MacGyver en Mexico

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Saturday, November 1, 2008

MacGyver El Mexicano

After several years of putting off this destination, MacGyver has finally peered into the world of Latin America, and entered it through its northern entrance of Mexico. The first couple of weeks entailed a slow waltz through dusty cowboy towns, where the local method of lighting a cigarette might be by striking a match against the stubble on the side of one's face. MacGyver's lack of any significant facial hair meant that his valiant attempts to become a member of the local cowboy club may prove to be futile. Things seemed a little odd in these parts, like cool local dudes cruising the streets with traditional Mexican mariachi music (instead of the usual R&B) blasting out of their shiny 4 wheel drive vehicles. Aside from a couple of conversations with the local cowboys, MacGyver's travel in the northern part of Mexico was curiously isolated, with seemingly no other tourists anywhere to be seen in the vicinity.

Things began to happen in Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city. It was the month of October, and the local festivities held during this month ensured that the mood on the streets was vibrant. MacGyver found himself sharing a few beverages in the company of with three other travellers in a congenial bar in the historic old part of the city. The end of the night seemed imminent when the group was reduced to two. Just as the remaining duo contemplated the next step to take, a large group of people began leaving the bar, almost like moths to a flame. Sniffing around for a nightcap to extend the night just a little further, our character plucked up some courage and asked one of the departing moths for directions to the light, and got promptly directed to a party upstairs. In the company of the remaining female traveller, the duo walked up the steps of the unknown into a seemingly subdued atmosphere where people were congregated separately into small groups. A well dressed waiter immediately put a cold beer into the intruders' hands, and plates of finger foods were plonked on the empty table in front of them. After a while, the magical properties of the socialising ales began to take effect within the revelers, as a large human circle was formed and a tribal chant emerged from the group. Clapping with the beats of the now pumping music, the circle dragged previously unwilling participants into the the middle and demanded a dance solo from each of them. MacGyver was inevitably 'chosen' to perform his routine in the middle of the festive mob, and our disco king didn't disappoint. With his finger pointing, pelvic thrusting, booty shaking (or so it was informed to the author) and knee dropping, his impersonation of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever will live long in the memories of those who witnessed it ....... well at least until the next victim was dragged into the middle.

The well dressed waiters performed their tasks admirably, keeping the thirsts of the revelers well quenched with a seemingly endless supply of free grog. Consequently, a conga line was formed, followed by a Moulin Rouge style leg kicking extravaganza with long lost brothers linked in arms, then jumping up and down like drunk lunatics to rock music, some good and poor salsa performances and everything else in between. Whilst he was never one to dance to the wee hours of the morning, this was one night which MacGyver truly felt the Latin blood flowing through his veins as he got completely lost in the moment and lost hours dancing the night away. When it was finally time to call stumps, everyone was absolutely drenched in sweat. The best thing about the night was the lack of attitude and pretentiousness in the crowd, everyone was simply out to have a good time. MacGyver and his female companion of the night embraced their long lost Mexican brothers and sisters on the way out. The whole night was completely random, with what started off as a quietish night transforming into one of MacGyver's best experiences in Mexico thus far. John Travolta will be proud.

Guadalajara simply rocked, as the festivities ensured that was always something to do, from turning up at unknown house parties where there was barely any space to undo a belt buckle; to street celebrations and performances at five o'clock in the morning with elaborately dressed dancers in Mayan costumes at every street corner; to the madness of Mexican wrestling that is 'Lucha Libre' where huge masked wrestlers perform incredible manuoveres; to the plaza where mariachi music was born. The entire Guadalajaran experience was awesome. 

Mexico City, the world's biggest city, loomed large on the horizon as the bus approached closer. There were a ton of things to see and do in DF (Districto Federal), as the locals call it. Together with a female traveling companion, MacGyver decided to try and experience a different side of this mega sprawling metropolis by taking the Metro (subway) down to the southern neighbourhood of Xochilmilco. As the script would have it, it was rush hour and the train was packed to the gills with commuters. The common sense approach of allowing passengers on the train to alight first simply didn't exist, as a Mexican scrum of about 20 men surged together as one giant human blob from the platform into the carriage the moment the doors opened, engulfing any available space. The commuters in the train didn't stand a chance of alighting at their designated station, as sweaty and BO enriched human flesh were pressed against the next stranger. Instead of having the opportunity of rubbing up against a random gorgeous female, the Aztec Gods appointed an elderly man to perform an involuntary grind right up against our most unfortunate character. For the next five or so minutes, MacGyver felt every rasping breath of that elderly man down the back of his neck. This was the kind of intimacy they don't write about in guidebooks. 

