Inspired by Valentine’s Day, I have decided to write a two-part piece on love, passion, loneliness, and emotional roller coaster that I see and feel around me.
Part 1: Melodrama, love & passion in Mexico
Part 2: Love in the Peace Corps
Mexico has a very passionate culture, so this post is long overdue. But don’t take my word for it; let the videos and photos speak for themselves. By the end, you might be seeking out your very own Latin Lover!
- Sexy salsa and bachata dances
- Overly dramatic Mexican soap operas
- These underwear:
Love in Mexico certainly is a different beast. Here is what I see and hear, on the street, in romantic gestures, on television, on the radio, and on social media.
On the street
The difference of how to express affection and passion is first noticed on the street.
One of my first questions to Peace Corps Mexico staff was “what is the deal with all of the public displays of affection?”
I had been squeezing past teenagers making out on the narrow sidewalks. I had been trying to ignore the couples planchado (ironed/pressed) together on public lawns in the hope that they would have some privacy. While they were in public.
Peace Corps staff explained that privacy, paradoxically, was what these couples sought even while they were out in the open! You see, Mexicans typically live with their families until they marry. So during the dating phase they do whatever possible to “be alone.” This alone-ness, while out in the open, is at least away from family members.
Unless family walks by the park or down the street!
Another nightly street-sighting is what I call “Mariachi-o-clock.” It is a time for Mexico to show its passionate side. Between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am, dozens of Mariachi bands lounge in the central plaza of the city, waiting for a job. And every night, boyfriends and boyfriend-hopefuls hire them to serenade their lovers, ¡Que romantico!
Putting feelings in writing
One way of winning over a new novio/novia (boy/girlfriend) is by writing love letters and flirty text messages, or by doing other surprise romantic gestures. I have been the recipient of some written wooing myself. Here are a couple examples:
The following letter was given to me as I left a bus. A man passed it to me as if I had dropped something that I owned. I believe his words were: “Excuse me, you dropped this.” And then he ran away quickly in the other direction. When I opened the note, I noticed the hand-drawn hearts and his phone number. It said:
Seeing you, I felt the sensation that I already knew you. Something inside of me made me write this. I would love to get to know you…
A text message sent by a co-worker on the first day that I met him:
Me gustaría mucho que me dieras la oportunidad de conocerte. Ojala aceptarías ir a la feria hoy conmigo, si insisto es porque te me haces una nina muy guapa y simpatica. Espero tu respuesta.
I would really like you to give me the opportunity to meet you. Hopefully you will accept my offer and come to the fair with me, actually I insist because I find you beautiful and nice. I await your response.
While the romance is sweet, it bothers me a bit that the act of wooing a woman is called the conquista here: the conquest of a woman.
On the television
When you click on the TV at any given point in the day, you are highly likely to find a telenovela playing. These steamy soap operas typically follow the same basic hyper-dramatic plot line and have extremely large and loyal followings.
They are typically Cinderella stories of beautiful, innocent girls from the countryside who meet sexy, street-wise city men. Of course there is an overtly sexual villain and lots of plot twists and turns, but they always end with a wedding and a large fiesta. But not without a lot of despecho first: a heart-rending suffering or pain that needs to come out from your chest.
Here are a few short examples that illustrate my point.
This is what happens when you disobey your mother and are caught kissing a boy:
And this is what happens when you refuse to apologize for embarrassing your boss…she will tell you that you are “mentally retarded,” threaten to fire you, and then… :
To learn more about telenovelas, check out this great podcast from NPR’s AltLatino. I promise that it will not disappoint!
On the radio
One of the classic Mexican music styles is the bolero; it is a heart-wrenching sob story that dwells on a break-up. One archetypal lyric from a bolero is: “Give me a knife so that I may open my veins. I will bleed out for you.”
Here is a great video of one of Mexico’s most famous singers, Vicente Fernández, as he sings about a breakup. The video shows him in a bar with tequila, a horse, and plentiful tears, singing: “I need you to return to my arms!” This, for some reason, seems completely normal.
On Social Media
Mexicans love social media, and often use it to share wisdom with their networks. Much of the shared posts are about love, which shows how it is valued. Some of it, I agree with. Other parts, maybe not…you decide for yourself.
If, for some reason you end up with a Latin Lover, they will likely call you some great pet names. My personal favorites are:
- My heaven/sky: mi cielo
- My heart: mi corazon
- My life: mi vida
- Mi sun: mi sol
- My love: mi amor
- My fire: mi fuego
Just watch out if they call you mi querida (my darling) as sometimes that means that you are a woman on the side!
Making me smile
- Finding these adorable baby birds along the trail route, pictured below
- An amazing but wet weekend trip with some friends. More photos below!
- The love, kindness, support, and sacrifice of my friends and fellow volunteers here who helped care for me while I was laid up in bed with a cast and crutches (more on this soon, I am ok so no need to worry!). You all are amazing, especially Shayna and Angel, Damon, Becky, and Shadani. Abrazos!!