As more tourists visit Mexico, the greater the chance of interaction between expats and tourists, which can lead to some entertaining moments.
Since most of us expats started as tourists, we can relate to the complete sense of bewilderment which can befall a person on their first time in country.
A great many tourists have that well traveled persona; they are appropriately dressed for the local climate, are currency competent and have had all their shots. These are the seasoned travelers and they don’t scare easily.
And then there are the folks that have never been in a foreign land; everything for them is so distinctly divergent from Dubuque or Fargo or from wherever they have fled, and their insecurity is palatable. They have descended 25 degrees of latitude and gained 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
These are the tourists that can add an element of frivolity to an otherwise normal day in the tropics. On occasion I will spot tourists that look like they just stepped out of a time machine from the 1950s. Normally I smile and walk by without offering any assistance, because I know that the bewilderment and confusion they are experiencing is all part of the spiritual journey which is Mexico; we have all been there.
When I do stop and offer assistance, often I am met with “Oh thank god, you speak English!” followed by “Do you actually live here?” Their relief turns to caution when they begin to question the sanity of anyone who would actually choose to live in a sweaty climate filled with foreigners.
Several months ago I happened to be next to a couple who were looking over the limited cheese selection at one of the local markets. The woman had a block of white Chihuahua cheese in her hand and a puzzled expression on her face when she asked her husband, “I can understand tacos, but how would you make cheese out of one of those little dogs?”
Every summer in our beach town tourists arrive who have taken advantage of the off-season travel packages offered by the local hotels and resorts. Many of these summer tourists arrive with clothing that is appropriate for summer in Alberta or upstate New York, but not for summer in the tropics.
You can almost hear the husband reassuring his family, “This deal is all inclusive, food and drinks! At these prices we can afford to stay longer! Come on, I know it is off season, but how hot can it be?”
Shortly after their arrival, as they begin to recover in their wonderfully air-conditioned room, they suddenly realize all their clothing is not suitable for any forays into the outdoors beyond five to eight minutes.
Our stalwart family stares at their apparel, strewn about the hotel room, and realize they have nothing thin or skimpy enough to face the heat of the tropics. Time to go shopping in one of the ropa de playa shops which litter the sidewalks throughout the hotel zone.
Both the local gringos and the searching tourists face the same dilemma when it comes to finding decent, warm weather clothing in any of the Mexican beach towns. All the beachwear, being tank tops or t-shirts, have something printed on them. So if you are not real choosy regarding what your attire declares about your inner being, you will have no problem finding t-shirts, tank tops and nylon shorts.
It was a couple of years ago, while I happened to be in one of the beachwear stores, I saw the family described above in sweat-soaked clothing searching for new duds in the well stocked store.
The wife was flipping through the racks fairly quickly, obviously somewhat dismayed by the garish and lewd depictions on the clothing. The rather overweight husband was admiring a stunning selection that featured both a bare-breasted woman and a large sailfish; can’t wait for the guys back home to see this.
Meanwhile, the teenage son was checking out a shirt with some vulgar Mexican slang that would most certainly get him shot in any rural village. However, it was the small daughter that really caught my attention; the look on her face was enough to tell me she had found one of the raunchiest shirts in all of Mexico.
She was holding up the front flap of a two-part shirt and staring at a cotton and polyester rendition of a rather large male member. It was right about this time that mom decided to check on the kids.
Her immediate reaction was one of mild curiosity; I doubt she had ever seen her daughter with such a mesmerized expression. When she realized that the little girl’s fascination was with an oversized decoupage dong, she went nuclear; these folks must have been Baptists.
The husband hastily replaced the sexy fish shirt and, of course, the teenage son was instantly enamored by the pop-up porn that his little sister had inadvertently uncovered.
The smiling store owner viewed this unfolding scene as some type of sales potential as he stepped forward to offer a bargain price for the offensive article of clothing. As these four people, all in some form of shock or awe, hurriedly found the closest exit, the dismayed store owner was at their heels reducing his price with each step.
I knew I had just witnessed another of those great Mexican moments that will always induce an involuntary chuckle whenever it passes through what’s left of my mind.
Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.