Friday, July 21, 2006

I had a productive morning at my brother’s house. We slept late chatting, criticizing our parent’s couples, worried about them. I then took a kilometric and exhausting ride from his small town to Guanajuato. The bus I rode smelled like chickens and dirt, and it was the best example of a ‘guajolotero’ that I’ve seen. I was wearing a new dress, and had spent time brushing my hair into a high ponytail so I was mortified to get dirty and smell like a bag of potatoes. The bus went through winded, narrow and dangerous roads stopping constantly in the middle of steep curves and I was quickly getting hot and anxious, I am not used to waiting inside a bus and my acute sense of smell was strangling my patience.

I then struggled to walk on the cobblestone in my pumps and with a heavy backpack (laptop, jacket, keys, ipod and probably some unnecessary accessories) until I found a bank I was looking for. A man was following me all the way, trying to be nice by guiding me through the alleys of Guanajuato. He had offered to take me to the center when I asked him directions in the bus. His name was Gustavo and he was about 35, a small business-man that worked in Leon, the capital of Guanajuato (the state). He kept chitchatting and I responded with crazy stories to confuse him. He asked me if I was from the capital of the country (DF) and was marveled at the stories I was telling him, I couldn’t believe he hadn’t been there himself so it was my chance to reinforce the urban legends of the capital. It was until I found the branch of the bank that Gustavo went his own way.

The inept cashiers at the bank couldn’t help me so they sent me to an even smaller branch literally in the middle of the city market, where ironically I could achieve all my desired transactions. I walked like a mule for a good 20 minutes, dodging the slow walkers typical of small towns, ladies with children and shopping bags and a few crazy cabs that almost climb the narrow streets. The small branch was too small to handle everyone in need of some bank business so I waited in line with an annoyed face for 30 min until I made a juicy deposit to the account of my field assistant, collecting palms for me as I write this, in the humid, dangerous forests of the coast of Veracruz. I almost exploded against the slow tellers but I held on to my impatience more fitting for New York than for Guanajuato. While I waited I talked to a nice man carrying a baby about life and life in small banks, both of us complaining on how useless the manager of the bank was.

I compensated my suffering by going to one of my favorite plazas in the city, I chose a table under a majestic tree and sat down for a coffee and a quick dinner at Bossanova Arte & Café. It was the pleasant music and the stickers in support to Andres Manuel on the door of the establishment that drove me to this particular restaurant, as well as a string of middle-age women sitting on the bench next to the tables. As I sat down I was amused to hear they were telling stories about this city. Guanajuato is very well known for its scary or romantic legends (probably fueled by its deep mines and narrow alleys) but I never thought that Guanajuatenses actually talked about them in the streets.

I was busy typing the first chapter of my dissertation when the owner of the place, a tall dark-skinned, handsome man that I had asked a few questions before, approached me and with a strange accent (Brazilian?) and told me that he had to run an errand. I was a bit puzzled so I asked him if he wanted the check for the frapuccino I had drank so far so he could go. He said that his name was Tavo and that he was rather interested in spending some time with me and chat, that the check was not a hurry. I blushed since the proposal was so unexpected and I was still technically his customer (would I get a discount?). Fortunately, he ran off quickly after sensing that I wasn’t interested. I stared at his back, wondering if he planned his questions before or after making my spinach quiche.

After a few minutes another man came to my table. He had been talking loudly to two other people in the table next to me. He was scrawny and had the usual air of an artist or intellectual, dressed with tight jeans, long white hair, and a rebel t-shirt with an unidentified figure in the middle. He gave me his card after telling me that he was from DF, that he was a photographer and that he’d love to take pictures of me since I looked so lovely sitting there on the table. I laughed it off quickly since I didn’t really feel like posing for a stranger. He was funny and familiar though, reciting the characteristic DF phrases and pointing out the quirks of Guanajuato. I was very comfortable with him and the fact that he was 50 or so made me feel more comfortable than the other two. He asked me if I was here presenting a short film in the upcoming international festival, which I will unfortunately miss. I explained I was simply waiting for my brother and that I’d soon be gone from this charming city. After a while I focused on my vegetarian meal and he left, kissing me DF style (only cheeks touch, mouths kisses in the air, to who knows what).

I smiled at the strange parade of men that had talked to me today, asked for the check and planned my next more mundane stops, email and manicure, then work again. While I waited for my change I stared down at the funky card that the photographer had given me. His name: Gustavo.


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