Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mirando Quien Viene

One of my favorite things to do here is to sit outside on the wooden bench by my house. Just watching who comes by - mirando quien viene - is better than television. All manner of transportation rolls, gallops, and meanders down my street. The biking is truly a thing to behold. More often than not, there is more than one person on the bike - a mother with her child, a guy and his girlfriend. Sometimes three or even four kids will be perched on the same bike - one on the seat, one on the top tube, one standing on pegs, and one on the handle bars. People also bike by carrying all kinds of things - machetes, big baskets, coolers full of tortillas or nacatamales, plants that they've purchased from the nursery.

There are a couple of kinds of three-wheeled transport as well. The caponeras or triciclos are three-wheeled bicycles with a bench to sit on in the front, covered by a shade. The kids that drive them are all in their teens or early twenties, and they hang out together at a few critical intersections, kind of like bike messengers. They'll drive you around town for a couple of cordobas (about 10 cents), which is great for people in my town because most of them don't like to walk. There are also the mototaxis, which are basically motorcycles with three wheels. They are really built to hold about three people - the driver plus two passengers in the back - but in a pinch they can accomodate up to six. As with the bicycles, people carry all manner of things with them in the mototaxis and triciclos. Today I saw a mototaxi with a big basket on top that held, no joke, two dogs. Not puppies either. Dogs.

Sometimes horse-drawn or ox-drawn carts pass by carrying milk or the harvest from a farm. It was from one of these carts that my host mom purchased the milk I insisted on drinking cold, and which made me really sick for about a day and a half.

The evangelical church across the street just adds to whatever scene is occuring in front of the house. Around 5 o'clock each night they start singing religious songs about El Senor. The church is just a group of benches and little lectern, but their meetings are always fully amplified. Plus I think they must have some agreement that the guitar-player's instrument must be completely out of tune and that the person who holds the microphone must be the singer with the worst voice.

Mirando quien viene is not a passive activity, either. The bicyclists passing by like to mirar right back at me. Sometimes my gringa face inspires them to rattle off whatever English words come to mind at that moment - hello, goodbye, I love you. "Adios," I say back.


Cathy said...

Sounds as if the Nicos need to learn a few more English phrases. Maybe you could teach them, "Wassup" or whatever the current popular phrase of its kind might be. Anyway, "I love you" seems a bit out of place and "adios" the perfect rejoinder.

Brian said...

Thanks, Laurie, for your reply. I am happy and heartened that we (you) would be received with such openness and warmth.
It is an interesting commentary that gringo-visiting women would be given such a privileged status to affect the daily working of a small community with no history of women having any status. Why would this be so? I wouldn’t expect the Taliban, for example, to allow this. There must be some cultural assumptions about their relation to gringo culture that allows for their own deeply held beliefs that govern all aspects of their family and community life to be trumped by your presence. Is there a sense of cultural inferiority, reflected in their desire for western goodies, that might animate this? Even if this is so, it is not clear why it would result in status reversal that is so central to daily life.
What do you think?