Tag Archives: gringo fame

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!