Yesterday I was a little startled by a communications major at Universidad Modelo. She was writing a paper on foreigners involved with rebuilding houses in the historic district. She found me on Facebook and asked to interview me via chat, and I consented, half-thinking that someone was playing a joke on me.
She asked basic questions: How many of us are there? How many are staying permanently? Why did we come?
The questions were basic, but not too easy to answer. I don’t know about our numbers. So many of us get by with tourist visas, there aren’t firm number on expats in Mérida. If every expat was blogging their experience, we could do a head count, but oddly, not every expat is blogging. Can you imagine?
She asked why I’m promoting Mérida to the rest of world. Who can say? I just think people should know about this place I’ve found. More people should know about it. And if you enjoy writing, it’s a rich source of material. Why are some of us starting businesses here? Well, the city is expanding in ways I just don’t see north of the border. I don’t see skyscrapers, tract housing and malls under construction like I’ve seen in the north of the city. Haven’t seen that in many moons north of the border.
Do I think it’s easier to start a business in Yucatán than back in the States? Well, I never really started a business in the states, but I’m just getting started in Yucatán. But I answered that the city’s dynamic growth is what makes me think “yes.” I’m trying to check my cultural biases before generalizing about work attitudes here vs. there. So I avoided sweeping generalizations. I need to keep avoiding them.
A couple of things are fueling my fledgling business in Yucatán: new technology is making more and more possible. But also, in Yucatán, my new friends here encourage me constantly. I have a support group here that I never had in the U.S. Even back in the States, I’m assisted mucho by someone I first met in Mérida, after first communicating on this very blog.
I was embarrassed to answer a question about what could be done to improve the Centro? Who am I to swing into town and tell people how to change it more to my liking? I offered an uncontroversial reply about traffic congestion and speeding buses. And somehow converting more abandoned homes into livable spaces or shops and restaurants so fewer people are dependent on cars. Then, I threw in a plug for La Plancha, which I hope the student is aware of. (She is not a native Meridano, but from Palenque.) Everyone should be supporting the plans to turn La Plancha into a “green lung.”
The entire exchange felt strange. We foreigners think our cultural exchange is one-sided, but we are quite the curiosity to some local people. They’re just not typically inquisitive. (Oops! A generalization!) I’m used to being “the writer” and never imagined myself to be someone else’s topic for an essay! Not yet anyway. By the time my whole adventure in Mérida is over, if it ever is over, there will be enough for an entire book.