I’ve been thinking a lot about culture lately, especially today, my second day in Guadalajara. Having a 20-minute walk from the hotel to the expo has given me the opportunity to experience the daily customs and tribulations of the local guadalajarenses, not to mention highly needed exercise. Walking along the sidewalks, passing people at bus stops, waiting on a bench for the drugstore to open (at 11 AM on a weekday), and taking a respite from the book world, I people watch. This is an old habit that I have not been able to break. As early as I could remember, my mamá would warn me against staring. People might get offended, defensive even, by someone’s gaze. In any case, I discerned various ethnicities and most noticeably, distinctive socio-economic differences. There is no doubt that Guadalajara is a cosmopolitan city. How is it different from any other cosmopolitan city? With its hooting traffic, its blaring sirens, its suffocating smog, it is its inhabitants, their customs, their language, their cultura.
Children, for instance, to me seem more independent, mature perhaps, at a younger age. This is, of course, in comparison to my own children. However, I must admit that one of my priorities as a parent is to preserve their childhood period as long as possible. There is plenty of time for the real world, in my opinion, and it’s difficult to see the young children working the streets, selling toys, treats, stuff, for their livelihood. One thing for sure, they have strong, survivable, street smarts. These kids are smart and they are survivors.
The food vendors have been the most tempting. I had forgotten how easy it is to disregard a good, healthy diet and how quickly the will is lost when enticed by the sweet, honey smell of freshly sliced fruit, sprinkled with chile, and soured with limón. ¡Ayayay! Then walking a few paces to find myself allured by the vinegary, salty whiff of papas con salsa Valentina, sal y limón, then concluding my meal with a variety of Mexican sweets, mazapán y tamarindo, as I arrive to my destination. All I need now is a cool, refreshing beverage to wash it all down, so I pass the water cooler in search of the original Mexican Coca Cola, ‘cause you know that there IS a difference.
As the guilt sets in and my jeans seem a bit tighter, I start noticing the clothing trends of Guadalajara. While I’m wearing the customary Levi’s, tee, blazer, and sneakers, other women are wearing business attire and three-inch heels! It is, after all, a day opened only to professionals. I start feeling foreign. Me, a Mexican-American, foreign? ¡Ay, chihuahua! Later in the evening the doors open to the public and I notice Guadalajara’s youth wearing the latest trends, form-fitting everything and three-inch heels! All of a sudden my seemingly tight jeans start feeling comfy and my sneakers comfier, especially on my walk back to the hotel.
Cultura.., interesting, wondrous, fascinating! I’m learning a lot, relearning even more, and enjoying the experience.