My First Proper Mexican Fiesta
My surf instructor and friend, the head lifeguard here in Puerto, told me, "Saturday is my beer day. I'm having a party. You should come by."
"Go to a party" is on my list for the year, and here was a gift-wrapped chance to check it off.
But getting there wasn't going to be easy. There's a certain fear that goes with social situations, a large group of people you don't know, obviously sticking out, and not understanding the local language.
It's something like:
Everyone is going to make fun of me and I won't know what's going on, and it's going to be horrible.
But again, it was on my list. I am very motivated by lists. And checking them off.
So I made a deal with myself. Show up, have two drinks, and then you can leave.
Around 8pm, I finally left my house, and walked down the dirt road, pair of six-packs in hand.
What I found waiting was a fiesta, a fascinating mix of cultures and generations, and a wonderful realization.
I may not speak Spanish that well, but I still speak party fluently.
I've hosted countless parties over the years, and my time spent as a bartender is still one of my favorite chunks of my life. It's an intuition, a mix of keen observation and gut that just comes naturally.
I can feel the flow of an evening like a symphony - know which way things are rolling, and counter or move with them. Spot simply who needs more drinks, and who needs less. Which direction the music should shift. If those people over there are getting bored and about to leave. If it'd be better for the party if they did anyhow.
It's a feeling unlike anything else, really. Natural. Obvious. Beautiful.
But this party, despite my natural tendencies, I wasn't running. I willfully shut those down, tossed back beers, and let the evening come.
The most interesting thing was the entertainment. Five years ago, I suspect this fiesta would have had either a live band or a mixtape on cd, pumped through the speakers.
Today, it was hosted entirely from youtube.
A large hanging sheet and a projector had been set up, paired to a ginormous speaker.
Early in the evening, for the younger and female partygoers, we were treated to youtube playthroughs of dance video games - the music played, characters on the screen moved, and everyone tried to dance along.
The first few songs got some good movement, but soon it tapered out - leaving only my friend's wife, her two close girlfriends, and one drunk old man. Nobody, it seems, wants to embarrass themselves by dancing like a Russian alligator.
In short, it was a disaster. Most of the party looked on, drinking, waiting, and willing it to end. Catcalls started, asking for "Salsa!" An hour later, the hosts finally capitulated.
I was on beer number 8 or 9 by that point, having also taken a shot of the "special" mezcal - when I asked what it was, my friend proudly slurred, "This is the best. Fuck the rest." (No idea what was in it, but it was good.)
I found a nice corner to chill out in, and watched the party shift from modern to traditional. The names of old-time singers were shouted out, put into youtube with "kareoke", and the classic music you'd associate with Mexico came to life.
Crooning, soulful señors poured their hearts out about a woman who loved another man. The crowd, which had been bored and tired, stirred to its feet.
Everyone knew the words. Throaty and full, with hands clutching tequila, everyone belted along.
Here was the joy they'd been waiting for. Here was the fiesta.
But then, between every track, a pause, to find the next song on youtube. A lull.
I talked with an older señora near me. The tecnología, we agreed, was good for having music, but the fiesta wasn't better for it. Continuous music. That's what was needed.
But technological hiccups or no, the fiesta kept rolling. I'm a pretty solid drinker, but after my 12th or 13th beer, I had to admit defeat.
I was no match for the Mexican men, tequila and mezcal in hand, who looked to just barely be getting started. (This does explain why some mornings, you'll see men passed out on the street.)
As I climbed the steps to my apartment down the street, I could still hear them going - by not the giant sound system, but the chorus, masculino, raised in the night.
A celebration the way it should be done - us, on our tiny rock in space.
Alive another year. Another night.