After a mini-tour of Acapulco that one of my English students and her friends so generously guided me on, we headed to one of the many strips of beach lining the bay area. As we came out from between the buildings onto the sand, a large crowd was immediately noticeable along the shore in the distance in front of one of the numerous towering hotels.
My student quickly figured they were probably my compatriots here on Spring Break and told me to get a closer look. After a bit of hesitation I went off to investigate with a girl from our group. We couldn’t make out the DJ’s rambling from an enclosed area belonging to the beach-side resort over the blaring hip-hop, but there was some type of contest going on beyond the wall, possibly wet t-shirt or boxer, and a large group of English-speakers were socializing on the shore.
Oddly enough, they were not engaging in the rampant sex in public places so many Acapulqueños had forewarned me of. As we passed by I felt the urge to somehow make it be known that I, too, was American –unfortunately I had left my stars-and-stripes Speedo at home– but instead we continued walking along the water.
Admittedly, I was excited for Spring Break season in mid-March and the chance to see some fellow gringos. If you’ve ever lived somewhere outside of your country, state or even city, you can relate to the sense of needing to connect with someone who shares a similar background because you feel that you can automatically identify with that person. When I see people who I believe may be from the U.S. (obnoxious, loud American tourists not included), it’s as if a feeling comes over me urging me to shout out, “Wait up guys! I’m gringo too!”
In other words, I feel like it’s my community by default, and thus where I belong. But at the same time I soon realize what separates me from these individuals. They’ve come to Mexico as tourists probably never daring to leave the main beach avenue to venture off and explore other areas. Additionally, they would probably be pegged as esprinbrekers wherever they went whether for their clothes, behavior or speech.
On the other hand, I actually live here away from the tourist zone, and although my Spanish accent is not perfect by any means, I can generally pass as a local. Another one of my pupils was telling me how he saw me walking down the street from his house pointing me out to his brothers as the gringo teacher at his school. They looked at him incredulously, “He’s gringo?” (And I thought Obama was supposed to help diversify the image of the U.S.) So while expecting to identify with my fellow country men and women I was reminded of the ways in which I’ve been able to integrate in a different community.
This realization is equally pertinent to the gay community. Semana Santa, Mexico’s version of Spring Break in April, brought a wave of turistas from Mexico City and other parts of the republic along with a corresponding stream of gay tourists taking advantage of Acapulco’s vibrant gay scene. Even Manhunt joined in on the fun partnering up with Zoom, one of the gay bars, to sponsor a weekend-long circuit party.
At the pool party I attended, in a house overlooking the bahía, it was more of the same electronic/house/techno music (what’s the difference again?) that I’ve grown accustomed to in the gay discotheques of Mexico and abroad. While everybody else was jamming to the pulsating rhythms provided by the specially invited DJ Carlos Gomix, I was left yearning for Timbaland, raeggeton or even some 80’s Luis Miguel.
I was also extremely annoyed by the fact that the boy I went with, who I had met the night before, was all over me like cheese on tortillas trying to hold my hand as if we were boyfriends. I’m not trying to equate gay Mexican culture with gay culture in the U.S., but it makes me think of how many times I attend a gay function just because I’m gay and I feel the need to do so.
I approached the esprinbrekers on the beach driven by our perceived similarities only to feel pushed away at the same time by our apparent differences. Of course, here in Mexico I’m learning about the different cultures that exist here, but at the same time I’m questioning how I fit into my “default” community, or communities. This also includes wondering why I gravitate towards an event just because we’re both queer, keeping me from the opportunity to step out of that comfort zone and experience other cultures.