When I took French, our teacher had grown up Lebanese knowing neither French nor English. Now she was teaching Americans to parle Français. I also had a friend from Tunisia who learned French and English with no formal training, and with only Arabic around the house. How did they learn? The mighty television. The boob tube. Preferably Disney animations with subtitles.
Taking a page from that book, I’m watching Galavisión, a colorful morning show from Mexico City — which impresses me as being as different from Merida as can be. Right now, two groups are playing charades. I’m running the phrases through Google Translate. Fun!
I was watching the morning news on Galavisión (which is a Miami Univision station that carries Mexico City’s unrelated Galavisión broadcasts) and waited for a reference to Yucatan. They ran through birthdays, just like they do on the Today show, and I saw viewer photos from Tabasco, Oaxaca, lots from Distrito Federal, some from Estado de Mexico … and finally one from Yucatan.
I very, very rarely see Yucatan mentioned on television. Thirty years ago, a neighborhood church group would send groups to Merida, and to the congregation left behind it was like they were being sent into the abyss. No one had any real sense of the region. Then about 25 years ago, I remember hearing about a college-age neighbor who had gone to Cancun, hitched a ride to see ruins, and got arrested because police found marijuana in the driver’s jeep. His frantic mother had a tough time figuring out “who to bribe” to spring him. I don’t know how that was resolved, but the story left me for years with a bad taste in my mouth.
When I was a young man and finally able to afford my first plane trip somewhere, I had seriously considered Cancun, and chose London instead.
Today, thanks to the Internet, increasing multiculturalism in the U.S., and cable television, the shroud over Merida is lifted.