It is more than possible to loose track of people while traveling, so when it happened it wasn't such a big deal. The worst case scenario is that I spend the day mingling with locals and practicing Spanish with cute hostesses, only to find my travelmates at night when we surely would all return to our suite. I am prepared for this reality.
I pass in front a restaurant which I've dined at a few times since arriving to Merida. A gentle hello to the hostess is the least I can do as I pass through en route to the market. However, something seems out of place today. Actually, someones seems out of place. The merchants, for the most part, are not at their tables. In fact, they're gathered in front of the city hall doors yelling with fists pumped in the air. 5 policemen guard the entrance as someone cries, "justicia!"
The merchants take turns darting in front of cars to cause a disturbance, while the police look on in the distance. I blend in as much as any 6ft man with an afro can in a busy Mexican street. An event like this is just the type of thing a journalist should look for. I can pass a monument any day, but when will I get to see a little protest? I lean against a pillar by the street, camera clutched as a line of workers gather on the opposite side of the street.
A man nearby beckons for me, "My friend, my friend. Where are you from?" He says his name is Juan and that he owns a local shop. He explains that the workers are protesting against the government because at the drop of a peso the police are able to take "taxes" from their tables. I listen earnestly, while taking a short film of the workers across the street. The situation is tense.
"Kalimba!" someone yells. I don't know what a "Kalimba" is, but the 50 or so people lined up across from me seem to have an idea as they begin clapping and whistling at me. Juan tells me that Kalimba is a pop singer, and that the merchants think I look like him, which at first didn't seem to bad. However, I began to think it wasn't such a great thing when he told me about the singer's scandalous sexual assault case with a minor.
"It's no problem amigo. The girl just wanted get famous, and everyone knows she lied. He was acquitted of all charges." This didn't make the situation any better. I was no longer comfortable at la protesta pequeña decided to visit the nearby restaurant which was far enough to where I was out of harms way but could still see the action. I thought that a cool glass of horchata and conversation with the pretty hostess would ease my mood.
She greeted me with warm spring time smile, and returned soon with my drink. The beverage; satisfying. Her eyes; beautiful. Things were going well, until I found she was in high school. I nod my head with an awkward smile. "Claro, claro," I say while reaching for my wallet to pay the bill. Looking like Kalimba is already too much, and I doubt lingering around her would help anyone's reputation.
I quickly took back to the streets in the opposite direction in search of my travel comrades. The merchants were still gathered across the street and begin to yell "Kalimba!" as soon as the saw me. I, while briskly walking away, stuck my fist in the air and responded.
This is Kalimba.
That is me.