Fame without Fortune

17 Nov

Before I even arrived in Mexico, Conan’s mom, Paulina, told us about the other gringas living in the region. There were two. I imagined that Paulina had investigated the situation, since her son and granddaughter and I would be moving soon. But when I got down here and continued to hear about these other two famous women, when I realized that everyone knew about the other gringas, I also realized that it wasn’t that Paulina was particularly interested in other women from the U.S. moving here with their partners- it was that people from the U.S. moving to the towns down here is rare. On top of that, towns are small, and gossip is a way of life.

Now that we live here, I am one of the subjects of that gossip. I spent my childhood being a little odd, and my teen years being vaguely shocking, in the context of a small, close-knit city. I thought that I was used to being the subject of gossip. I was not prepared for the extent of it here. I was not prepared to be this famous. But I’m amused by people’s shameless, matter-of-fact-ness about it, the way they’ll tell you more or lessto your face that you’re practically another species (not usually to your face- because if they told you directly then it wouldn’t be like gossip anymore).

Here are a few examples of our fame and glory here in Juquila:

-When we go to events, or sometimes even just to the plaza, everyone turns their head, cranes their neck, and occasionally lets their jaw drop a bit. This makes poor Conan, who’s already naturally shy and doesn’t like to be in the limelight, even more reluctant to go to events.

-Paulina took Lucia with her down the street to the credit union the other day. “How come you’re out with that baby? Is that couple that’s renting a room from you having you take care of their baby?” someone asked her. They either didn’t recognize or didn’t remember Conan as Paulina’s son, which is understandable since Conan has not been here for 10 years. Still, Paulina was amused that they mistook her son and daughter-and-law for renters in her house.

-People told Paulina, “We finally figured out that that gringa is your daughter-in-law, because we saw her in your store the other day. Before that we kept seeing her in town and wondering why she wasn’t leaving.”

– Conan talks about people copying off of each other shamelessly, and how if it were easier to do, they’d be bringing their own gringas home from the states now that he has.  I thought he was joking until Paulina told me that the lady down the street scolded her son, asking him how come Conan came back from the U.S. with a gringa wife and her son didn’t.

-A woman that Paulina doesn’t know came into the store the other day. She said she was looking for a woman who she thought was living there, a woman with a baby, a woman who’s not from around there, a woman who dresses funny, she says. She came because she had seen Lucia and me in town and was dying to hold Lucia.(Lucia cried in her arms.)

-A young woman came into the store the other day when Paulina and I were there together. Paulina was helping her while I was standing there with Lucia. Then the woman starts to talk to Paulina about me. “She’s not from here, is she?” She asks, although it’s really a statement rather than a question. “And look at her haircut- why does she cut her hair like that?” She asks Paulina. “I think it’s because she likes it like that,” Paulina replies, and she and I are giving each other looks because it’s so ridiculous. “She’s even got two little braids on the side.” The woman just keeps on talking about me. I start to feel like I’m on display at the zoo. “OH! And she talks!” she says at one point when I say something to Paulina. Maybe she meant to say “oh, she speaks Spanish,” which many people say to Conan or Paulina while I’m standing there. But what she said was just, “oh, she speaks,” like I’m an animal doing a trick. I thought about growling or howling or making some other animal noises, but decided against adding more fuel to the fire in that moment.

-Many people ask Paulina things like, “What does she eat? Does she eat the same stuff as we do? Does she cook?” And coincidentally, my #1 friend in Juquila has a burger joint, so we decided to have a little fun with that. So now Paulina tells them no, it’s a hard life for me; every day I have to wait till Epig opens his burger place (around 6pm) before I have my first meal, because I only eat the burgers and hot dogs that Epig makes. We based this rumor off of the rumor we heard about one of the other famous gringas (who’s now gone back to the U.S.) who supposedly refused to eat the food in her town, who was making her husband take her to Puerto Escondido (a tourist town about 3 hours away) almost daily for her food.

-On the way home from Puerto after a couple months here, I’m squeezed into the front of the truck with Lucia and other women and children. “Has your baby gotten sick since you’ve been here?” one woman asks. I realize it is obvious that I’m not from here- so it’s reasonable for her to not bother to ask if I’m from here and to move on to another question. But then another woman asks, “So, how do you like living here? Are you getting used to it?” And then I realized- they don’t just know I’m not from here, they also know that I live here. Okay, this is a small town. We’d been here for two months by then. I guess that’s plenty of time for word to get to everyone. But then Conan told me later that those weren’t even women from Juquila; they’re teachers living in other nearby towns. Word has spread that far!

So now I am one of the famous- now there are three of us gringa legends that everyone in the south of Oaxaca knows about. If only we could find a way to profit from our fame, then we’d be in business. We thought about a circus-style display (a la bearded lady) that we’d charge money for, but it’s hard to charge for it when people see us on the street and in the store every day. So let me know if you come up with a better plan.

circus freaks of juquila!

7 Responses to “Fame without Fortune”

  1. fml221 November 18, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Omigosh, you crack me up! I can so totally picture it all.

    That’s a great picture to go with the story too!! Lucia looks a little dismayed, but who can blame her? Can’t wait to come visit, hopefully we can give them more to talk about, right?

    • exiletomexico November 18, 2012 at 2:46 am #

      yes, excited about your visit and friends’ visits soon. can’t wait to add more fuel to the gossip fire!

  2. lee1978 November 18, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    That is so funny! I live in the states but my day to day work deals a lot w/ the hispanic community of our city. It is very diverse with a high percentage from PR but also a lot of South Americans and a few from Mexico. I have routinely been referred to as “la norteamericana” when they come to talk to me. Then there was a rumor going around that I was Argentinian because people now knew i speak Spanish and they apparently decided that since I am blonde-ish that I am from Argentina. I think you need to get a burro and some books and start a lending library on burro back. Then someone can write a book about la gringa con los libros! 🙂

    • exiletomexico December 4, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      Lee- Sorry for the delay in responding! I thought that I had responded already! Yes, isn’t it funny/sad how people have a hard time believing someone from the U.S. speaks another language well? But rumors about oneself are funny, at least. ….I’ll think about the burro when Lucia sits up by herself! ; )

  3. wenches November 18, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Maybe you can hold interview hours and charge by the question. Triple the cost if they want to hold Lucia. You can dress extra silly for these sessions so its more intriguing than when people see you out and about or in the store. Lol. I don’t mean to make fun. It sounds really frustrating. Knowing you though, and seeing this post, I know you are strong and are finding the humor in this and rolling with it.
    Love you chica, and miss you everyday.
    Xox. Mega

    • exiletomexico November 19, 2012 at 7:03 am #

      thanks, mega! that’s a fabulous idea! miss you,too! xoxox

  4. wenches November 18, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Maybe you can start holding special interview hours at the store. Charge by the question. Triple the price to hold Lucia. You can dress extra silly to make it more intriguing than when people see you in the day to day.
    I don’t mean to make fun really. It sounds very frustrating. Knowing your strong self though, you’re finding the humor, and rolling with it.
    Love you chica, and miss you everyday.
    Xox, mega.

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