With an academic background in belief systems, I am always fascinated by what people believe and why they believe it. That is to say I have an interest in beliefs of all kinds, not just religion and faith but everyday things that people take to be true. Reflecting on this, I have realised that living in Mexico has altered a number of my beliefs. My belief system has changed a lot, often for good but occasionally for bad…
1) The man on the moon is now a rabbit
Ask most Mexicans about the man on the moon and they will look at you strangely and ask “don’t you mean the rabbit?” If you look closely it is very easy to see an upside down rabbit in the moon (see picture). The story (well one of them at least) is that Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the Aztecs, whilst living on the earth as a man, was walking on a long journey and became so hungry, with no sign of food, he thought he would die. In his moment of difficulty, he came across a rabbit who offered herself to him to feed his hunger and ultimately save his life. Quetzalcoatl, so moved by this selfless offer, held the rabbit up to the moon and brought her back down to earth, exclaiming that she would be remembered for eternity because her image was now in the light of the moon.
Next time you look to the sky, have a look for the rabbit. She is upside down bathing in the glorious light of her good deed!
2) Mezcal is good for you
Mezcal is a strong alcohol, from the same family as tequila (although in my opinion it is infinitely better). There is a saying in Mexico, well certainly in Oaxaca that essentially says Mezcal is good for everything and at anytime, good and bad; “Para Todo Mal Mezcal, Para Todo Bien También.” When I first heard this, I laughed thinking it was amusing but of course not true. However, after being reminded with every ailment (cold, flu, stomach ache etc.) that a Mezcal will cure it, I recently realized that it has crept into my belief system and I now accept it to be true! So much do I believe this, that when recently undertaking a detox, I questioned whether Mezcal really counted as alcohol since it is so good for you and could protect my stomach whilst I was detoxing! I mean honestly!
3) The dead really do return on Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is an annual festival based on the belief that our ancestors return to visit us on the 1st and 2nd of November. Mexicans set up shrines in their houses, with offerings of the favourite foods drinks, cigarettes etc. of the departed to entice them back. The shrines are lined with flowers and candles and special Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead). Many Mexicans take this festival very seriously and families will spend the day and night at their loved ones gravesides, waiting for them to return. The celebrations can be somber but usually they are celebratory and sometimes rather drunken, raucous occasions.
Whereas, I used to see this festival through the eyes of an intrigued observer, I now look forward to the festival and partake fully with my own shrine and offerings, and I have my own stories of supernatural visits to tell. I know many other foreigners in Mexico who also feel great joy at the arrival of the dates, and look forward to “hanging out” with their departed loved ones. The greatest thing is when you tell most Mexicans about the “crazy” experiences that happened on Day of the Dead, they simply smile a knowing smile and never question a thing!
4) You can’t trust a text message to get to its destination
Somehow in England I always had near 100% trust in technology. If I sent a text I didn’t doubt its arrival on the phone of the intended recipient. Not so in Mexico. Sometimes texts just get lost in the ether and sometimes they end up on another persons phone entirely, someone with a completely different number than the one you sent the message to, someone you don’t even know. This happened to a couple of friends of mine recently. One sent a text the other with an insult in Spanish (a joke, understood if received by the intended recipient), however, somehow, perhaps only known to Carlos Slim, (the owner of the biggest telecommunications company in Mexico and richest man in the world) it ended up on someone else’s phone entirely. Clearly perturbed to have receive the profanity, the recipient sent an insult back, to which my friend responded with another and so on and so on until it started to get quite heated and the penny began to drop for my friend that he was in an insult war with a perfect stranger! This is no isolated incident, it happens all the time here. I sometimes wonder where all those unsent text messages are hanging out. I like to think that there is some satellite full to bursting with Mexican text messages orbiting slower and slower around the earth.
5) Somehow everything always works out
This is an unexplainable mystery of Mexican living and something that I believe to the core of my being. Somehow everything does always work out! You can be late, not know where you are going, run out of phone credit and money, but somehow whatever you are doing always works out and I tell you it leads to a much more relaxed way of living. Mexican’s whilst often passionate and energetic are not generally people plagued by stress like many people from Europe and the United States. Events here often get organized a few days before they happen, rather than a year in advance as in Europe, and they work, people turn up, lots of people turn up!
I used to be panicked by detail, planning, and preparation and whilst these are hard traits to put aside, and perhaps I don’t want to entirely, in Mexico I am always relaxed in the knowledge and faith that somehow everything always works out!
Thanks to Nikhol Esteras for the wonderful photo of Mezcal
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.