When I foray into the hinterlands for danzon presentations the van’s driver allows me to sit in the front passenger seat beside him. I greatly appreciate this act as it provides the most leg room and, in exchange, I make fried chicken in biscuits to help him stay awake during our middle of the night departures to cities far and wide around Mexico.
I was rather surprised to hear from him recently because his high school age son was going on a field trip to visit San Miguel. Since his son, and his pals, study English they’d like a tour of the town in English. I was gob smacked. I do many tours for returning Mexicans toting along their gringo spouses and families, but Mexican adolescents was a new twist for me.
I stood in front the Oratorio expecting a group of about twelve figuring the students were coming in the van I have traveled in. They obviously came in buses as I found myself surrounded by a tidal wave of literally fifty teens.
Quickly I adjust my tour to skip topics they would already know (like Guadalupe) and adjust my use of English slang and obscure words (like relics and decapitate). Most important was completely removing sexual humor not wanting to elicit questions I lack an answer for in any language,
At each church I explained what to look for outside and let them walk about on their own. I was amazed how at each church the first thing the youth did was sit in a pew and say a prayer. I’ve given countless tours and never saw that before.
I also never saw the one church’s resident cat, Deacon, literally sashay up to the students and enjoy being tossed about for a bit. Teen energy does have a certain appeal and charm.
The tour made me realize if I do soon become fluent my sense of humor is way too American to translate well. I could get smiles in certain stories but not out and out guffaws. Well, until telling the story of Mexican Maria rag dolls from the jardin steps as they listened below and I tossed out a dozen dolls from my bag. The teens were more alert and engaged than a baseball player reaching for a fly ball.
At the end of the tour they gave me a huge basket of treats from their home town and tossed in some Hershey kisses from my home town. I was really impressed the students did their homework and knew something about me before we even met.
We took a big group photo and then spent 20 minutes as the students wanted their image taken with me in groups of two or three. Luckily I had my hat and big scarf to place on the students to make them feel both silly and special.
Youth may not always look great on the news but if this group is any indication of what is coming down the pike I couldn’t be more impressed!
By Joseph Toone
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin