Sometimes my fellow ex-pats mystify me and not always in a good way. We often seem genetically incapable of having an interest in local history and culture. Conversely, we are oddly proud of this fact.
Two events this week on social media brought the issue to the forefront yet again. One was a lad bemoaning “the phony Alborada (a celebration for the town’s namesake, St. Michael)” and all the fake festivals to entertain the uber-wealthy from Mexico City and not the elderly ex-pat population already here.
Wow, there was just so much wrong with that sentence.
First, a century old tradition of celebrating St. Michael’s feast day is neither phony nor for the attraction of visitors. As with every faith-based event in town, come along for the fun, or don’t. Either way it is not about you, it is about public expressions of faith.
Granted the town’s tourism focus for years has been the uber-wealthy from Mexico City. Every tourist town plays to their strengths and their target market. Just being from the North is not enough of a reason for anyone to assume they are sun which the rest of world revolves around.
It’s normal to not like what we don’t understand. It’s ethnocentrically abhorrent to make snide and reductive statements about events one doesn’t understand. Much less use a public forum to gleefully proclaim your ignorance when there is a plethora of resources at your fingertips explaining customs. As my mother said when mad at a kid that was too old to spank “What were you thinking?” Fair warning, she didn’t want an actual answer since obviously my siblings and I weren’t thinking.
Then today I saw an ad by someone that has copied my history tour of the churches stating “the focus is on the history of the buildings and art inside, not on religion.” What? The buildings are churches and their history and art is all about religion, of course. Bet if you shared that ad with the priests that have dedicated their lives to that building’s occupants, my plagiarizers would be out of the churches in no time, and should be. How crass.
Plus the notion of giving money to the “buildings” they make money on would give my copycats a stroke. They are entitled to interrupt folks praying to talk about something other than what goes on in a church.
Can you imagine a bunch of tourist elephants clomping into my Baptist minister brother’s church to talk about anything but being Baptist? Or how fast you’d be correctly labeled racist doing so in a temple? Yet we ex-pats think we are entitled to do so here.
Any religion, tradition or expression of faith our host promotes we, as guests, should, if we don’t want to try to understand it, simply back off and keep quiet. Don’t attend but if you do, then ask questions. Trust me, anyone is flattered when a foreigner truly wants to learn more and is excited to do so.
The conversation will make you a more interesting person that won’t be the ignoramus describing fiestas as phony or churches as buildings that somehow have a history not about being a house of worship for centuries.
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on history, holidays, tours and living in San Miguel.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed hereby are those of the author and not necessarily those of the San Miguel Times.