The news lately is putting me in a reminiscing kind of mood about my time in Mexico City. The mayor while I was there, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is now contesting his loss in the recent presidential election. And news that Fidel Castro has temporarily handed over power to his brother has brought back memories of my weekend in Havana. Not that I met the man himself, but it's put me in the mood to revisit that visit.
I'd only been in Mexico for six months at that point, and pretty much the only Spanish I knew when I'd arrived was "where are the bathrooms" and "how much does this cost." I figured I was doing pretty well, so I was dismayed to discover how different—that is, incomprehensible—the Cuban accent is. It wounded my pride a bit that I had to rely on my traveling companion to be my interpreter most of the time, but I felt better knowing that even a native Spanish speaker had trouble.
The many Cubans who approached us to chat tried to peg our nationality as a couple. Tall, fair-skinned Carlos didn't fit the Mexican stereotype. I'm tall and glow-in-the-dark skinned. When they asked where we were from, they refused to believe Carlos's answer of "Mexico," first turning to me in disbelief until I answered "soy canadiense" in my tragic and obviously non-Mexican accent, then turning to Carlos again in disbelief because, though his accent was right, he didn't "look Mexican." I found it amusing, but by the end of the three days, he was annoyed at having to justify his Mexican-ness. He also ended up suffering from sunstroke after three days of mocking my liberal use of sunscreen and unnatural attachment to my hat, so I was not as sympathetic to his annoyances as I could have been.
People would follow us to continue the conversation, and one couple tried persistently to dissuade us from visiting the museum we were going to, because they didn't want to go. We finally had to be blunt and tell them we were going to just continue on our own, then. We found out later that Cubans weren't allowed in, only tourists, and felt guilty.
We lined up at an ice cream place that had been featured in the movie Strawberry and Chocolate, which had separate lineups for separate currencies, effectively dividing tourists (short lineup, more expensive ice cream) from locals (long lineup, cheap ice cream).