I don't understand Mexicans.
Not even a little bit. I feel like as I walk around, my comprehension of so many things is limited. There are a few reasons for this.
First and foremost, I speak about 10 words of Spanish. I know this makes me the ignorant gringo, but it's not an easy thing to rectify in a week or two. Especially when we've never studied languages before. Many other travellers have told me the Mexican dialect of Spanish is full of slang and is spoken very fast (even for native Spanish speakers), so I feel this also adds to my confusion.
Mexican people are also very reticent to speak English, or to simplify the lightning-fast Spanish that comes pouring from their mouths. This is also fine, but I have nothing more than dumbfounded looks to return to them after they verbal-diarrhoea about 100 words at me. I must look like such a dumbarse. Oh well!
During our visits to ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization (Chichen Itza, Tulum etc.) we both found ourselves leaving with more questions than insights. Plaques situated in front of each relic would describe the site... "This was a large building with four walls. It may have had a religious, civic or military use."... Gee that's specific! It seemed that was the most detail they could give on every site. Eventually we came across an American chic who - in her life back home - was an archaeologist. Not an Indiana Jones adventure-seeker. More an "I look at skulls and tell you what they ate for breakfast before they died" kind of archaeologist. Who knew they still existed?! Anyway, she explained to us that when the Spanish arrived they pretty much hit the delete button on all things Mayan civilisation, naming anything that wasn't Catholic and Hail Mary's as work of the devil. As such there's very few known facts remaining about the Mayan relics and ruins scattered around the Yucatan peninsula. And so I go about oblivious.
This religious backstory leads me to the most confounding of all things I've discovered in Mexico. At the hostel we stayed at in Valledolid, we were situated on a town square that also played host to a church. At the time of our arrival we were told the church would be playing host to a great religious festival for 2 weeks. The picture attached to this blog will give you an idea of the size of the congregations, and their closeness to our hostel. Sjane and I, always eager to see people doing culturally significant things, were excited to have a look in. Front row seats as it were. Imagine our dismay when we discovered this religious festival wasn't the gospel music, uplifting songs of the American deep south, but more a 24 hour round the clock yelling and cheering about Maria - a.k.a. Mary. These congregations were not quiet about their devotions either. The priest leading the cheering was hooked up to speakers that belong only at Stereosonic or the like, the congregation didn't so much sing and chant as yell and scream, and the random, incessant use of firecrackers seemed a necessity from 6am to 12 midnight (sometimes later). They weren't even the pretty night-flower ones. They simply cracked, gave an ungodly scream up into the air and disappeared. Not a nice wake up call first thing in the morning. I simply gave up trying to understand why this seemed the best way for them to show their religious devotion to Jesus Christ and Mary. It seemed so aggressive!
So that's Valledolid in a nutshell. Sjane and I wandering around feeling bamboozled and trying to work out what's happening around us. Very entertaining to say the least.