In an attempt to come up with a topic for my first research project (a 2000 word ‘cultural report – a reflective piece of writing in which i must discuss and evaluate an aspect of local culture’) I began a stream of consciousness style piece based on a variety of themes of life in Mexico City which I have found interesting since my arrival. I consequently decided that one idea was fit for my first blog deposit.
The topic is Language – It’s uses, and abuses, here in Districto Federal.
The language used here in the streets of el DF is insanely creative, fluid and turbulent. It is forever changing, words and phrases are toyed with, recycled and reinvented. If one was to grow up in el DF and at some point during their young adulthood, leave and spend a solid period of time afuera, upon their return to the motherland the language they grew up with and departed with would be…not obsolete but drastically different to how los jovenes are currently communicating with one another. The language of the street changes rapidly…to say the least.
When I began living with Estelita, I was utterly confused as to why it was that I could go out for an evening of beers and dancing, suffercating in ultra loud music, and could still manage to follow the varying conversations, even contribute to them quite comfortably AND crack a funny every now and then YET in the comfort of my own home, abundant light to read lips and hand gestures, sin ruido, I could understand very little of what Estela was saying.
At first, of course, I blamed my poor Spanish skills, then, following a few more nights out and satisfying, full bodied conversations, I came to blame the booze, filling me full of confidence and enhancing my abilities. Eventually I arrived at the possible conclusion that perhaps, due to her status as a professor of anthropology, she spoke in a very proper, highly academic manera in which I was not effectively armed with the skills required to decipher her intellectual speak. That MUST be it, I supposed.
One evening, out with some friends, I received a text message from her and as per usual, I had great difficulty interpreting what she was expressing. Being lucky enough to have some pure bred Chilangos at my very table I had the opportunity to get to the bottom of this language issue I had been quietly suffering. I showed mis amigos the message and the expressions which painted their faces illustrated and reflected exactly that which I had been experiencing during my conversations con ella. “Dime..What is with it?” I pleaded, “She speaks weird right?!” My friend began to give me his explanation. “She speaks very literally, using lots of metaphors and flowery figures of speech, for example, instead of saying “I was worried about you last night.” She might choose to say, “Last night my heart beat rapidly inside my chest as I was unsure of your whereabouts.” Hijole!!! Finally I had some insight, some answers to my growing insecurity about my sub-standard language skills, the doorway to improvement had been nudged open and the beautiful, bright, glowing light of reassurance and knowledge was beginning to pour through.
Not too many days later, mientras sitting at the dining table, sharing a coffee and a broken conversation, Estelita told me of her history, su vida and her experiences. I discovered that in the 1970’s she had lived at Zipolite, a small beach side town on the Oaxacan coast. During the 1970’s the place was crawling with hippies, gente who were searching for a different way of existing in the world and experimenting with living their lives. The language used in a coastal Mexican hippy community during the 70’s would be wildly different to that which is used by the kids on the streets of Mexico City in 2010, would it not?!
Slowly I was beginning to understand…the beautiful, worldly, wizardy woman, with whom I share my life at this point, uses the language of a free loving hippy of the late 1970’s! No wonder I was having such a hard time, I am a modern living, fast paced, filthy city rat afterall…I may wear patchouli, but I sure as hell ain’t no hippy!