Back when I was new to living in Latin America, I checked out some Guatemalan city called Xela.
It was one of the first places I had seen in Latin America some odd years ago where I was set to study Spanish and work for some NGO.
Anyway, the NGO I worked for had some building where parents in some poor neighborhood called Las Rosas could leave behind their kids to be watched over while they went to work.
It was to help mothers have more free time to get a job and bring more income to the home while the kids can continue some form of education and socialization with their peers.
Among other activities that the NGO engaged in regarding its work for the community.
Anyway, I remember there being an afternoon where all the workers were set to close up the building for the day and go home.
There was one Guatemalan worker anyway – a fat, middle aged woman with medium brown skin and a bit on the short time – who gave me a hug that afternoon.
And, along with the hug, turned her cheek to the side facing me.
It was obvious to me that she wanted to show me her cheek but I wasn’t sure why.
So with my arm half around her, I lean back and look confusingly at her.
Just not sure why she is showing me her cheek.
And one of the leaders of the NGO, some Dutch woman, noticed my confusion and laughed a tiny bit.
She explained to the Guatemalan woman that I was confused.
And she laughed too.
To which the Dutch chick, with more experience in Latin America than I have, explained to me that I’m supposed to kiss her cheek as a way of saying goodbye.
So I kissed her on the cheek.
I went along with it but it was new for me to kiss some stranger’s cheek as a way of saying goodbye.
And, being honest, I still don’t completely understand the “kiss on the cheek” thing entirely.
The only thing I doubt, after all these years, is are you supposed to kiss them on the cheek as a greeting also?
Initially in Guatemala, I always thought it was just a way to say goodbye.
However, after 6 years in Latin America now, I have had the occasional person give me “the cheek” as a way to begin a greeting.
That’s the only thing I was ever slightly confused about – I was never told you do it for greetings also but I have had some Latinas in my life give me the “cheek” when it comes to greetings.
And I say chicks because I’ve never had a dude, at least from what I can remember, give me “the cheek.”
Though I appreciate cultural differences, I’m afraid I ain’t going to kiss dudes on the cheek to say hello or goodbye.
A simple handshake works fine there!
And, as I said, I’ve never had a dude try getting me to kiss his cheek.
But I have had other encounters with Latinas down here where I get the cheek occasionally.
Maria the Landlord in Pachuca
Back when I lived in a Mexican city called Pachuca, I had a white Latina landlord named Maria.
She was probably in her late 30s with a husband that lived next door to me.
Anyway, when recalling any moments where I got “the cheek,” I do remember one moment with Maria.
Who, during the night, I texted her about the wifi.
It wasn’t working!
Now, to be fair, the laptop I had back then was shit and would disconnect from any wifi router randomly.
So it was usually never the router’s fault and I soon learned I would have to turn the router on and off to get the laptop to connect again whenever it happened.
Still, on this one night, I hadn’t learned that trick yet.
And so I texted Maria about the wifi.
She’s standing outside in the common area of the building in some robe as we mess with the router.
And we exchanged some small talk for maybe 30 minutes?
To which then it was time to go back to our respective apartments.
She gave me the “cheek” and said something like “get over here” or something like that.
It was actually a little bit flirtatious but nothing more happened than kissing her on the cheek.
For one, it could’ve been that she sensed hesitancy on my part to give her a “kiss on the cheek.”
That hesitancy comes with the fact that, despite living in Latin America, most people I meet down here are not having me kiss their cheeks.
Part of me also wonders though if that’s a generational thing.
Do younger Latinas insist on the cheek kissing less than older ones?
I’d be willing to bet that but I have had younger ones give me “the cheek” also.
Anyway, it’s just a theory of mine but I actually don’t know.
If I had to guess based on memory, I’d be willing to say that urban Latinas are less likely to insist on a cheek kiss than older or less urban Latinas.
Anyway, with Maria, there were moments of sexual tension like I very briefly wrote about here.
But nothing happened between us.
Kissed her cheek but never got to smash her cheeks.
Those are the two first examples that come to mind when it comes to some Latina having me kiss her cheek as a way of saying goodbye.
Like I said, I’ve had some Latinas ask for the cheek kiss when we first meet.
For those, it’s almost always been a Tinder chick where, upon meeting each other for the first time at the start of the date, might have me kiss her cheek.
Though, it being a date, I have sometimes pushed the envelope and gone for the lip kiss at the start of the date without even having met her yet.
No resistance to that thankfully.
But, on the topic of using the cheek kiss as a greeting, I can remember the occasional Latina having me do that also.
Another example I can think of regarding the greeting kiss is when I was in Colombia and some chick named Katherine had me kiss her cheek.
She wasn’t a Tinder date. Just some administrator that oversaw my educational visa to Colombia when I was there years ago.
Either way, that’s all there is to say on this topic.
It’s such a simple and minor detail to life in Latin America.
Once in a blue moon, some gal down here will insist on a cheek kiss usually as a goodbye but also occasionally as a greeting.
And that’s it.
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