Xochilmilco certainly had an authentic urban Mexican feel about it. It seemed like a completely different world, its grit and grime in both its atmosphere and on its streets proved quite a contrast in comparison to the well maintained roads and heavy police presence of the historic city centre of Mexico City. The markets there were quite lively and noisy, with quite an astounding variety of colour and smells . However, a bad egg ruined the experience there, when MacGyver's female travelling companion had her camera snatched from her hand by a flaming thief. Everything had happened in such a flash, that the thief had disappeared before anyone had time to react. MacGyver's Spanish linguistic skills were now put under the microscope as he now had to explain to a nearby police officer what had happened, and subsequently got directed to the main police station to have a report completed. Already in the police station was a Mexican man who had cascades of blood dried blood stains on his face, another Mexican man who was so furious about the ways of the world that he was muttering obscenities the entire time he was there and a Mexican woman who had her passport stolen. Just another day at the office.

Upon completion of the police report, MacGyver was questioned once more by a higher ranked police officer, as if there was more than an element of doubt in the story. A few minutes later, MacGyver and his amiga got directed outside into the back seat of a police car. This subsequent conversation followed in Spanish (more of less):

MacGyver - So, where are we going?  
Police Officer - Oh, just for a drive, to check out a few things.
MacGyver - OK.
Police Officer - So, please explain again what happened with the robbery.
MacGyver - A robber snatched the camera out of my friend's hand, and fled down the street. It all happened too fast. He wasn't too tall, had curly hair, a brown shirt and dark pants.
Police Officer - So it happened around here? (Now close to the market)
MacGyver - Yes, actually just over there in front of those flower shops.
Police Officer - Yeah, this is an ugly neighbourhood, one has to be careful around here, even during day time and ...... IS THAT HIM!! (pointing to some random guy on the street with curly hair)
MacGyver - Um, no I don' think it is. 
Police Officer - Oh OK, so anyway, how do you like Mexico so far? Have you had good experiences? What do you think about the food?
MacGyver - Well, except for today, Mexico has been pretty cool. We're looking for some local specialties in Mexico City, anything you can recommend?
Police Officer - Yeah, there are many things here to enjoy. For example, we have this special type of food, it is made out of ........ IS THAT HIM? (pointing to another random guy on the street with curly hair)
MacGyver - Um, no I don't think so. 
Police Officer - Oh OK, so anyway..........

MacGyver might have been having a conversation with Chief Wiggam from The Simpsons such was the comic timing. It was highly unlikely that the thief will be hanging around the streets having a coffee and testing out his newly acquired camera, but hey, this is Mexico and this might be the way things are done around these parts. After trying to identify another couple of potential suspects from the comfort of the plush leather seats of his police car, the officer decided that this method wasn't particularly effective on the day and forgot about the whole robbery issue. However the conversation continued, with a range of topics ranging from the violence and unemployment rates in Mexico City, the difference between cathedrals and churches and local drinking holes. The officer then proceeded to take the duo on a local sightseeing tour, pointing out special landmarks and things to do around the area. Towards the end of the hour long discourse, the officer asked our legendary traveller if he was contactable during his remaining time in Mexico. For a surreal end to an eventful day, the police officer and MacGyver swapped e-mail addresses and firm handshakes, the two of them falling just short of a manly embrace and a pinch and a slap on each other's arses. 

On his final day in Mexico City, MacGyver decided to sample a different kind of local culture, by attending the biggest football game in the local Mexican League. 'El Clasico' was played between America (a well supported team from Mexico City) and Guadalajara. Because of the awesome time which he had in Guadalajara, MacGyver adopted the Guadalajara Chivas as his beloved team for which to yell himself hoarse for. The lead up to the stadium was interesting, as the presence of heavily armed police in helmets, batons, pistols, shields was everywhere to keep an eye on the gigantic swarm of supporters that flocked to watch the match. The sheer size of the stadium blew away the first timers, and the noise of the 100,000 plus crowd was deafening. MacGyver even made a new little friend at the match, a small Mexican girl whom he was sitting next to. The little Chivas (Guadalajara) supporter was bemused by MacGyver's reaction to every every close chance, bad pass and poor decision during the match. When Guadalajara eventually scored the match winning goal, MacGyver erupted with every other Chivas supporter in the stadium, and breathed in the passion that Latin America is famous for. La vida es la poca madre.

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