Why are you here?
If there is one long piece about Mexico you should read this weekend, it’s Cat Rainford’s account in Sunday’s The Guardian of her two years as a malabrista in Mexico:
…When travelling for long periods, it can be all too easy to fall in with other foreign travellers and stumble around in a closed group, insulating each other with a shared familiarity. You can strike out alone and try to figure out a country piece by piece, but you always feel like a stranger and feel increasingly disjointed yourself in the process.
I had done plenty of both over the previous months of travelling in Mexico. Trico and his friends were something different: escapists too, in a way, but also idealists, on a mission to explore the beautiful side of their troubled country and to give something back in the only way they knew. More than anything, it was this attitude that made me go with them.
… For a while we performed outside restaurants along the coast of Nayarit, sleeping on beaches under trees crawling with giant iguanas. When business was good, we’d treat ourselves to nights in guesthouses. When it wasn’t, we’d sleep in tents, shop doorways or plazas.
Any reluctance on my part was met with the admonishment not to be a fresa. Literally meaning “strawberry”, the word “fresa” is used in Mexican slang to denote anyone spoiled or soft. Of all the wide and imaginative range of Mexican insults this, for them, was the worst. It was acceptable to be a large goat (cabrón) or even, on occasion, a pubic hair (pendejo), but to be a strawberry was unforgiveable.
As the months went on, I became integrated. I learned to fire dance and juggle. I learned the etiquette of the traffic intersections, which dictated that a performer must defer to the windscreen washers, though not to the peanut or sweet sellers.
Ah, heck. The whole thing is wonderful, and captures the “real Mexico” more than burying your nose in any guidebook as you wander around the country ever would.