Airport Melting Pot
Yesterday was a LONG travel day, starting at 2:30 a.m. eastern time. As soon as I landed in Miami, I knew I was in the transition to Latin America. In the airport, Spanish is the dominant language both among travelers and service people. As an English speaker with a very rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, it is clear to me that it will be critical for future cross cultural communication in our world, we must become bilingual. I also began to notice in the airport melting pot that we are a country of beautiful, racially diverse peoples whose origins are from throughout the Caribbean. And, then, what do I find when I land in Mexico City? Krispy Kreme donuts and Starbucks coffee along the endless shopping mall promenade on the way to the connecting gate to Oaxaca. Now, why am I surprised that a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, company (almost in my back yard, so to speak) has implanted itself into Mexican food culture? In North Carolina we struggle with the integration of Latino immigrants, whether to accept academically talented yet undocumented students into our colleges and universities at resident tuition rates, and how far we will go legally (or not) to expel the “other” from our midst. On the other side of the border, Mexico struggles with the Americanization of its culture, the erosion of identity through the likes of Krispy Kreme and Starbucks, Dannon competing with Lala in the refrigerator case, ubiquitous television marketing a consumer lifestyle.
Going through “immigration” in Mexico City, I see the teenage brothers and sisters traveling in pairs, without their parents, entering the country of their cultural origin but not their birth, U.S. passport in hand. Intuitively I know what this is about: the parents, undocumented immigrants, sending their children who were born in the U.S. “home” to visit grandmother (abuela) and tio (uncle) and primos (cousins) to keep the family connection alive. I board the plane to Oaxaca and sit next to a beautiful 14 year old. She is traveling with her mother and sister. Her English is impeccable, yet she looks Zapotec. She says it is a language her grandfather speaks, but no one else in the family learned it. She was born in Fresno, California. They traveled by bus from Fresno to Tijuana, where they bought plane tickets to Oaxaca through Mexico City. This must be a path that many from Mexico who live on the west coast take and I realize that there are many layers to our culture in the U.S. – many ways of innovation and living that I am not aware of because I live in my own world.
Eric and my sister, Barbara, pick me up from the airport in Oaxaca, and I am now back in the land I call my other home. (I am almost 62 and wonder how long it will be that I can make this lengthy journey, and then I recall my aunt who has been traveling alone to India for over 30 years. She is now 90 and continues to make the trip–an admirable quality!)
We stop for dinner at El Porton before going on to Teotitlan. This is a new diner that looks a lot like Denny’s, but what a surprise! We had squash blossom soup and chicken flautas topped with mole, crema and avacado. It was as good as if we were in a 4-star restaurant and the bill was under $10 per person including drinks.