Driving While Mexican; Today's Hair

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Wed Jan 26 22:37:26 UTC 2000

On Wednesday, January 26, 2000, Bob Fitzke <fitzke at VOYAGER.NET> wrote:
>My brother just retired as a teacher in Bogota after something
>over 35 years in that part of the world. He once told me that
>the "muerta" (bite; my Spanish is not atrocious, it's
>non-existent) is practically universal throughout Latin America. Maybe some
>of our cultural quirks do rub off :-)

I was in Colombia and Venezuela in 1995 and Ecuador in 1997, kinda winging it. Buses
were stopped numerous times by armed men. Male passengers were frisked. Women were
made to stand against the bus. The driver was taken to the other side of the bus,
where, the first time I saw this, I was sure they were either killing him or passing
around a flask. On one trip high in the Andes as we waited for the painted line down the
middle of the Pan-American highway to dry (not kidding, thank you) I found out from a
veterinarian that those stops probably weren't guerrillas, or police looking for
geurillas, but police looking for a payoff. Or maybe guerrillas looking for a payoff.

[I should note, and perhaps your brother would agree, that South American police and
rent-a-cops tend to look far more like soldiers than they do in the States. It
changes the tone of a a roadblock or a trip to the grocery store.]

Grant Barrett
gbarrett at americandialect.org

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