Blame it on 'corralito', the quintessential Argentinean crisis that broke out when I had already moved from Mexico to Madrid. On a cold morning of January 2002, I woke up earlier than usual and rushed up to Barajas Airport. A friend of mine was coming from New York to see me and his 'JFK-MAD' flight was scheduled to land on Spanish ground before dawn. So was a daily incoming service from Buenos Aires, the Aerolíneas Argentinas 747 plane packed with Freshmen holders of that hot ticket to better-safer places an European Community passport had turned into for many at that point.
While I was waiting for my dear friend Carlos to show up at the doors of the International Arrivals gate, I became accidental witness of dozens of Argentinean family reunions. Such emotional reception committees would welcome el pibe or la mina with a sweet & sour mix of hugs & tears. Cheerfully sobbing, tearfully laughing, they would embrace together as one celebrating the arrival of that beloved brother, sister, cousin or fiancee who could finally get out of that very déjàvuesque war.
In the upcoming months, Spain, Italy, The United States and Mexico stood up among the hottest emergency exits for hundreds of Argentineans who were running away from the arguably toughest economical and social crisis any South American country has ever gone through. Harrowing as it was, the ongoing devastation of 'corralito' was broadcasted 24/7 for the rest of the world to watch in real time how the country to which both Jorge Luis Borges and Diego Armando Maradona were once a blaze of glory, derailed, again. Sitting on a new couch in my semi-furnished apartment located in the very madrileño neighborhood of Chamberí, I would watch the news of massive angry protests taking over the streets of Buenos Aires on TV, and wonder whether something similar would ever happen in Mexico City. Needless to say I was not referring to the size of the crisis, but rather to the enraged ways in which porteño dudes where crying out loud their madness for what its Government, a supposedly democratic one, had dared do to them.
Ever since Mexico City lost its own mind, Middle & Upper Class chilangos ourselves started to run away from the twisted expressions of such unleashed metropolis to which we'll always belong, for better or for worse. But, unlike guys from Río de la Plata, we don't do caceroladas. Making rallies outside the Presidential mansion of Los Pinos is so-not-us. We rather stand off hush-hush, old Mexican fashion way. Hopelessly raised in an oligarchical society obsessed with good manners, we keep from rising our voices too loud, we look cautiously after our own protesting, making sure its tag line isn't something you would easily define as tacky.
That's why many of us--please count me in-- before making the decision of walking out of Mexico, tried first option A, that is, overprotecting ourselves in order to move on--electric walls, private security guards, anyone? Such variation of 'everyday life' also included the transformation of an unimaginably number of daily routines, from shopping for groceries to hanging out with friends. The goal: avoiding by all means the kiss of beast.
Some others, an increasing number of niños bien, are taking advantage of the perfect alibi: leaving Mexico behind, all the way up to the First World, for a humble quest: pursuing a postgraduate degree. Cause if you're a good Mexican, you just can't come out of the blue and say: "Done with this, got to go. Now". Such rude move would be so hideously uncool--done with what, on the other hand, is something so private a cookie cutter response wouldn't do the trick--everyone there would feel deceived by the unpatriotic eagerness to cross the border, or the Atlantic Ocean it would imply.
Broken-heart Mexican peers would pick on us as if defending the Nation from alien forces. From "this is nothing, you are overreacting" to "pinche malinchista, qué decepción", one would have to take it hard from everyone, included Juana--Francisca, María, Lucrecia and the like-- the tireless & exploited old maid who has served at Mom & Dad's forever. She wouldn't care most of her family had already gone to North Carolina due to similar, actually more demanding, reasons. She'd be so mad at us she wouldn't realize she's the only one in her family still earning, in Mexican pesos, for one week of endless work the same sus primos, tíos, hijos y hermanos do in one eight-hour shift in Raleigh.
So, you better break the news saying: "Mamá, Papá, mexicanos y mexicanas, I do not want to leave you guys, but I long to make a better, more educated professional orgullo nacional out of myself". Then oh, boy, things are completely different. The entire familia would feel ecstatic with pride--and start booking flight to go visit you at your new-fancy-location for the holidays, not because they've already imagined themselves taking advantage of your shopping tips, but because they'd already miss you, really. Moreover, your friends would make a toast for your good luck--as they silently implore for a bite of the same fortune cookie, either by getting 600 points on the Test of English as a Foreign Language score (TOEFL) or by getting one of those scholarships from Conacyt.
When the good-bye time gets, the farewell ceremony at the airport would be so worthy of uploading on You Tube. In the clip, viewers around the world would see the mariachi singers showing off the family's grieving as they play Las Golondrinas, dudes drinking tequila right out of the bottle as if Plaza de Garibaldi relocated to the International Departures gate and our mother crying, and crying, and crying by the immigration desk. Everyone there but Grandma would seem devastated by your departure. She--her larger-than-life survival instinct in the driving seat--would just see crystal-clear why you're leaving.
What happens next, when the Master's Degree is completed, and if so, is a different story. The thing is, first, getting out of there.
Y tú, ¿por qué te fuiste? ¿Por qué te irías?