On Being a Zombie

Mexican Zombies!

Yesterday, I was a zombie for the Mexico City Zombie Walk. With a shirt bloodied from last week’s Halloween party* and a face bloodied with Warner Brothers’ sangre artificial,  I headed out to the Monument to the Revolution with around 15 thousand other walking corpses**. I think we broke a world record.

I have to tell you: it was amazing! I have LARPed before, but always had difficulty getting out of my own head and into that of the character. Being a mindless zombie, however, I forgot all about me and who I was and just got into scaring the shit out of passersby. Once we arrived at the Zocalo, I just stayed in character and hunted down randoms to scare. Dozens of people wanted their photos taken with me and of me, and I thoroughly scared plenty of people – particularly as it got darker.

Photos of me from the day can be found here. Hopefully I’ll find more from other people later.

Thanks to Maria for the pic, and Alex for the brains.

Two words of warning if you’re planning to do the same thing.

  • All my muscles hurt this morning. You have no idea. By holding one arm limp, head to one side and dragging one foot behind me, I’ve thoroughly irritated my whole body. Seriously, I walk like a zombie today purely because all of the muscles that usually work together to create locomotion really don’t want to cooperate.
  • I caught a 10 year old trying to pick my pocket, while hand in hand with his role-model father. Just keep an eye on your stuff when you’re partying in the Zocalo or Garibaldi. It’s the first time it’s happened to me, but I’ve always known it goes on. Just be careful is all.

This is not to put anyone off doing something like this, though, and it’s certainly not a comment on Mexico. You get 10-20 thousand people anywhere in the world and you’re going to get your fair share of arseholes, Fagins and opportunists. Just be smart about it and have as many ridiculous experiences as you can. That’s what I do. Happy Halloween and feliz Dia Los Muertos!

* I took it to the laundrette, and it was returned to me medical-waste-like in a separate baggie. I don’t think the laundry ladies were too impressed. Below is a picture from that Halloween party. I had to shave off that goatee to get all the fake blood out. Totally worth it.

The guy on the right is Drew: getting his priorities straight while I pose in the background.

** Estimates vary depending on the news outlet you choose. Apparently 10k registered plus those who didn’t.

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Racism?

Yes, it’s a cliché to open with a definition. So sue me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about racism; about what is or isn’t acceptable.

In my job, you meet a lot of people from a lot of countries, and also a lot of people who have visited a lot of countries. Needless to say, this means that my colleagues and I see a lot of cultural diversity in almost everything we do. Is it entirely wrong to comment on it, or only to do so with malice?

Amongst my closest friends here I have Mexicans (obviously), a Frenchman, a Texan, a Hungarian, a Welshwoman, a guy from the Czech Republic (if memory serves) via well to so Middle England, and others. I am from working class South Yorkshire. We often joke about cultural differences and stereotypes (discussions often but not always instigated by me), and I wonder where the line is amongst friends. I think all my friends and colleagues here are friendly, warm, likeable people, and it would hurt me greatly to think that I’d offended them. That said, I don’t think I have. I think these issues are easier amongst people you know.

On the other hand, there are third party observations that ESL teachers are also guilty of. I’ve heard (and said) things like:

– “If you think it’s corrupt here, you should see XYZ!”
– “Yeah, Mexicans walk slowly, but ZYX walk slower.”
– “Mexico’s problem is just how disorganised it is.”
– “I hated ABC. Everyone was so rude!”

These points are asides from all the things we love about a place, of course. As teachers, we have a tendency to moan. British teachers doubly so. Mexico is here as an example because that’s where I am right now.

Anyway, when you’re at home amongst people who share a culture (even if it’s not your whole ethnic make-up) it’s a little easier to draw the line, I think. In Britain, there’ll always be the middle class fear of offending someone, but broadly speaking, you neither badmouth people who are different nor discuss the ways they are different, save on an ideological level. Out in the world where you’re living the cultural differences, it’s almost impossible not to discuss them. Particularly when you come across the rarity which is an accent that matches your own.

At the risk of mentioning Jeremy Clarkson in two posts in a row, the Mexican Top Gear scandal from a couple of years ago particularly comes to mind. In the episode (see below) Richard Hammond and co. compare a Mexican car to the bigot-approved “facts” about Mexican people as smelly, lazy, stupid desert-dwellers*. This is a perspective from men who leave their country only to mock others while simultaneously living up to the worst possible white Westerner stereotypes. This is racism, and outside of irony with friends, far from what I would ever allow to genuinely pass my lips.

I suppose this is more of a question-post than an answer-post. When you see cultural difference every day, when you travel to places where ideals, processes and habits are different: is it wrong to say so? I’d love your opinions on this.

*I have to say here that since I’ve been in Mexico, I don’t think I’ve met a lazy Mexican. Certain none lazier than me. Though I’ve seen some corruption (and even benefited from it) and a few ripe-smelling people on the tightly-packed public transport, these are certainly the exceptions rather than the rule. Geographically, there is so much varied landscape to see in Mexico without a grain of sand in sight. From a non-native Mexican inhabitant, Clarkson is an idiot.