Tuesday, February 5, 2008

No Hablo Español - A Failure To Communicate

After speaking to Andreas at the desk of the San Jose Del Tajo RV Park about our unsettling experience at the Military Checkpoint near Tepic on Friday (see earlier post), I think I now understand what went wrong. First of all Andreas said what happened should never have happened. As soon as the soldiers realized I did not speak Spanish they were required to back off and call their superior to resolve the situation. They were not at fault. My error was in greeting them in Spanish, giving them the (reasonable) impression that I was fluent in their language. My subsequent shrugging, guessing at answers and idiotic smiling was understandably taken as being evasive to their questions. This makes a lot of sense now that I think about it.

What I should have done, and please take note if you ever get in the same situation, is to immediately have said, "no hablo español!". This would have told them I would not understand their questions and would have kept things on a far friendlier basis.

Further Advice For Canadians:

Another trick I learned from a fellow Canadian veteran Mexico traveler is to immediately let them know we are Canadians and not Americans. I will try to not get into the Politics of it right now, but will just say that Americans are not universally admired. This is probably not a big shock to any of you and it is very noticeable in Mexico. Something to do with the adage that people will treat you the same way as you treat them. To the soldiers manning the checkpoint, if you look like a duck (American) and talk like a duck (English) then you are a duck and will be treated accordingly, in this case the same way his cousin, brother or father were treated in the USA.

This veteran traveler's advice is to place a Canadian Flag on the dashboard in plain sight, make sure they see it and immediately say "no hablo español!". If we had followed these two simple guidelines, there would have been "No Problemo" and it would have been Just Another Day In Paradise. Instead it was the closest I ever want to come to having a gun pointed at me. In the immortal words of Cool Hand Luke, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

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