Wednesday, May 11, 2005

grandmothers are beautiful people

The little closet in my apartment came stocked with clothes hangers, and pulling one out today I saw that it came from Weldon Cleaners in Medford, Oregon. I often see stuff like that, promotional items from obscure American businesses and wonder how it was that they ended up in this one little corner of Mexico. Most often it’s t-shirts, with logos like “Bob’s Towing and Auto Body, Sheboygan.” Those, I suppose, are easy enough to figure out, since Mexican immigrants are living and working in all corners of the U.S. and probably doing a lot of shopping at second-hand stores where you find t-shirts like that. But how about stuff like clothes hangers? Who would bother to bring a little clothes hanger all the way from Medford, Oregon? You also see a lot of logos, again especially on t-shirts, that are clear Mexican-made knockoffs of the kind of crap you’d find in the states. For example, my students will come to class with shirts that say things like: “Western Tennessee Superstar Championship Exciting Team,” which clearly have been generated domestically. And not only is the word choice often nonsensical on those things, grammatical and spelling mistakes are common, too. I had a student this semester at UTM who often wore a t-shirt reading: “Beverly Hills Yatch Club,” which messed with my head in so many ways that it was often difficult to concentrate on the lesson.

Of course, a lot of times people in developing countries buy or acquire these t-shirts without any understanding of what the English on them means. Once I was at a market in Queretaro and this obese drunk came careening down the sidewalk towards me, his fat belly bulging out from underneathe a filthy “Grandmothers Are Beautiful People” shirt. Boy, was I kicking myself for not having my camera on hand at that moment.

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