Sunday, December 17, 2006

mangoes roasting on an open firepit

Two years ago we spent Christmas in the jungle in Belize. We had travelled there for the month of December while i was on maternity leave - thinking the jungle is as good a place as any to figure out how to become parents. And since we'd been there before we'd already formed a community of sorts - in fact, this trip was partially "business" as we were also scouting out (and found) the land we were looking for.

We had rented a tiny little place in a small village near the border of Guatemala. In our ignorance, we assumed Christmas might go by largely unnoticed. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Everyone was in the holiday spirit. Ancient decorations of unbelievable tackiness were everywhere, and while what we consider to be Christmas lights are somewhat the fashion all year round, I noticed everything was blinkier and brighter. I spent one afternoon helping a group of women decorate their house, and was amused to see the intensity with which they took the process - to the point of taking down the garland I had hung and rehanging it to their specifications after much discussion and measuring, or spending quite a while debating exactly which Santa cutout went on which door. One of them gently took away the blue blinking lights I was trying to hang around a hammock (a swinging blue hammock, people. I thought it was money) and hung them in a much better and coherent fashion on a mango tree.

The big event of the season was when Santa came into town. Everyone in the village made their way to the closest town and dressed in their finest holiday clothes. (red sarongs and t-shirts) and the whole town packed itself into a church meeting hall to meet the jolly good man.

J and I were surprised to see that Santa was white. For some reason, we'd expected him to be more representative of the population and talked a bit about how that might feel. The American Imperialism! The Capitalistic Hacks! The Atrocities Of It All! How Dare Whitey Force It's Image Everywhere! I mean, it's bad enough everyone portrays Jesus as white. But Santa too...The Outrage!

So at one point J turned to a friend and said doesn't it bug you that Santa is white? To which our friend replied You Americans - always seeing things in terms of color. When I see Santa, I only see love. He makes everyone happy. Who cares what color he is.

Consciousness raised.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's the whole post, but the last paragraph. Living in the 'new' old south, everything seems to be about color all the time. And not just Santa. City council, the sides of the tracks, school board. It's so tiresome especially when considered from the perspective that human beings need the same things. Am so tired of divisions...well, at least you can see what's rolling through my mind at 5 am before the holidays and a mere 2 hours before the kids call me back into active duty.

Penny said...

Wow!

Great post!

Anonymous said...

How refreshing.
This parallels what you were saying about bureaucrats missing the mark.

Juliness said...

Jen - this was lovely! I'm sending everyone from my place over here today so they can read this beautiful lesson for themselves.

Anonymous said...

What a fun Christmas you must have had! The people of Belize sound lovely.

Side note re the 'color' thing. In the NYTimes Sunday Magazine yesterday (you can read it online), someone wrote to The Ethicist griping that there were -gasp!- 'black' snowflakes in the Nutcracker production she went to see, and that it ruined 'the look' of the ballet. Seriously. Her question to the Ethicist: Was she a racist? Ummmm, yes!

Sigh.

Anonymous said...

wow.

Anonymous said...

Nice one. Love the last line!

mrs.incredible said...

Right-o!! Well said. Love this post....especially J-Dog's friend's insight. Beautiful. Simple. Wonderful.

Anonymous said...

"When I see Santa, I only see love. He makes everyone happy. Who cares what colour he is."

So simple, so well put. How do we get everyone to see this?

KC said...

This is what I'm talking about. Not just The Christmas Spirit but the human spirit.

Just perfect.

Anonymous said...

Well, um... I have some thoughts on this but will reserve it to private email if you are interested.


Peace,

~Chani

Anonymous said...

Oh wow...awesome. What a mind-blow.

And what a great mind...I just did a Hispanic post. Not as cool, but...just saying.

penelopeto said...

here here. and i'd be cool if santa was a monkey if it meant i could spend december in the jungle.

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about this over the weekend - how come a city can't put up a Christmas Tree without getting sued, and this is perfect. Let's just celebrate what it means to us and forget about the symbols being "perfect."

Nice post, miss.

Anonymous said...

OH, and by the way, a swinging blue hammock IS money!

Her Bad Mother said...

Wow.

Consciousness lifted right up off of the floor.

metro mama said...

Great post. Love this.

acumamakiki said...

Exactly! I love these glimpses into your travels.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon your blog via Crazy Hip Mamas. What a great first post to read! Love it. I'll be back.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I would have gone with the blue lights on the blue hammock, too. Totally money.

And, yes, Santa is love. I think that's in the bible somewhere.

(all kidding aside, though I'm only somewhat kidding, I liked the last sentiment. We do often only see things in color, don't we?)

flutter said...

Isn't that was Christmas should be? Love and the like?

mrs. incredible said...

Hey, off the post subject, I got the link to that site we were discussing.....you interested?

Girl con Queso said...

What a great story. And what a phenominal Christmas! Very cool.

wendy boucher said...

Excellent read! Thanks for that bit of consciousness raising.

mamatulip said...

YES.

I love this post.

ecm said...

Loved your ending! So interesting too...i was just talking to a Filipino woman at my school and she said Christmas in the states was very, very calm comparatively. Who knew?

Katherine said...

Wow, what a post! If that doesn't make you think, nothing will. Here from Suburban Turmoil who has this post listed as Perfect Post. I can see why!

Raggedy said...

Wonderful post!