A few years ago in Mexico City, I went to some club in Roma Norte of Mexico City with a Mexican chick named Angie.
We first went to some mezcal bar actually before carrying on towards some spot where we pulled the “birthday trick.”
What is the birthday trick?
I’m sure I mentioned it elsewhere but basically you just tell the local bar that it’s your birthday before coming in and ask if they have any promotions.
Because you are a foreigner, it’s not unlikely that they’ll assume you have a nice bit of money to spend.
And, because you are a foreigner, it’s easier to convince them for why you don’t have any ID on you to confirm your birthday.
Therefore, you can get a free drink, a free shot or a discounted bottle even if it’s not your birthday.
Primarily works on clubs or bars that don’t have as many clients but can work on those also.
More ideal for the young 20 something with less money in the bank.
At any rate, Angie and I eventually find ourselves ins some karaoke bar later after that with some friend of hers from Sinaloa.
We have our fun.
Then it’s time to go home.
If I remember right, I believe we all headed to Angie’s place and stayed the night there.
While waiting for an UBER anyhow, I noticed a little bit of commotion on the same sidewalk that we were standing on.
Some white foreign dude with short dirty blondish looking hair was making some noise in a drunken fashion.
And speaking very loudly in English.
As a side point, I usually don’t like speaking in English in Latin America – it makes me feel like I’m sticking out more and I don’t like to be too noticeable in any space.
This dude anyway was very loudly speaking in English about whatever.
It’s been years so I don’t remember what he was going on about seemingly irritated.
Suffice to say, my memory on what led up to the interesting part of the moment is a bit blurry to be fair but what stuck out about the moment was the following.
At some point, some other dude – a local street food guy selling hotdogs – yelled out at the drunk gringo.
From my impression, it seemed like the hotdog local guy was trying to be friendly as he yelled out “friend! I speak Spanish too!”
He yelled that after the drunk gringo was seemingly trying to work his best Spanish on some chick in his group of people that he was with.
It was clear that his Spanish didn’t amount to much and he was, with the power of hard liquor, trying to put together some broken sentences in Spanish in between some of the yelling in English when he would converse with a few other foreigners in his group.
So, for whatever reason, the local hotdog guy decided to pay attention to the mini commotion of his group and yelled out about how “his Spanish is good. I speak Spanish too!!”
And the hotdog guy seemed friendly – all smiles and a thumbs up to give encouragement towards this dude’s attempts at Spanish.
Genuinely seemed friendly.
The foreign dude anyway looked over at the hotdog guy and yelled back “oh yes, I speak Spanish also! Tacos tacos! Tequila!”
The hotdog guy looked confused.
The foreigner repeated himself with some of his friends laughing “tacos! Tacos! Tequila! I hablar Spanish!!”
The chick he was working on immediately turned to her phone seemingly unimpressed.
The hotdog guy just had a confused look on his face and didn’t respond.
I don’t know.
Angie rolled her eyes and gave a “ugh” sound.
The UBER soon arrived.
The night ended.
Still, it’s a moment that reflects a certain truth about trying to speak Spanish (or Portuguese) to the locals in Latin America.
Something that some foreigners might not realize but can be a sensitive point for the locals when something like the above happens.
Let’s get into the point briefly.
A Mockery of the Language!
First, let’s just be fair in saying drunk people be drunk people.
We all do or say stupid shit when drunk.
For all we know, the guy in question was a completely normal dude who was just a tiny bit too drunk that night and wanted to be silly.
Having said that, there’s something else that needs to be said.
You know, I’m no stranger to criticizing the local in Latin America who is insistent on wanting to speak English to the foreigner.
But, in some circumstances, I can get why the local would want to do that or just ignore the foreigner in general.
The situation above is one of those cases.
Other examples might be that the foreigner is legit struggling in the local language and the local knows English better or whatever else.
Hell, if I meet a local whose English is seemingly quite good, I have no issue switching to English.
It’s my native language after all.
Still, a local, despite not knowing much English, might choose to switch to English or ignore the foreigner in general if the local perceives the foreigner to be making a mockery of their language or culture in a way that might be considered offensive.
In this case, maybe the foreigner is yelling out stupid shit to show he “speaks” Spanish by yelling “tacos! Tacos!”
Perhaps he is trying to exaggerate a specific accent of the region and doing it in a way that is obviously making fun of the locals.
And, to be fair, I’ve been slightly guilty of the latter when it comes to the stereotypical Mexico City accent.
I try not to be a jackass myself about it but, when compared to other accents in Latin America, the stereotypical accent in Mexico City is a little bit funny.
Th overuse of the word “wey” and the stretching of words and so forth.
And, actually, after so much time here, I find myself speaking as such sometimes not because I’m trying to poke fun at the accent but simply because it sometimes sticks to me depending on the context.
But I can see how a local might see that as a foreigner making a joke or mockery of their language or culture.
With the taco guy example above, that’d also involve playing on stereotypes about Mexicans – that they all eat tacos and drink tequila only or some shit.
I imagine this behavior is more common anyway among tourists who are new here with little interest in the country.
But it’s a behavior anyway that, when we speak about locals switching to English, it’s relevant.
Some local might choose to do so upon seeing the foreigner piss over their language or culture in some way that is seen as mocking them.
Not much else to say other then to bring light to this specific scenario you might see in Latin America once in a blue moon.
Or maybe more commonly if you live in a touristy area – who knows.
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Thanks for reading.