A Bona Fide Cultural Experience
by Jonathon Van Valin
Isn’t this why people travel? To experience traditions lending insight and flavor to one’s local understanding while opening our minds to the pure truth of our shared humanity?
I wouldn’t know. I’ve avoided such things.
Until recently arriving in Xela.
This past Sunday in the Parque Central, a particular flock of cotton candy caught my eye… it included not just the usual pink and blue, but orange, yellow, green, purple – the whole rainbow.
Clever man! This drew my eye to the broad steps of the bank across the street, where club music thumped from temporary loudspeakers amid a forest of rainbow banners, the one in the middle proudly proclaiming what the fuss was all about: a rally for the local Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual & Transgendered (LGBT) community.
A few folks stood around staring. Most park-goers just ignored it all. I can’t claim to know anything about what the local LGBT community faces, but I’d guess in this otherwise overwhelmingly Catholic and very conservative, indigenous-oriented Latin culture, they have a hard go of it.
The diversity of those taking part was rather spectacular, including a few caricatures and clichés, merrily shaking to the beat along with plenty who didn’t stand out at all. I think science would have to concede that the average flamingly effeminate Latin male can rock the dark-suit-with-white-shoes-look in a way that no one else will ever come close to.
But this wasn’t the Bona-Fide Cultural Experience. That came next – and please, please relive this moment with me in slow motion – when the two basset hounds came “running” full bore on their ridiculously short legs, almost tripping on their own flying ears, loping and baying like waterless sea lions past the vendors and lazy Sunday revelers, dragging their hot pink leashes across the square right up into the thick of the rally where they wagged and pranced and sniffed among their obviously familiar friends.
Immediately following, came an elderly and slightly out-of-breath indigenous man, traditionally dressed in his cowboy hat and colorful shirt and pants wrapped with a knee-length woolen skirt (a “rodillera”). He picked up the leashes while consulting one of the rally-goers…
Gay Mayan basset hounds? And traditional native clothing? I’m just saying… you can’t find that in a guidebook.