No matter how much time I spend in Latin America, I’ll always be an American and always revert back to the culture that I was raised in. For many obviously reasons, I’ll never be truly Latino, but after spending over a year in Latin America, I feel like I’m slowly changing a bit, and I’m definitely not the same American I was before leaving.
It’s always the little things that you notice. Take for example, my attitude on things happening that aren’t according the plan. Before leaving Ecuador I was suddenly bumped from the flight without my consent. An older version of me might have gotten really angry or freaked out in a way, but after so many months living in South America, there was a certain calm over me. I joked around with the guy behind the counter, tried to be his friend, and in no time he was helping me out and making sure I was taken care of. Another American girl next to me who obviously hadn’t spent much time down here was yelling about how ridiculous it was and getting no where.
Before coming to Latin America I would have been pretty frightened by the thought of being robbed. Now when I hear people tell stories about being robbed, I am not surprised at all. ‘Sometimes you just get robbed.’ It’s kind of the mentality you have to take, no matter where you live down here. If you accept that at some point you will be robbed, it makes it easier to deal with it when it happens. That, and you realize you shouldn’t be carrying too many valuables with you at any given time.
It’s not just bad things, though. I never used to dance at all. But after a year in Ecuador, I got to the point where I was looking forward to going to a club and dancing Salsa. Going back home for a vacation, I saw just how boring the bars were, with the drinkers simply standing around. No one was doing anything, and it was way too loud to talk. A few people were grinding in the center, but that’s such a tasteless dance. At least with Salsa, you get the same effect, but you’re moving in time and it actually takes some patience and skill to impress the girl. That’s worth it in the end.
You just start to accept things without much question after living in Latin America for a while. You talk about corruption as if it’s accepted, and not a shock. You realizing that lining up for things is nearly pointless. Dodging dog crap and potholes in the sidewalks is just part of the walk. A slew of other things combine into this Latinization.
But I’m not completely there yet. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get places late. I have left my apartment later than I wanted to on purpose because I knew my friend would be late, so I timed it to arrive around the same time. Yet somehow, without realizing it, I must have picked up the pace, arriving right on the dot of when we agreed to meet. And like an idiot, I had to wait there 10 minutes for my friend to arrive. How could I possibly be so time conscious? Work is the same way, and I find myself arriving before anyone else, even though I try to be 5 minutes ‘late’. But when it’s time to leave, everyone is ready to go.
This Latinization has its pros and its cons. As much as my attitude towards disaster has relaxed, I’m sure that at some point that can be a bad thing as well. But until that happens, I’m probably going to continue changing and becoming more and more like my neighbors, if for nothing else than to be able to poke fun at myself later on.
Author’s Note: The picture is actually two years ago from Spain, but hey, close enough.