I love Mexico. I love the culture, the food, the people. Mexican people are some of the most cultured and well-mannered you are likely to ever meet. Relentlessly gracious, they are a delight to be around.
Mexicans are also very complex. I remarked to a Mexican friend recently about one aspect of this that strikes me as very different from other cultures. Mexicans are obsessed with death, but not in the way you might think. There is a parallel world that exists in most Mexican hearts and minds. It is a spirit world that runs at the same time as ours, and one which can pull you in and out from time to time. The Day of the Dead is evocative of this.
There is a kind of existential quirkiness in this belief system, in the importance of spirituality despite the domination of the Catholic Church in religious life. Indeed, Mexicans are so spiritual (and are also nearly all Christians) that every Christian evangelical group is regularly down in Mexico (mainly from the US, which seems to manufacture cults like bacteria in a petri dish) wandering around in a too hot place with a suit on…trying to convince a person to follow Jesus their way. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work. Makes sense.
- There is something really complex about this. I find that the complexity of Mexicans surfaces all the time and in really quirky, fun, and enjoyable ways…but it helps to be tuned in to it. My favourite are the prevalence of existential road signs on the highways. Here are a choice few:
- “Despues del accidente ya nada es ugual.” Or “After the accident nothing is the same.” I mean wow. Highway sign!
- “No tirar basura en el derecho de via.” Or “don’t throw trash in the right of way.” So, its okay to throw garbage? Not if it is into oncoming traffic!
- “No deja piedras sobre el acotamiento.” Or, “don’t leave rocks on the shoulder.” This also comes as “No dejar piedras en el pavimento.” Or, “don’t leave rocks on the pavement.” Do you see what I see? People sneaking out at night to leave rocks on the shoulder?
- Some of my personal favourites are the self-referential ones, “Respete las señales.” Or, “respect the signs.” And “obedezca las segnales,” or “obey the signs.” I get a giggle from “No maltrate las señales,” or “don’t mistreat the signs.” What kind of mistreatment did they have in mind? Well, it seems that Mexicans are loath to leave behind their cowboy roots, love to fire of their guns at the signs as they drive past!
- Given my penchant for kink, this one is sure to amuse, “zona de vibradores” or “Zone of Vibrators.” The possibilities for that one are endless! That is to let you know that you are going to have to cross a speed bump.
In truth there are hundreds of different signs, and presumably someone official is planning out their use to drive the right behaviours. But no other country has as rich a fantasy life as Mexico does, and this is abundantly clear from the street signs.