I travelled to Mexico this month with a friend from the Bay area. In Acapulco, he was surprised when he saw an old lady, in her seventies, making out like a teenager in love for the first time.
“This is a hot coast,” he said.
During that trip, we saw couples of all ages kissing passionately, shamelessly and in public. When I lived in Mexico City, in my college days, such displays of affection didn’t seem remarkable. Only after I had lived in America, where it’s rare to see couples kiss in public, and then returned to Mexico City, did I notice this disparity.
One of my friends suggested it might be due to a cultural and economic difference. In Mexico, it is uncommon for unmarried couples to live together, and most couples do not have money to pay for a hotel. Young people live with their parents until they get married and parents don’t want their children to bring their partners home for sex. Since couples do not have a private place to kiss, they express their love out in the open.
My Bay Area friend was surprised to learn that in Northern Mexico, where I’m from, things are quite different than in Mexico City. Hand-holding is frowned upon. I moved to Mexico City to go to college, but I resided with Catholic nuns. The only house rule was that girls had to be virgins. A man wasn’t allowed to enter the house unless he was a father or a brother. I still remember how the nuns would say, “Ave Maria!” if they saw one of the girls kissing a boy at the front door.
When I first came to America, I visited an American family. Their nephew, who was living with them, came home with his girlfriend. The young couple greeted us and then went to the bedroom. My American friend told me that they would be spending the night. While this surprised me, to them it seemed normal. I do not know why kissing in public spaces is so common in Mexico City and in the South of Mexico but so uncommon in the rest of Mexico or in California. But for myself, I was happy to see that in parts of Mexico, despite all the economic problems, couples of all ages, young and old, are not afraid to express their love.
Editor: Maria Ginsbourg
First published in HispanicLA.