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Hell Is Other Oxxo Patrons

September 19, 2010

If you’ve been to Yucatan, at some point you’ve probably stumbled into an Oxxo, dehydrated and disoriented, looking for a cold bottle of water and some Japanese peanuts, only to find yourself caught up in a performance of class tensions played out by one of Merida’s fairer-skinned locals.

It is a burlesque in that its roles and gestures are so broad and so desperate in their assertion of privilege, dominance, and contempt, that they can’t but humorously illuminate Yucatan’s centuries-old caste crisis.

At least several times a week I witness a sharp-elbowed member of Merida’s haute bourgeoisie muscle his or her way to the front of the line because, damnit, he or she just isn’t the waiting-in-line type.

Class anxiety turns to slapstick when you’ve got a good mix of castes jostling to make a purchase.  Before the simplest transaction can be made, the traditional pecking order must be established and everyone must take their rightful place in line… all while ice is melting, beer is getting warm, nicotine fits are screaming and patience is wearing thin.

Last week, when I walked into my corner Oxxo for a pack of cigarettes, I inadvertently made eye contact with a woman (we’ll call her Leona) who was standing on the other side of the store in front of the refrigerated drinks case.  Not even the Botox could hide the panic in her eyes as she snatched a cappuccino from the case, leaving the door open behind her as she raced for the counter, her heels clattering across the tile floor with the rapidity of machine gun fire.  She made a dive for the counter, practically cracking the cashier across the face with her bottle of ¡Café Olé!

Because I visit this Oxxo daily, I’ve established a measure of solidarity with the cashiers there.  As dark-skinned people they seem amused that a lighter-skinned person should find himself an outcast.  While Leona waved her bottle of ¡Café Olé! like a baton or a signal flare, the diminutive Maya woman behind the counter flashed me a knowing grin as she turned away to get my pack of Pall Mall blancos, ignoring Leona for the simple reason that I was first in line.

Leona’s eyes bulged from their sockets.  She huffed and placed her hands on her hips.  It was as though some sort of primal caste instinct had kicked in and she was no longer in control of her own body.  Gradually, as her reptile brain surrendered to reason, her face suggested that she didn’t know why she had this freakish aversion to waiting in line for thirty seconds behind a frumpy-looking gringo, she just knew that it had to be that way.

With the Caste War within living memory, perhaps the privileged must assert their privilege and dominance in every social situation, because even the slightest display of kindness, the most casual acknowledgment of social equality and the brotherhood of man, is a show of weakness that calls one’s privilege into question.  And that just might open the floodgates to a lot more questioning.  If the Caste War was any proof, once privilege comes into question, a great deal more becomes open for debate.

For a while I thought the coat of arms on the House of Montejo, which features a pair of European conquistadors standing on the heads of a few wailing Maya, was a little overkill—a tasteless, unsubtle metaphor for subjugation and caste superiority.  Now I see it as social realism.

Perhaps those wailing Maya were really holding up the line.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rosa Luxembourgeoise permalink
    September 19, 2010 7:19 pm

    I saw the Wailing Maya before they sold out and signed with Sony.

  2. Chillbear Latrigue permalink
    September 19, 2010 9:16 pm

    If she is not going to be able to get decent service, I hope that her vote is at least triple counted in the various elections. I mean, she did relocate to Mexico for them. How do the locals show their appreciation?

  3. Annie Tyson permalink
    September 21, 2010 9:30 am

    The clerk couldn’t bring himself to wait on her because she is too ugly.

  4. October 1, 2010 1:21 pm

    Aversion to “to waiting in line for thirty seconds”? It sounds to me that YOU have had similar “aversions.” Otherwise, why would the cashiers be so familiar with your own impatience?

    I have encountered similar events in similar lines–but I have seen it coming from all classes of people. In fact, I suspect we gringos are the worst prima donnas of all! I usually feel that because I am correctly perceived as being retired, that I don’t have the “time is money” reason to be in a hurry.
    It’s just not worth the hostility.

    If you truly believed what you are preaching, about the continuation of the caste system, why not take it upon yourself to be more patient?

    I have seen that woman before, so the next time I do, I’ll direct her to your comments so that she can judge for herself.

  5. November 6, 2010 11:21 pm

    What I want to know is how you got the photograph!

  6. November 7, 2010 1:30 am

    @ William

    That’s actually a photoshopped picture of Leona “Only the Little People Pay Taxes” Helmsley.

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