AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, I recently got back from a destination wedding in Cancún. My son and daughter-in-law had their dream wedding, and lucky me, I was able to be there with them and our families to celebrate. The setting, the El Dorado Royale was beautiful, and the wedding was wonderful, but by the end of the week, I was glad to get home.
I was never completely comfortable in Mexico.
When you come from a land of plenty like Canada, it’s hard to realize that you are viewed as one of a rich and bloated crowd who line up for food and drinks while your hosts do what they must to serve you. Some see you as part of a herd, an opportunity to get ahead. In Playa del Carmen, the locals were predatory. People called to us from either side of 5th Avenue – ‘You want a massage? A manicure?' Even, 'Hey, baby, you want to get high?’ I had one guy grab my hand to take a look at the small ring I bought after I came out of a jewelry shop. He was very friendly, but I suspect he wanted to see how much I’d spent, to decide whether the ring was worth taking. (It wasn’t. I only spent $35.00 US on it). In Playa del Carmen, they pay attention. It felt like a hustle.
Of course, there’s another side to all of this. At the resort, my daughter-in-law’s father managed to coax some details out of the staff. Here are some interesting facts: it would take most people who work there six months to earn enough money for one night at the resort. After a guest says ‘thank you’, the management requires all workers to say ‘a pleasure’ instead of ‘de nada’ or ‘you’re welcome’, because to say those things puts them on an equal footing with the guests. If they’re caught saying ‘de nada’, they're fined $20.00. They earn next to nothing, work hard, and many of the guests don’t tip. Staying at an all-inclusive shouldn’t remove anyone from doing what they normally would in their home city or elsewhere. Finally, the resort hired 1800 new workers a month ago to deal with the high season. I suspect these same 1800 are let go, once the season is over. For me, there was an overall sense of 'maintaining appearances'. Most of the staff were friendly, but not all. I spoke Spanish whenever I could, but I’m not fluent. I met a fellow writer, our concierge, and I bought his book of poetry. Because of that, maybe there was a connection. Maybe once I read his book, I’ll understand him better. I hope so.
So the vacation was good, and not so good. The resort was beautiful, the food and drink plentiful, the wedding terrific, but I wasn’t so happy finding most of my face cream missing once I got home. I don’t appreciate the theft, but I get it. There are have and have-nots. I'm in the former group.
What's my point in bringing all this up? Only that I wish the world were a place of greater equality and trust. That we would stop seeing each other as faceless entities, no matter what our situation, but as people with differing talents, needs, and wants. That those of us who 'have' do more to help those who 'don't'. Until both poverty and entitlement are addressed, these things aren't likely to happen anytime soon.