So long, Mexico, you’ve taken my heart, and you’re welcome to keep it. In all my years and all the places I have traveled, nowhere has been quite like you, and most likely never will be. Until I return, I will miss you, forever keeping a slice of my heart for you. Your Al Pastor, your incessant noise, your smells of food, rotting rubbish, exhaust, sea, sweat, blossom, smoke, and endless dogs, your use of every color, your pride and fear. It all blends together into a Michelada of Endless Miracles. You will forever be a point of reference to me, the place I try not to talk about like a heartbroken lover pining after their lost other half. You made me scared, and you made me stressed, you made me angry and frustrated. But, you made me laugh, you made me dance, you fed and clothed me, but most of all, you made me feel at home in a way nowhere, but Home, really has.
I am leaving with plans to return already in my mind. It may not be for some time, but I am not done with the country by a long shot. I often ask myself whether I have simply enjoyed the experience for the fact that it is so new, alien, and exciting or if it really is just as beautiful as I think. As I move onward, I am sure I will figure it out. Who knows, maybe the entirety of my travels will enthrall me the way Mexico has. If I’m lucky, this will be the case.
Despite the overbearing and aggressive gang that dress in police uniforms, Mexico has been incredibly hospitable. It is rare that it isn’t possible to pull a smile from someone’s face with a few kind words or a slightly offhand joke. The Mexicans laugh freely and spend their time off as groups and families, talking, drinking, cooking, and dancing together. Any street in a suburb is always ringing with the sounds of amplified music and laughter seasoned with the smells of home-cooked food. There is never a reason not to throw a party; Porque fiesta? Porque no?
The people here dance like it is a duty and sing like they have no other choice. Dancing runs through their blood, and people of all ages will magnetise to each other and start sashaying to any beat that happens to be loud enough to listen. There is a distinct lack of self-consciousness that exists so heavily with the Europeans. They are not dancing for sex, performance, or duty; they dance because it’s what they love, and they feel no shame in it. I have seen people clasped together in the middle of busy streets, rhythmically moving their feet and hips, oblivious to the rest of the world, just because someone is playing guitar on the pavement. I envy this, maybe more than anything else.
The music of Mexico continues to amaze me, as much as it did even in my first posts. They have an entire library of music I had never heard but am now so familiar with I think I could sing along in any karaoke bar. The classics hark all the way back to the 80s and still have kids belting them out at clandestine house parties or shoulder-to-shoulder clubs. Young and old know all the classics and will sing them at a moment’s notice, not just in the many and incredibly busy bars but also just right out there on the street, even in public transport, if there happens to be a mariachi on board. Singing doesn’t have to be in tune or even on time; it just has to be done the Mexican way, with heart.
Tardiness here is more than just accepted here; it is actively encouraged and taken on as part of the culture. Mexican time is real, and it doesn’t care. Things are late, post doesn’t arrive, employees don’t show up, places don’t open, roads don’t get cleared, and once you’re used to it, that’s totally okay. It took me some time to understand and adapt to the slowness of the country, but once you realise that everyone is expecting it and nobody cares, all of a sudden, a very Western weight is lifted from everything.
I learned to no longer stress about the minute I left a place to arrive somewhere else; if I needed an extra minute or two to finish my coffee or a conversation, whatever I was heading too would still be going on, and I would still usually arrive before it started. When I get stuck in traffic trying to get home, simply get out of the car and chat with my neighbors. Stress won’t speed anything up. Turn up when you can; don’t worry about rushing anything along, things will happen as they happen, or they won’t. That’s just the way of things. If you have ever tried rushing in 35-degree heat, you’ll understand why it simply isn’t maintainable. I still walk at a European clip, though; I haven’t quite mastered the glacial Mexican gait.
There is a whole lot more to life than a big TV, a double-glazed suburban house, and a pension, although a shiny car with chromed-out wheels does seem to be essential still. I have seen some of the happiest, most relaxed people of my life living with what we, in the UK, would consider very little, and yet you talk to them, and they want for nothing. Why save and scrimp your whole life for comfort, freedom, and time to spend with your loved ones when you’re old and decrepit when you could simply have it now?
