After four months as an expat in Merida, I found myself back in the land of Big Macs, big cars and big Christmas trees to observe the holiday with family. I have long thought that Christmas brings out the best – and sometimes the worst as well – in American culture. Seeing the holiday with the new eyes of an expat reinforced that perception.
To reach my final destination (Louisville, KY), I had to endure a hellish encounter with U.S. bureaucracy at Bush International Airport in Houston. We all know that air travel has become an ordeal, even under the best of circumstances. Holiday travel compounds the nightmare.
But what do you make of lines of 700 to 800 weary holiday travelers snaking through the daunting Immigration and Customs Enforcement procedure to be greeted by – can this be real? – only two ICE agents processing arrivals? In one of the busiest hubs for international arrivals in the country?
Then to be herded like cattle through the Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint, to be shouted at by TSA agents and gruffly subjected to a full pat-down, added insult to injury.
Isn’t there a better way to protect American public safety? The message a new arrival to the USA gets is that human beings don’t count for very much in the scheme of things, not even at Christmas.
Merida’s luminescent piñatas navideñas, enthusiastic Noche Blanca crowds and devoted followers of the Virgin of Guadalupe had primed me for a good Christmas this year. Even the hordes of shoppers in Centro had somehow produced a new affinity for the season.
Only a shred of my newfound Meridano Christmas spirit remained intact upon arrival at my final destination. So I’ve been trying hard to find the spirit of the holiday wherever I can during my short visit Stateside.
I see it in smiles and heartfelt greetings of reunited family members. In laughter and shared recollections with friends and family.
I see it in the elaborate, painstaking, sometimes improvised Christmas decorations on homes. Warmly lighted churches seem to beckon with an implied message of hope and reconciliation.
Despite the increasingly frantic pace of life in the States and much of the rest of the world, most people seem to realize that Christmas still is special. That it should be cherished and relished amid the onslaught of commercialization and crassness.
These are thoughts that I take away from my Stateside Christmas and that will accompany me on my trip back to Merida.
By Robert Adams for TYT
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