This year's trip down the west coast of Mexico (my twentieth) was just like it should have been. Me and two merry Mexican companions --- Jesús and Pablo --- laughing all 2,500 miles from Baja to Puerto Perdido.
Besides my driving like a granny because I am one the only thing that slowed us (and our fun) was a "manifestación" just outside of Cuernavaca. Despite the language it is not an outbreak of the spiritual variety but a strike by the elementary school teachers. They want to display their displeasure over the fact that their hours of work are too long, the school facilities so awful, the number of students intolerable --- usually 40 to a class --- and their pay is so crappy ($90 a week). The methodology is to block the highways about town --- in this case, the single freeway between Mexico City and Acapulco.
In the US the state police and National Guardsmen would have been called in and would handcuff a few of the leaders and swab Mace in their eyes a few times so they could see the truth. They would then squirt all the others down the street with high-power fire-hoses and thus effectively end this peaceful act of dissent with maximum force. This is known as democracy in action.
Down here, the police block off all the entrances to the freeway and let the manifestatión take its course. General traffic mayhem, the roads disrupted for a half-a-day, the teachers vent their spleen, then everyone goes home to supper and watches it on TV.
When I told a friend of mine of this minor disruption, he --- a world traveler of the old school --- wrote back,
I am familiar with the phenomenon of the manifestatión --- the same word is used in both French and Spanish for public demonstrations.
In France, they always had a genial, almost festive quality, quite different from the paranoia and role-
playing almost always typical of both sides in comparable U. S. events.
Perhaps Mexico is, in some ways, a Mediterranean society --- in other words, more European than it appears on the surface. Or, to put it differently, maybe something closer to a Civilized Society, despite the poverty and supposedly terrifying levels of crime. I gather that's what you have found.
Because of the disruption, we had to go around Cuernavaca on old two-lane highways, mostly the width of two donkey-carts. We were joined in our peregrination by some 44,000,000 other cars from the area that were just out for a Sunday drive, or trying to get home. It took us two hours to go two miles, but then --- suddenly ("de repente," as they say here), the teachers went off to a nearby cantina, the freeway was open again and we made it to Acapulco just after sunset.
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Like most friends of their age group --- the early 20s --- Jesús and Pablo spend their days on the road telling old drinking stories and ogling the young ladies along the route --- all while speaking their favorite catch-phrases.
This month's phrases included "a mi no" ("not me") pronounced very quickly --- amino. Then there was "No. ¿Porqué?" --- "No. Why not?" also said as a run-on.
We also have regular repetition of that very familiar Mexican war-horse buey (pronounced "way") meaning "ox" but more used here as "Hey, you" or "Buddy." This gets mixed up with the verb "mamarse" --- to suck --- and comes out, No mames, buey ("Don't suck me" --- or, better, "Don't kid me, Jack.") And, finally, in improbable English, "I dunno" and "Oh really?" --- pronounced Oh-RILLY.
Thus a typical conversation would start with Jesús ogling a young lady of gorgeous legs and ill-concealed upper parts and he makes a puckering noise and says, Amino meaning, of course, "Oh, yes!" Pablo responds ¿No-porqué? and then Jesús says oh-RILLY and Pablo responds ¡No mames, buey! This idiotic dialogue went on for the five full days of our trip but for some reason managed to convulse them both endlessly --- no matter how oft repeated --- and even at times caused their geezerish driver to almost drive off the road, muttering to himself, "No mames, buey."--- Carlos Amantea
Richard Malmed, Photos