18 September 2006
Traveling while black
Okay, so I'm in Tulum, Mexico. Tons of Italians (apparently August is their month off) and my friend Simone says Argentians. She's deduced this from all the staring. And I don't mean a curious look of not expecting a person of color (who's not Mexican and in service of some manner). I mean a fork in the air- mouth open-full minute stare upon entering a room. Sitting at a table of compatriots and everyone at the table fully turning around and staring boldly even after the party of color- namely my friends and I- are seated and going about ordering cervezas. Sunni says it's because I'm beautiful that the children stare (thanks honey, right back at you). I buy that but what explains the adults? There are few cultures left on the planet in which this degree of staring without speaking is acceptable and many more where it's downright rude. When I give my friendly "Hola" there's no response. Of course, they're mainly Europeans and I must admit I don't expect many human courtesies from them- sorry. But the staring must stop.
On the other hand, I must say that during this trip I've never been so happy to see black people in my life. Remember, I'm from segregated Chicago and honestly believe that there are black people everywhere. Or, at least, we've been there. The people I know have been all over the globe so I don't believe I'm like James Baldwin when he went to Sweden. But, maybe I am. Dude. My people. We've got to travel more. It's fucking cheap down here. and a black person told me about it. Only here it's clothing optional (as I believe the entire beach is here in the Mayan Riviera) and I'm constantly aware of the historical context of my naked body (naked HOT! body). The reality of the skinny women in bikinis give me visions of Aushwitz. It's very disconcerting. I do love that the Spanish and Italians have some meat on their bones. The Americans are crazy skinny or crazy fat.
But being black gives me the feeling of unwanted novelty. I'm obvious everywhere and everyone remembers me. It was easier to think about when my friends were here. But today as my first full day alone, we'll see. I don't want to go to the pounding techno music party in Playa but to one closer to home at Mezzanine down the beach. I was there last week con mi amigos. Lets see what happens when I go alone, dancing and a little drunk hopefully. We'll see what the interest is then.