Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Queretaro, Mexico, April 24th, 2009: Machismo - perpetuated by a woman

April 24th, 2009: The office of the Queretaro Ministry of Tourism gave away postcards with pictures of tourist and cultural sites. You fill them out with an address and a message, and they mail them for you for free. It’s my brother Stuart’s birthday, so I make one out for him, then ask if I can send more. They let me send to the whole family (pretty inexpensive advertising for the city– what a great idea). I think they arrive about four months later though. Probably sent only when the box fills up…

Nancy and I have lunch with a friend of hers in a café inside of a bookstore. We have the Comida Corrida (sometimes called Comida Corriente) – a set meal or the’ meal of the day’ – common for Mexico. An inexpensive meal the restaurant chooses for that day. You can order off the regular menu but it will be more expensive and take longer. I don’t recall now what it was, other than it was wonderful. And they also brought out a pitcher of Agua de something. Agua de sandia or agua de pina (pineapple water) – a lightly sweetened juice/water blend.

The friend is an American woman who is married to a Mexican man, and she is horrified by the story I tell of my meal the night before. I should not have talked to men I don’t know, I certainly should not have eaten with them, and definitely not let them pay for my meal (as if I had a choice in that). They were after ‘you know what’. I state they were both married, wore wedding rings, and told me about their wives. That doesn’t matter, she insists, just told for clarification purposes when they try to get you know what anyway. Then she asks a bit confused as it is not common practice among Mexican men, “They were wearing rings?” When I tell her they asked if I had a safe way home, walked me to the taxi stand and left, she could not let go of her doubt about their intent. Nancy and I both agree later that we are glad we don’t have such fears about talking to strangers. It also is indicative of her expectations of her own husband, or perhaps of Mexican women’s expectations regarding their Mexican husbands. Of course one should be wise and not naïve, but as she was married to a Mexican man well known in the city, she would not have the same freedom we did as tourists. And she has a reputation – both hers and her husband’s - to protect.

This is an important lesson – that as a resident in another culture it is important to learn the norms of behavior, and how it is interpreted by that culture – especially when it comes to relationships between men and women. And while male–female friendships are a norm, or taken for granted as possible, in the US … it appears no one believes it is possible in a Latin culture. (Yes, I am foreshadowing trouble in my future.)

It is also perhaps why American tourists, especially women, are seen as “loose” or “easy” sexually. I cannot comment on the actual accuracy of that, though my guess it is not as true as many think – but I do know that what really happens is not as important as what others think happens. If women tells a man ‘let’s just be friend’ and the man’s friends think he was intimate with the woman, only the rare man (Latino or not) is going to try to set the record straight.

Heather J. Kirk

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