The USA’s colors are red, white, and blue and they allegedly don’t run. Mexico’s colors are red, white, and green and judging from its violent history, Mexico’s colors don’t run either. But what do they do? They dance.
Spending the 16th of September, Mexico’s Independence Day or Fiesta Patria, in Puerto Vallarta reminded me how central dance is to the Mexican culture and lifestyle. Mexicans salsa sensually on public dance floors, at private parties, and in the streets. They perform traditional dances to energetic music in clothing from a long-ago era that features stifling long-sleeves; warm, suffocating dresses that sweep the floor; and heeled, heavy, hot footwear. They break dance on humid street corners. And they even dance while sitting.
But on my 16th of September weekend in Puerto Vallarta tri-colored flags also bop to the rhythms of tropical winds. Pacific waves slam dance against sandy shores. Rays of sun tango with tanning beach-goers. Taxis do the tarantella through narrow streets. Butterflies fandango in flight. Unexpected clouds in various shades of gray glide over the city like Ginger Rogers searching for Fred Astaire. Graceful, Astaire-like palm trees waltz in the breeze. A sudden tropical downpour violently tap-dances against roofs, windows, concrete, and pedestrians prancing around ankle-deep puddles. Lightning bolts, dressed in white like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, create an electric choreography that would secure them a place in the finals on So You Think You Can Dance. La luna, as pale as Michael Jackson’s skin, moonwalks across the clearing skies. A smattering of fireworks jitterbug in the darkness above. Bartenders mix margaritas in mambo motion. Souvenir shoppers move like stoned free-form Woodstock dancers, hypnotized by music that plays inside their heads and souls. And the ghosts of Mexico’s tumultuous past dance with glee at the beauty of their descendants.
Red, white, and green are everywhere this weekend. They cover Mexico like Christmas wrapping paper. Dancing dominates this weekend, like fireworks and firecrackers in the US on the 4th of July. To my foreign eyes, the 16th of September is a combination of Christmas and the US’s Independence Day with dancing added.
I, however, do not dance. The humidity has covered me in conga lines of perspiration, dancing down my back, forearms, and ankles. They snake across my skin like children at a birthday party doing the bunny hop. I think I would dance were the air humidity-challenged, but with the air as thick and wet as a plush bath towel after a long shower, I don’t have the energy to trip the light fantastic. Instead, I just write about it.