Follow the adventure from the beginning

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Non-disorder

Mexico City

Every time I come to Mexico, I lose my identity. This time, I was at Sense nightclub in Santa Fe – the height of posh in Mexico City. Before getting into the club, I showed the bouncer my U.S. license. I was with a group of girls, friends of friends. Half of us got the thumbs up and were allowed to get on the glass and mirror elevator into Sense, while the guards wanted to keep the other half waiting outside. Exclusive clubs in Mexico are strange like this. Wear the right outfit, get in. Know someone, get in. Pay someone off, get in. Be racially profiled in the right category, get in. Otherwise, the bouncers love to exert the ounce of power they have to keep you in line all night long.  

In my case, the U.S. license almost always does the trick. Thank you Malinche. (She was the Nahua woman from the region that forms the state of Tabasco today, on the Gulf Coast, who betrayed her own tribe in favor of a relationship with the Spaniard, Hernan Cortes, Conquistador de Mexico! Ever since, Mexicans have called themselves, Malinchistas, because they often favor the foreign over the homemade.)

Once inside Sense, I found my best friend, Bonnie. She took me to her table right away.

“Put your bag here,” Bonnie said. “It’s no problem.” And she was right. The only people in there were hijos del papa. The rich kids. I wasn’t even allowed to bring my camera into the club – I had to check it in the coatroom. Upper class Mexico has responded quite seriously to the current security concerns across the country. God forbid I get a picture of some CEO’s kid, post it on Facebook, and let a DTO kingpin find out where his target was, when, and with whom.

In fact, many of these people’s bodyguards were already standing outside the club by the time I arrived. I could identify the bodyguards because they were wearing vests with lots of pockets, and many of them carried walkie talkie radios.

Back in the club, a glass roof over the dancing mass of people opened to reveal the Mexico City skyscrapers around us. Then, they started playing Taio Cruz’s song “Break Your Heart,” and I couldn’t resist any longer. I just had to start jumping on the velvet couches around our table. Some songs just have that effect. My foot quickly found my purse and kicked it to the floor. Contents dispersed. Almost everything recovered. License gone.


The standing joke when I’m in Mexico is that “La cigüeña se equivocó del país.” Meaning, the stork dropped me on the wrong side of the Rio Grande.  My friends love to call me one of the few American-Mexicans they’ve ever met. And after many years of legal residency in Mexico – first as a university student, then as a working professional, and now as an international journalist – it’s an identity crisis that I’m very proud to claim.

Throughout the past eight years, my life has seeped south of the border into Monterrey and now Mexico City. The friends I have here have become part of my extended family. And although I can’t claim any drop of indigenous blood as my own, I have become a mestizaje of culture, language, and customs – like the generations of Europeans and Native Americans mixed together before me. I blend my values and worldviews into something like the Coke and taco stands on every street corner – American and Mexican in one.

In 2008, CEMEX offered to help me attain Mexican citizenship on top of my U.S. passport while I was living in Monterrey. Although I chose not to pursue this option, the idea of claiming a second identity has always intrigued me. We do it all the time with our work attire, our inside voices, our best foot forward, and our hair let down.

Mexico is like this for me. For as much as I live the experience of being “the other” while I’m here (eh-hem, did you see that reddish haired white girl across the street yesterday?), I also feel that I’m part of this country in many of the details that define it. I’m in the $0.25 cents that it costs to travel from one side of Mexico City to the other via metro. I’m all over the fact that suadero tacos come from the meatiest part of the cow’s chest and that chicharron tacos are filled with fried pork fat. I’m in the million ways to use the word “chingar” and the knowledge that “el ultimo y nos vamos,” never refers to the last drink of the night.

I’m fascinated, for example, by Nellie Campobello’s childhood account of the Mexican Revolution in her novel Cartucho, and the fact that other writers of the Revolution like Mariano Azuela, Heriberto Frias, and Jose Vasconcelos ushered in a new cultural era and even helped to define the genre that has become Mexican literature today. 

Of course, I’ll always be a Gringa at heart. Come July 4 in Mexico, I celebrate my American independence with a good glass of Tequila Herradura Reposado. But then again, in the U.S. September 15 is also marked on my calendar for Mexico’s Independence Scream (the famous Grito – Viva Mexico Cabrones!) with a Sam Adams brew from Boston. I guess in the end, I’m both. Not really from here or there, but caught somewhere in between.

So it’s a good thing that when I lose one identity, it’s easy to find another. Forget the license. I’ll use my passport, or my expired Mexican work visa, or my university ID – one of the many me’s I’ve learned to appreciate during my time across the border. 

1 comment:

  1. So glad to see you're blogging again from around the world! Can't wait to read about this year's adventures!