Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Americans, Latin American Migrant Labor, and a Valentine's Day Lesson in Diversity -
A Love Story

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- It's so strange to see migrant laborers here in Oxford, to hear conversations en espanol while shopping for baked soy chips and black beans in Middle-of-Fucking-Nowhere America.

There are klan rallies more diverse than this community. Miami's student body, the main source of revenue for the community, makes Brigham Young University look like the Tuskegee Institute. One of my first thoughts upon moving to this town was damn, so this is what a whitebread America looks like.

So needless to say, I get kind of excited when I have a chance to play amateur ambassador to anybody who is probably used to be treated like a frigging Martian in a town full of white people.

Unlike a majority of Americans, I'd rather talk to the foreigners who come to this country, those who come seeking basic freedoms, those coming to work, and those coming to visit. I grew up feeling that it was my duty as an American to do so. Blame it on my having a career diplomat for a grandfather.

Those "foreigners" who get berated by weary tourists in airports from Los Angeles to New York simply for not understanding English very well? Yeah. They're from places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, and other countries. One of the best "dates" I've ever been on was in a Houston airport with an Eritrean doctoral student/cleaning woman named Aster. Those guys working long hours on construction sites and on farms? Yeah. They're from places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

So please, if you're reading this post and are afraid to welcome diverse visitors into your own country yet want to bitch about things like Affirmative Action and the quest for equal rights, feel free to go ahead and kiss my diversity-loving ass. Not a big fan of the acceptance of diversity as a part of the body politic without a personal dedication to appreciating the world's vast market of diverse cultures, ideas, and experiences.

But this is a post about love, not about politics and diplomacy. In the parking lot of the grocery store, I helped these Mexican guys struggling to load a rusty green Chevy. Let's just say wearing a cowboy hat and driving a pick-up created an opening for me to strike up a conversation (I had to explain that I wasn't hiring.)

One of the guys had gone a bit overboard in Valentine's Day shopping. I'm pretty sure this one guy - all 5 foot nothing of him - had bought more daisies than I think I've ever seen one man buy. He had the chocolates. He had the wine. He had, yes, a trunk full of teddy bears. This guy's friends were a bit embarrassed and were more than willing to step back and let an Anglo do the packing.

I asked, after the car was loaded and the trunk shut, what the hell would drive a guy to go out and buy all this stuff. I've been in love once or twice, but I've never blown what was more than likely the equivalent of a week's pay on any woman for a silly holiday.

This short guy has a girlfriend who works as a housekeeper for a hotel chain in Cincinnati. Despite living no more than an hour's drive apart, he hasn't been able to get into the city in months. Without a car of his own (green Chevy was a ride shared between six guys), he'd had to wait for a stint of bad weather to slow down local construction projects enough to take a day off.

So my friend with the trunk full of candy, flowers, and stuffed animals had a date in Cincinnati with his girlfriend. His roommates, all five of them, had talked another migrante into loaning this guy a rusty Chevrolet for a romantic getaway to ... northern Kentucky.

The guy showed me a picture of his beautiful best girl. He is a very lucky man. Given the hundreds of dollars this guy just spent, I'm certain he's very well aware of that fact. I made sure to wish him well.

It's nice, for once, to meet somebody who's completely in love.

Walking into the store, I noticed the sheer ... whiteness ... of Oxford Fucking Ohio. Not in terms of skin color or culture, but I noticed the distinct blandness and superficiality of day-to-day life in a diversity-free vacuum.

One mop-topped Calvin Klein model wannabe kid was standing next to the fresh produce, chatting with a couple of guys. In his shopping basket, he had three cases of expensive imported beer... and a small box of store-brand chocolates. Listening in on a bit of their conversation, the candy was an attempt to get his girlfriend to finally "put out."

In the candy aisle, a group of sorority sisters were huddled around the Whitman's display, discussing what sounded to be completely worthless exes. They seemed to be working out a game plan to spend Valentine's Day in sweats, watching bad chick flick cheese and eating way too much sugar.

In the check-out line, a middle-aged mom was buying her own flowers because, as she told the cashier, she was sure her husband wouldn't remember.

A pair of women behind me in the check-out line were loudly discussing the shameless displays of consumerism and Valentine's Day and the exploitation of women.

I turn around to see who's making such a god awful fuss about something so stupid and notice a pair of the most bitter women I've seen in a long time, representatives of that class of academia known for being too caught up in their own intellectual bullshit to see through basic human hypocrisy.

So buying candy and flowers and other junk is rampant consumerism. Big deal. Exploitation of women? Maybe. But who in their right mind is going to take such ramblings seriously, especially when they're coming from a pair of bitter spinsters with copies of People, Cosmo, and trashy romance novels sitting on the top of their shopping cart?

As I was leaving, the short, balding Mexican guy from the parking lot came strolling back into the store. Nobody seemed to notice, since most Americans refuse to even acknowledge the existence of foreigners in their country. The guy made a beeline for the flowers.

This guy is buying more flowers? Damn.

In the next 24 hours, some housekeeper, working for little money in some Cincinnati motel, is going to have a thousand times the Valentine's Day most Americanos ever experience in a lifetime.

Having met my fair share of female migrantes in this country, I'm sure there's probably no woman in the world more deserving of a little romance in her life. From her boyfriend's perspective, there is obviously no partner more worthy of such affection.

I think there's something to be learned from that. Love is an absolutely amazing thing, even in Middle-of-Fucking-Nowhere America.

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Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

That was a sweet post Zenpro.

Anonymous said...
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zydeco fish said...

That's a great post.

Deb S. said...

Awwww. This is so special - and romantic. A very creative post for Valentine's Day. Excellent writing. This certainly tugs at my heart.

Miz BoheMia said...

Oh my what stories you have to tell amigo! I just read the previous post!

Nope, no judgements nor disappointment here... have never had a one night stand but have been through the experience of being so drunk that I did not remember a thing, A THING, the next day... in time, maybe little nightmarish slivers of memory slip back so yeah, when we reach such a state we become fair game, still responsible, agree with you on that, but fair game nonetheless. I was very lucky to have always been in safe company so that nothing I would truly regret ever resulted from my drunken blackouts!

Two or three of them got me over it pretty quickly!

Glad you ended up safe! Now I am off to read this post!

Miz BoheMia said...

I'm back! Loved your post Jason... so, my being Danish-Iranian raised between Spain and the US works in my favor I see! On behalf of us foreigners I say we would be so lucky to run into you!

I have been lucky to have not really encountered racism in the US. But I have lived in California and speak English fluently and have looks that stand out positively and at the same time blend in well... have had many friends were being different was a handicap and I feel the same outrage as you... so many untold stories to be told, so many hardworking people with such nobility and humility that are overlooked because of superficial societal expectations and stereotypes... just awful...

Can you tell I loved your post? ;-P Be well amigo! Hope you had a good day. I got a very meaningful kiss and an "I love you. Happy V-day" from the hubby. I get those everyday really, sweet he remembered, loved the kiss and that's it... I cannot stand the consumer aspect of it and am glad to see I'm not the only one!