The 1950s in Soledad Mexico

Buzz Lightyear:

The year is 2011, times are changing and times have changed. Yet, there are so many things in Soledad that remind me of what I read about in history books, or more likely, movies and books depicting older times. I am sorry I keep going back to the cantinas, but its hard not to. Every time I write an update, they’re blasting music in front of the house. The cantinas are what we used to call Saloons before the west became pacified and saloons became quaint, like inns and lodges. The other day, I finally went into the one across the street to interview one of the workers. She told me many interesting things about the pay structure, about how she makes her money, about the sex, about the medial exams and the police controls. Prostitution is legal and regulated here, or maybe it’s not officially legal, but the women are tested and given health certificates which are controlled by police once a month.

But it’s more the scene. Cantinas are where men go to socialize, to watch TV, to dance with charming and fun women to loud music. There is card playing, laughing, and of course, a lot of drinking. Think about an old wild west town, and the piano player, and the girls done up in make-up and revealing clothing, and the dancing and the fun. That’s what these are like but modernized and without the red velvet cushions and lace, which was probably just a Hollywood invention anyways. Most saloons were probably dirty smelly hovels like the ones here.

And then, there is society’s reaction to it. Women try to keep their husbands and sons away. Good Christians and all moral women wouldn’t be caught dead inside. Everybody knows who goes, but gossip is kept behind closed doors. In a machismo society, what are the women going to do? They can pout all they want, but if the men want to have a good time with the ladies and their friends, there’s not much they can do about it. They don’t hold the purse strings. And from a man’s point of view, there isn’t alot of fun to be had in these small towns anyways. In the US, we have varying quality bars we can go to in the nearest city. Here, there are only cantinas. And the girls are so much more fun than the boring broads at home! They drink, they dance, they flirt, and if you pay them enough, they might even sleep with you. However, if any of the boring broads at home were to acquire any of these desirable traits, they would most likely be labeled a whore.

Speaking of this double standard, this slips into everyday life in some interesting ways. In Soledad (notice how I’m refraining from saying Mexico? Soledad is not a city where things are very different. It is also not a nothing village. It is a country town and my thoughts should be put in context of this) girls and guys aren’t friends. That’s right, there are almost no cross gender friendships. To understand this, you must understand family life here. In school, when my Sociology professors talked about collectivist family oriented cultures, I related it to the strong, close knit families that I met in my travels. However, now that I’m living and experiencing this culture, I see that it can almost be a cage. Boys, as a whole, can go off and do what they want. There are rules, but there is also a lot more freedom. But even for boys, family is where the majority of your social interactions are and, if you’re not working, is where most of your time is spent. But for girls, you have no choice. Most of the time, you’re just not let out very much, and when you are, it is very regulated.

Occasionally, girls are allowed the go out with their friends. On Sundays, everybody but especially families and couples walk around the town square, eat some ice cream, and do some socializing. Then they go home. Outside of that, girls can’t do much because parents fear that they’ll be having sex. This is what it boils down to here. Outside of work, food, and the basics, life here is consumed with sex. Maybe it’s a little too Freudian, maybe it’s all the telenovellas (soap operas) they watch, but it seems as if sex permeates male-female interactions. As an amateur sociologist, let me offer my analysis.

To keep the moral code of girls straight (aka: no sex), parents restrict their associations with boys. Outside of school, most girls are forced to hang out with family. When a girl is seen hanging out with a boy a couple of times, it is most likely because they are a couple. Why? Because in parents’ minds, boys and girls only get together for sex. And so, if you don’t want your daughter having sex, then you keep them at home and under tight control. But, as many of us know, the more your dangle the forbidden fruit in front of the nose without letting a nibble, the more desire is created to take a bite. Combine the fact that young people everywhere are battling raging hormones with the fact that girls and boys do not have platonic relationships and the only reason why girls and boys hang out is to have sex. And so, the parents are indeed right in their thinking and they protect their daughters sanctity. This, in turn, enforces the social code that creates the lack of platonic relationships and the circle plays itself out in Soledad over and over again. Boys can be friends with girls as the girl’s house with the parents present and vise versa, but this rarely happens as even the concept of platonic friendship barely exists. Like I said, for boys, girls are for sex and vise versa. This last statement comes from my own interactions with unmarried girls and is therefore subjective, but it really seems to permeates everything.

So, does any of this sexual repression work? Do girls wait longer? Is there less sex? Well, I would have to do some more research, but I think the answer would be maybe a little. In conservative Christian towns in the bible belt, is there less sex? Ummm, maybe a little. But young people have been making whoopie before marriage for a very long time. In my social milieu of liberal Northern California, the difference is that we’ve gone through what people call the sexual revolution. Let me quote my dad in saying that the sexual revolution didn’t mean that people were having more sex, it just meant they talked about it more. Here, young people have sex. Down by the river, or in the car on abandoned country roads, or with each others husbands and wives when the other isn’t home. Shit, there is even a ‘hotel’ you pay by the hour which is nothing more than a bunch of garage parking spots with a curtain covering the car. I wish that the lady would have allowed me to take a picture.

And the fear? The fear is everywhere. Fear that your partner is cheating on you (which it seems, statistically speaking, you would be right in fearing), fear of dogs, fear of germs, even fear of neighbors. I know! In a small town, where everybody knows everybody, knowing them doesn’t mean that you have to like them. Many parents don’t let there kids walk around at night to go to the store. If you were to see how tranquil this town is (there are problems, don’t get me wrong, but still) and how little there is to fear, you would laugh at the thought. And people will admit that Chole is a safe town, yet, it is ingrained in the culture. Not to say that it’s not in ours…it is. But looking at Mexican newspapers, and watching the news on TV makes the American media look like a Leave it to Beaver world. Here, graphic pictures of dead people and the most sensational crimes make up the bulk of news worthy material. I know, it’s like that in so many places. It never ceases to sadden me though.

All in all, I really do love being in this town. From a sociological perspective, it is brimming with interesting social interactions. However, the more I travel, the more I come to terms with how much I am a product of my upbringing and how I keep coming back to it. I love my family, but I also love not having to report to them every day via phone. I like having no-string-attached open relationships where I don’t have to hide anything from anyone and where the girl doesn’t feel like she is sacrificing her integrity being with me. I appreciate women’s equality, I appreciate open and honest communication, and I appreciate living in a society where controls exist but the individual has freedom to navigate their own futures. I am a Northern California liberal gringo y me gusta así.

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