Originally Posted: April 25, 2007
My day started with a question from a guest:
How do I say “no” in Acapulcian?
I explained in my most courteous tone that Acapulco is in Mexico where the people speak Spanish, not Acapulcian, and that “no” in Spanish is pronounced “no”.
The root of the question actually bore more knowledge than the unfortunate wording did. If there’s a single word a tourist needs to know in Acapulco it is indeed “no”.
When I visited almost two years ago, I walked about five miles along the streets from the pier. I saw a lot of downtown second world reality and found it a little harsh. Today I walked in the opposite direction hoping, perhaps, for a different perspective. I’m not sure I found it.
As soon as I left the pier, I began my “no, gracias” mantra with the taxi drivers who swarmed around me. Where the cabbies dropped off, the men trying to guide me to their “mother’s store” began. I continued avoiding eye contact, walking briskly and repeating my “no” through a polite smile, ever wary that I might offend.
While the solicitation feels quite aggressive, those asking are actually the minority and they generally do back down after a single rejection. Even those that persist will only ask twice, but with such shear numbers the experience can be quite overwhelming.
Then there are the ones who seem downright annoying. They refuse to hear “no”, keeping pace beside you and leaning in like a close friend, intermingling their sales pitch with platitudes. A brisk walk and a single-minded gaze are rarely enough to shake them. My voice develops an edge and the “gracias” drops away, but still they persist. Today, after the ump-teenth unheard rejection, I stopped in my tracks and turned to face the man at my side. I looked him in the eye and growled out one more “no.” I think it came out sounding like a challenge, because he became suddenly indignant, still shouting at my back as I walked away. I remember having entertained the thought of engaging his battle, but thankfully thought better of it. I do wonder what would have happened with a meeker soul. Perhaps this is part of the reason we’re advised to leave the ship in groups.
Further down the road I found a place to sit on the beach in the shade of a palm tree, watching the waves break on the shore. I’d gone beyond the average tourist’s range, and so I found peace beyond the people selling their wares along the waterfront. A welcome breeze blew in off the ocean. I took some photos and enjoyed the moment.
As lunchtime drew near, I found the crowded bars and restaurants unappealing and the empty ones, frankly, disconcerting. I made my way back to a grocery store I remembered passing on my way and picked up the makings for lunch on the beach: a package of traditional Mexican white cheese, some fresh “salsa roja” (red sauce) and a huge stack of piping hot, fresh tortillas. All told, it came to less than $2.50 USD.
I kicked back again under “my” palm tree, joined now by a hungry pregnant cat, barely out of kitten-hood herself. After I snarled at her for making an attempt at the food on its way to my mouth, she sat back and waited patiently for me to change my mind. It worked.
The salsa turned out to be a fair bit hotter than anything on a Canadian supermarket shelf, but the cheese balanced it well. My calico friend gratefully accepted a piece of cheese each time I wrapped a new tortilla, drawing closer with every offer. Eventually she was seated beside me, watching the seagulls skip away from oncoming waves.
When the time came to head back to the ship, I began to gather up my things. I’d planned to leave Momma Cat the rest of the cheese, but she disappeared as quietly as she’d arrived. When I passed a man with one leg sleeping on a bench, I left the other half of my lunch bag by his head, knowing we can’t bring food onboard anyway.
The beggars and sellers along the street reminded me of why this is not my favourite port, despite the natural beauty and great food. I resent being seen as a walking wallet, even when I understand what perpetuates this mentality.