Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I am not a Mestizo. I am a ... Gringo!

"Basilica" Luis told me.

And then he said something in Spanish and "ruins."

I figured we were going to the basilica and then to the ruins. "Ok" I replied.

The atheist that I am, it is quite interesting that I have been to more temples and churches than many believers might have.  It is not because of any variation of Pascal's Wager, I should clarify--I am not hedging my bets in case there is a god!  I go because not going will not help me understand the people and their cultures.

At the Basilica at Cartago

Furthermore, if the locals consider something to be important, then I need to understand them.  It was important to Luis that I see these places. 

"Pay?" I asked Luis when we reached the ruins at Ujarrás, wondering whether there would any entry fee.

"No" he replied.  

At least "no" is no in English and in Spanish.  Reminds me of that joke that my brother told me years ago from his months of German language learning at Max Mueller Bhavan.  A German tourist in London goes through the German to English dictionary to figure out the English word for 'restaurant."



There were families having enjoying a picnic afternoon at the park area that surrounded the ruins.  Boys playing futbol. Young women with their beaus.  One young couple was having their photos taken inside the ruins by a professional. The photographer saw me clicking and gave me a smile.



As I rounded the ruins and reached the front side again, a woman came rushing to me and said a lot in Spanish. I never cease to be amazed at how much people don't even give it a thought that I might not be a local guy.  It was the story in Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, and here.  I bet I won't be mistaken for a local if I were in Norway!

"No Espanol" I said.

"Oh, Grin ..." she stopped herself from saying "gringo."

I was amused.  She could have said gringo and it would not have bothered me one bit.  I was born a brahmin, have renounced it all.  Been told I could pass of a Mestizo. Now a gringo.  No problems.  I know who I am, whatever others might think.

"Ok. Take a photo?" she asked.

"Sure. Yes. Tell me where to click."

I followed her instructions.  It was a large gathering at the other end of the camera lens.  Maybe about fifteen to twenty people.  I clicked quite a few times to make sure they would have at least one or two usable shots.



I continued with my perambulation and finally exited.

I thought I saw a guava tree.  "Guava?" I asked Luis. 

"Guayaba" he said.  

If only the Tico and the Gringo had the same word for the fruit!


3 comments:

Ramesh said...

That's a pretty tame gringo story. Actually gringo isn't a bad word. Even Wikipedia says - "Roger Axtell, a travel etiquette expert, notes that the word gringo is not necessarily a bad word. It is slang but is derogatory only in its use and context ".

Perhaps its a little bit like our own Ghora or firangi.

How come you are mistaken for a mestizo or even a local. When I was in Mexico earlier this year, I was told I stood out like a sore thumb as an outsider . Ah yes; of course I am nowhere near as handsome as you are :)

Sriram Khé said...

Hey, that is the only gringo story I have; handle with care ;)
True, it all depends on the context. But, ... that fact that she didn't want to complete it ...

Handsome? muahahaha ... oh, wait. maybe you are serious. in that case, THANKS :)

Narayanaswamy S. said...

Ramesh, LOL

Sriram, I was about to comment, on your visit to China or Japan you won't be mistaken for a local .. but then again, there may be quite a lot Indians there now :)