I think, and I know the cliché is disgustingly glaring right now, that we put far too much value on material goods and the promise of something better in the future. It seems to me that we have not thrown off the yoke of religious absolution and have instead begun to worship capitalism. No longer are we abstaining from joy and pleasure in an attempt to breach the gates of heaven. We now deny ourselves the luxuries that surround us for the promise of a peaceful retirement surrounded by unspendable wealth. For a time when we are so close to being useless we may as well be dead. Here, family is paramount, fiesta is first, and life happens every day rather than being held off for some promised future. The inner cynic in me will vomit hearing my disgusting hippie spewing, but it is time for me to reassess what it is that life is all about and take a look at the now rather than the tomorrow. From what I have seen, being surrounded by friends, a 24-pack of cold Modello’s, and having a hammock slung up in your living room looks pretty much as close to heaven as I have ever seen. You can keep your three-bedroom, sanitised, twin garage, 15-meter garden plot, suburban, good train route, semi-detached home that will be a great investment for the grandkids and shove it sideways up your poor, unhappy arse. It can squeeze past the piles you developed from sitting at a desk all your life.
That isn’t to say I haven’t missed the UK by any means. There is still nothing more familiar to me than heading to one of my many locals, ordering a pint, and sitting at a table full of people I love. Being able to sit in silence and just let the conversation and atmosphere wash a day away or get into a blazing row with the whole table over some trivial shit is where my heart will forever lay. I have never needed a settled home, and never had one, because the people and places I spend my time in the UK are all the Home I ever needed. I miss the wailing of some jumped-up-a-level music drop-out butchering Valerie. I miss the smell of piss and stale beer that lingers even after you’re home and covered in garlic mayo. I miss the feel of a pint glass, barely clean and scratched by a million taps. I miss the summer sun in a grassy park and the sounds of arguments over what the tinny speaker should be playing. I miss English music and the drugs we take that allow us to dance to it. I miss our eternal pessimism that allows us to laugh at the terror of it all. I miss the fact that we can use the most heinous words and are so incredibly savage to one another, and it is only seen as an endearment and supportive criticism. I miss the UK, but not enough to return, not when I have barely shucked the oyster of the world and can just about glimpse a pearl the size of my heart.
Mexico has been good to me, better than I could have ever dreamed. Six months have flown by in a heartbeat, and I know a year will match the pace. I have little to no ability for introspection, not extrospection either, if that is even a word. I still see myself as having the body of an 11-year-old, and I haven’t taken the time to assess my own mental standing, health, or development for as long as I can remember. I don’t know if this trip has ‘changed me’ because I had no idea what I was before, but I do know a few things. I have learned a significant amount of Spanish. I feel comfortable talking, explaining myself, and acquiring what I need, but I need a lot more before I am conversational. I have utilized my ADHD brain into a powerhouse of planning, movement, and multiple hyperfocus. I have started on a writing career that, although it would barely support me in the UK, has supported me over here well enough. I have perhaps become more inward, slightly shyer perhaps, or maybe I am just getting silent in my old age. I have learned a million new flavors and ways to cook, ways I will always keep with me, and no doubt woo hundreds of people at the dinner parties I throw in my beachside home once I win the Pulitzer Prize. I can think on the fly, but I always knew that. Now I know I can also think on the fly in Spanish. I know that fast travel isn’t for me; slow and steady keeps me sane and gives me time to saturate myself in a place, unless it’s anywhere in the Yucatan, this place is a fucking shithole, stay away. I know a lot of things, surface-level things, but without my friends as yardsticks to point out my quirks and differences, I have little to no gauge of my growth. I’m sure I am doing great.
I haven’t written about Merida or Playa, but I plan to. They have been underwhelming, to say the least, although I met some wonderful people, and we had excellent times together. Yucatan’s failures are not on them. They were the highlight.
Onward to Guatemala, a place I know nothing about, to learn Spanish and become wise. Wish me luck. I barely need it.