While living in Rocky Point, I had my fair share of awkward moments with Arizonans. It never ceases to amaze me how these people from big cities in a region as diverse as the Desert Southwest can be so woefully unexposed to diversity. But that is, quite honestly, Arizona for you. I have heard similar complaints from Mexicans here who visited or even lived in the state.
But the Mexicans in Sonora?
I had no such issues with them.
In fact, in Mexico, a curious thing happens. Mexicans don’t identify me by race but by nationality. When they see me, they see an American before they register the colour of my skin. No one stares at me when I go anywhere and I’ve never had any racially inappropriate conversations―until last weekend.
I moved to Baja California to find the young people.
In September, I packed my things and left the Mexican state of Sonora for Baja California. Why? Over the past year, I noticed that most young travelers seemed to head there. Only the Arizonans really ever seemed interested in being in Sonora. After all, there’s a reason Rocky Point is called Arizona’s Beach and Little Arizona.
So, off to Baja I went, in search of new adventures!
As soon as I arrived on Mexico’s peninsula, I started to connect with other digital nomads and creatives. I had finally started finding people like me in Ensenada―and most of them were Mexican. I’ve also connected with people from California and Europe. It’s an interesting mix here and I’ve been having a great time.
Instead of staying downtown, however, I chose to park my RV in a nearby rural community. Still, no one bats an eyelash at the one Black girl roaming through town.
It was an alleged Christian who ruined Mexico’s racism-free record.
In the process of meeting new people and making friends, I met someone I liked. We’ll call him Em. Since we met, I’ve been searching for the perfect beach where I could park my FJ Cruiser and pop the rooftop tent open. When our hiking plans got ruined by a closed trail, Em suggested that he might know the perfect beach for me.
We took a road trip further south of Ensenada to a small beach town. At first, the sign said no vehicles on the beach, but the manager removed the sign and blocks and let us in. We quickly parked the FJ, popped the tent, and hopped inside. We had the windows and doors open and played music and chatted while we watched the ocean.
Out of the blue, a Mexican approached us. He addressed Em first and introduced himself. Em knows I like to play dumb in Spanish conversations, so when the guy asked if I spoke Spanish, he said no, I didn’t. I am Jamaican and Jamaicans speak English.
I thought he had come to ask us for money or try to sell us something. But, my ears perked up when the guy told Em he didn’t want to discriminate against me, but he was going to deliver his important message in Spanish.
He started to deliver his sermon.
The alleged prophet spoke for about fifteen minutes, nonstop. Besides asking us for our names in the beginning, we didn’t get a single word in. Em was getting visibly annoyed beside me. He nudged me a few times to see if I was catching what this guy was up to.
Essentially, he was telling Em that women like me were a walking temptation. And, while he certainly understood this, Em should live up to his full potential by walking away from these sinful desires. God had much greater things in store for him.
All of this, he said in Spanish.
“Is he preaching??” I said incredulously to Em.
However, he had never heard the English word “preaching” before and gave me a confused look before returning his attention to the man who continued to annoy us both.
It appears I am the wrong colour for salvation.
Finally, the prophet finished blabbering. Em rolled his eyes and picked up his phone to respond to a message from his friends. While he was distracted, the Mexican shot me a suspicious look.
“Did you understand what I just said to your friend?” he asked. He spoke perfect English with a flat accent that sounds American.
“Parts of it,” I admitted.
This made him uncomfortable. After a while, he said, “I have met many … African people in my lifetime and I always have bad experiences with them. That is why I chose to deliver the message to your friend in only Spanish. Maybe one day you will come to understand.”
He then walked away.
I burst out laughing. My laughter caught the attention of Em who had held steadfast to his decision to ignore the man until he left. He was busy listening to a voice note from his friends who were supposed to meet up with us later.
“Did you hear that?” I asked him.
He was stunned when I repeated what the man had said to me.
I finally understand what reverse racism feels like.
My continued laughter confused Em. Why wasn’t I offended? Why wasn’t I upset? What could he say to remove this stain on a perfect day we had spent together before this idiot appeared out of nowhere to deliver his important message from God.
“I finally understand what it feels like to experience ‘reverse racism’ in America,” I told him.
This confused him. “Explain.”
“I am a Jamaican in Mexico, but that’s not the whole story, is it? I have US plates on my vehicle, I carry a US passport, and I earn US dollars. He can say whatever he wants, but at the end of the day, I occupy a place of privilege that he does not. Is he being racist? Yes. Does it matter? No. Because he’s not in a position to enforce it against me. I still have the upperhand. And that is essentially reverse racism in America when White people experience it.”
He understood and now he laughed too. We have had countless conversations about this in the past. “Well, I’m sorry he said it all the same,” he added. “I wish I had been paying attention when he did.”
God should really choose better messengers, me-thinks.
I think one of the most surprising things for me in the scenario was that the man approached us at all. We weren’t kissing or touching each other. At no point were we hidden from view inside the tent to be doing anything. And even if we were, imagine being lectured for a kiss in your 30s.
We marveled over this for a few minutes and then we returned to the conversation the man had interrupted. After about half an hour, Em nudged me. I looked up to see the man stumbling by, drunk as a skunk, with a can of beer in his hand.
Em’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe this. He came over here to tell me about God and temptation and sin, and now he’s so drunk he can barely walk?? What kind of pastor is that?”
“I’ve seen that more times than I can count.”
“Really?? I never have.”
We laughed about it. Both of us are agnostics who grew up in religious households. Neither of us had put any weight in this man’s sermon.
God refused to let this one go.
We drove back to town, stopped for dinner, and then continued on to the pool hall to meet up with his friends. After our introductions, we ordered lemonades and chose a pool table.
When I looked up, I saw a plaque on the wall that presumably named the persons who had contributed to the business in some way. At the top of the list was the name Jesús.
I put my hands on Em’s cheeks and angled his face toward the plaque. “What do you see?” I asked him. “Jesus is watching us!”
He laughed and pecked me on the cheek. “Good.”