Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ni Modo

I witnessed a little scene yesterday that I think typifies the Mexican personality (if you can generalize to that extent). Here's how the story unfolded:

It was in the middle of Carnaval (Latin equivalent of Mardi Gras....goes on for a week here). The city was crazy. About 200,000 people watching the parade. Most major streets in the central city blocked off for the parade. Lots of noise. I'm walking down the sidewalk, just minding my own business. A car, turning into a parking lot, turns left in front of me. The entrance is a stone archway....this clearly used to be a commercial or residential building. All that is left is the stone facade.

So the driver (with passenger), turns left....and doesn't cut it quite sharp enough. The car swings left, over the sidewalk, and SPLASH!! his front right fender bangs into the side of the stone doorway. You hear the "crunch" of sheet metal. All the bystanders cringed. Me, too.

So: what would you have done? Said a bad word (yep, probably)? Screamed? Pulled out your insurance card? Cried?
Well, the Mexican guy just smiles at us, shrugs his shoulders as if to say, "oh well...." backs up, and tries it again, successfully. No concern at all... In Mexico, there is a saying, "Ni modo." It means "no big deal."

At the time I thought how different the reaction of most folks back home would be.

Show me the money:
Unlike the dour portraits of men on U.S. currency, Mexico has a woman's portrait on one of their currency bills, the 200 peso note. Sor Juana (Sister Jane) was both a Catholic nun and Mexico's first woman poet, journalist, musical composer, favorite in the court of the Spanish Viceroy, and and early intellectual (in the 1660's). Her life was impressive in any context, but especially considering the role of women in the 17th century. And the macho Mexican society honors her on their currency. For more information, here's a link to Dartmouth's Sor Juana Project--
Names of three local businesses I noticed as I was walking by:

The first, a muffler and wheel alignment shop called, "Miracle of God" Muffler Shop.
OK, I've had cars like that...getting anything to work right was a miracle of God.

The second: a bakery called, "The Return." So...they're advertising that customers return their products? What?

And the third: "1000 Jokes" Restaurant. Would those be jokes about getting sick in their restaurant?