed with the spirit of Diane Arbus and is a changed woman.
Instead of the timid, noviate gang member she becomes the Photographer. She channels more Diane Arbus and readies herself for the next shot of the Parroquia.
Nothing will be the same, after she assumes the position.
Processing Magical Moments takes practice in San Miguel.
You see something and your mind begins to wander to all those images you have stored in it, over the years.
It starts to sort the image, so that you can place the image, into some sort of context and make sense of it.
You know something is missing from the picture you are seeing. Your mind tries to find the missing part so that you can process what you are seeing. And then the Magic Moment clicks in.
And the world sort of makes sense again.
An old parenting expression was
Do you know where you kids are?
But when Grandma moves to San Miguel and most contact with Grandma is over the phone, this old expression needs to be updated to
When did you last see Grandma?
Joe Francis made millions with his DVD’s called Girls Gone Wild. The Gangs of San Miguel has applied this concept in San Miguel so that children and grandchildren will suffer the same discomfort as parents did whose daughter appears in Girls Gone Wild.
This blog provides an visual alert to what has happened to their parents and grandparents after moving to San Miguel.
Grandma don’t knit no more.
In fact she has dyed her hair bright red, got herself a sparkly hat, an orange top and red pants and spends her Tuesdays at the Tuesday Market finding new mix and unmatch outfits for the rest of the days.
Nothing bad is happening but think for a minute, is this how you picture Grandma.?
But just a minute maybe Grandma has gone a bit too far.