So here’s the scene: beachfront bar, sundown in Mexico, and more blondes than the Abercrombie LookBook streaming through the door in heat for their ice cold beers and free shots of mezcal (not worth it). The bartender comes up to Homeboy #13.
“Hola, buenas noches. Que le puedo ofrecer?”
“Um, yeah, brah, lemme get a Corona. GrassyAss.”
Obviously the waiter understands, even if he knows no English; Corona, like love, transcends idiomatic barriers. Frat boy gets beer, barman gets tipped, equilibrium reigns supreme. But I’m livid, and on my fifth and final day in Puerto Escondido, I remain more mystified than ever over travelers’ terrible Spanish.
I understand that I write from the privileged point of view as a polyglot. My English is fluent, my French used to be (and was again on Saturday after 10 shots of mezcal), my Spanish is 61% complete, and I can talk smack whenever necessary. Not everyone enjoys learning languages, nor have they had the opportunity to travel like I have. I’m not saying a translation exam should be obligatory before boarding an aircraft; however, a phrase book costs less than the crappy replica of the Aztec calendar you’re gonna buy on the street, so just splurge for a pocket guide. Think you’re too old to learn a language, that your mind is filled with so much hyperspeed-internet-info-age-overload? I would bet a mercury surfboard that the majority of Americans between 18 and 45 can recite full paragraphs of a Charlie Sheen tirade. There is space.
If a Mexican walked into a bar in Montana and ordered in Spanish, he would be told to go the fuck back home to his country. Yet, when an American or European barges in and demands services without even considering the fact that the person to whom he is speaking doesn’t understand, it’s somehow the fault of the Mexican? It’s really infuriating, not to mention wholly indicative of the parasitic relationship the northern behemoth has with its southern neighbor.
This is obviously not limited to Americans in Mexico. Hearing a Brit decimate the French language is sadder than the sobs of a dying dog. Germans speaking any language, especially their own, makes me want to Van Gogh myself on the spot. And no one in Asia should ever try to speak English.
When we arrived at our hostel, I started speaking Spanish to the American receptionist, who clearly did not understand. I later learned that this woman has been living here for a year and a half. While I’m sure she can struggle through a menu or recharge her cell phone, the point I’m trying to make is that if you live somewhere for that long, you should speak the language at least a little. And this goes for students as well. How one can be in Mexico for five months, or even five minutes, and not know what Que Pedo means is beyond thus chica’s comPretention.
In conclusion, as I soak up the last few hours of beauty and warmth before returning to the cold air and eyes of Puebla, I resign myself, as I have every day since age four, to the inadequacy of the world. I’m lucky enough to have a hot, intelligent BF and some kick-ass friends waiting for me back in New York. Until then, pues, vayanse a la mierda et foutez-moi la paix. I’m still on vacation.