I danced all night. What else can you do when you have to leave a hotel to catch a flight at 3 a.m., and dinner went until 11 p.m., and you’re hanging out with a group of incredibly fun latinos, and suddenly a live salsa band starts to play right next to you? The choice was obvious. Back went a shot of espresso (oh, the embarrassing things I must do to stay awake past 10 p.m. now that I’m an old 27-year-old). Then I got out on that floor and danced till it was time to take a shower, pack my bag, catch an airplane, and say goodbye to Mexico… for a little while, at least…
Yes, I was tired the next day, but it was that delicious, exhilarated exhaustion. I was unable to sleep on the plane, but it was the perfect end to a great trip — and a pretty sweet way to pull my first all-nighter. Somehow I’ve always avoided it, despite 4 years of university and 2 kids. I’ve done the stay-up-till-the-sun-comes-up thing, but always knowing I could sleep away the rest of the day.
I’d spent the last 5 days down in the Yucatan learning about sustainable, community-based tourism initiatives that are trying to bring tourists into the indigenous Mayan villages. I could go on and on, but that’s what TreeHugger is for, so check out my daily posts about it this week.
But all that wonderful salsa music got me thinking. It’s so unfortunate that North America doesn’t have a traditional dance that everyone knows. Latin Americans have their samba, salsa, merengue, or forró, and it always makes for a fun party. The secret to their eternal success is that everyone dances, and has danced since childhood, and it’s a natural part of life — not some kind of exclusive club that some people belong to and others feel excluded from (hello, awkward Canadian school dances). The same rhythms and the same steps mean you can dance with anyone, anywhere. Experts can take it to an expert level, and beginnings can stay at a beginner level, but the point is that everyone joins in, from old to young. Even a stiff-jointed gringa like me can get down for some much-needed salsita.
Can you tell I’m more than a little bit in love with Latin America? My poor husband has to deal with a depressed version of his wife whenever I come back. Then he endures a lengthy period of time during which I’m completely obsessed with whatever place I’ve just visited. We’ve been eating Mexican food, listening to my favourite Maná album on repeat, and I keep translating boring English sentences into much more exciting Spanish ones. I dance in the kitchen, scooping up whichever little boy is nearby until he wriggles free.
Next comes the scheming phase, in which I come up with daily ideas for how we could move to a Latin American country and work from there, raising our kids on a beach somewhere, eating coconuts and mangoes. (Don’t laugh. I’m serious about my ideas.)
I love Latin America because it’s a place that somehow makes me feel like a better version of myself. I am in my element when I’m there, at the top of my game, relaxed in a way that I’m not in Canada. I can be funny in Portuguese and Spanish, but not so much when I speak English. When I’m down there, I’m more energetic, more creative, more passionate. If my family could join me there, the rest of the world would recede entirely from my consciousness and I wouldn’t care. Latin America affects me on a visceral level, and I can’t resist it.
And that’s why I couldn’t help dancing all night. I had to squeeze every drop out of that hot, steamy Mexican night on the shores of the Caribbean because I knew I’d be losing it yet again — that tropical vibe, that soul-warming relaxation, that delicious rhythm — for an indeterminate amount of time.