HEY CHING CHONG CHANG

A street merchant actually yelled that out to me.

Instinctively, I laughed.

Something NOT lost in translation down in Mexico – Racism

Other things said to me as I walked down 5th Street in Playa del Carmen:

“Are you Japanese??” I say no.  “Are you . . . Filipino??” Seriously?  He went from Japanese to Filipino?  Is it possible to go to such complete different ends of the spectrum?  Filipinos don’t even like being lumped in with Asians anymore.  They’re Pacific Islander. It’s like asking a dog if they’re a lion or a Dodge Stratus.

KONNICHIWAAAA!!!

Hey chino, want some weeeeeed?”  I say no, I don’t smoke.  “Eets not too late to staaarrrt, amigo!”  Persuasive argument.  Be that as it may, I still say no, gracias.

But seriously, it was an entire afternoon of getting yelled at by street merchants while shopping at Playa del Carmen.  However, it was still a fun and rewarding experience, because this was the kind of Mexico I was hoping to see at some point through my trip.  Shanty huts, stray dogs wandering around, dilapidated cars chugging along, spewing gnarly fumes, and of course, straw and tin sheet roofed buildings all over the place.

The shopping aspect of this chunk of Mexico was kind of overwhelming at first, but it didn’t really take long to realize that it’s really like 4-5 different shops, but then repeated about 40 times over within a two mile stretch.  At first, I was excited that there were so many places selling luchador masks, but it didn’t take long to realize that just about all of them were mostly Rey Mysterio or Sin Cara.  The fact that I was able to find a Psychosis mask I liked in the first place is still kind of amazing to me.

One thing I really found amusing was the consolidation of lots of the stores.  Deli and Drugs.  Tequila, Gifts and Drugs.  Drugs and Cigars.  Cigars and Tequila.  And I’m not talking about them publicizing drugs like weed or cocaine (they verbalize the availability of those), but prescription medication.  Like Viagra, Propecia, Levitra, or whatever name of drugs were available like candy all through this place.  The prescription eye drops I use whenever my eyes start to really bother me, Tobradex, was also available pretty much over the counter down here.  In the States, it runs about $75 for a 0.3 oz bottle.  Down in Mexico, it’s the equivalent of $45, and apparently no doctor’s prescription is necessary.  Needless to say, I was tempted, but my available cash didn’t accommodate.

Also very readily available almost everywhere, aside from religious statues of Mexican Jesus, full bloodied and beat to a pulp, was for some reason, Predators.  As in the FOX property, Arnold Schwarzenegger villain Predators.  Statues of Predators were fucking everywhere in the Riviera Maya for some reason, and it was pretty amusing to go just about anywhere and see various ornate statues of Predators.  Predators fighting Aliens.  Predators stabbing Aliens.  Predators with chieftain staffs with Alien skulls on them.  Down in Mexico, Predators are pretty popular.  Also lots of statues of popular comic book characters, such as Batman, Iron Man, Captain America and Wolverine.  But nothing takes the cake like one statue, which was of Batman, crucified.  I guess even the Mexicans saw the correlation of the Jesus complex the Dark Knight movie trilogy went a little overboard with.

I “joked” a lot about wanting to see a cockfight, but really, I just wanted to be one of the guys in the crowd of a cockfight.  Those guys always look like they’re having so much fun, and just once I wanted to see if I would have so much fun maniacally cheering and laughing, with fistfuls of cash in both my hands, while watching some chickens flailing around.

But the most fun part about shopping in deepest darkest Mexico is probably the whole haggling game.  Being in an area where pretty much 50 guys are selling the same crap you are, all the merchants are all willing to deal and negotiate.  It kind of makes perfect sense now, having seen the other end of the coin, because when I was a kid, I worked at my uncle’s pawn shop for a week, and every single Hispanic person who came in haggled over each and every thing.  Down in Mexico, prices are arbitrary and more of a guideline, contrary to how most of it is in the States.

If you pay the listed price for anything in Mexico, I think I’m going to call you a fool.  These motherfuckers mark shit up up to 400%, and if you’re willing to pay without even attempting to fight, it’s your loss and shame for not playing the game.

When I found my Psychosis mask, the guy at the booth claimed it to be 400 pesos, which for simplicity’s sake and the pathetic state of the U.S. Dollar, call it $40.  Fuck if I’m paying $40 for a luchador mask, and I laughed at the guy and walked off, but not before he could plead to make a deal and negotiate.  I needed some leverage.

I found the leverage several blocks down, when I found a guy selling a different colored Psychosis mask for 200 pesos, which sounded better at around $20.  But the colors of this particular mask weren’t what I wanted, so I took my newfound leverage back to the first guy.

“Hey man, there’s a guy selling a Psychosis mask for 200.”  250 was his counter-offer, to which I laughed and walked away again, but not before I heard him concede and say he’d take 200 pesos for it.  I knew I had him.  Now this is where I pulled out the math, and went with the official numbers.  I came back and offered him $15 USD, which is slightly under 200 pesos, which I thought I could get him to bite on simply because it was in the holy almighty USD.  He countered by asking for two more dollars, and seeing as how I’d already taken him down over 50% of his asking price, I figured what the hell.

I would have bought other shit just for the sake of playing the haggling game with these guys, but that’s certainly not the wisest move.  And apparently Juventud Guerrera has been inactive to the point where his masks aren’t even for sale anymore; the guys down there all know who he is, but they explained that Juvi Juice was “mas viejo.”  But I did have particular fun fucking around two adjacent shops, and ultimately getting an alleged “$100 USD” statue for twenty bucks.

Mexican shopping was fun, and kind of worth the rampant racist remarks along the way.

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