Is It Mañana Yet?
Mexico is sometimes referred to as “the Land of Mañana.” Believing that it meant “tomorrow,” we then looked in the English to Spanish section. There it was, “tomorrow.” Reassured, we headed for south of the border. Never even wondered why we didn’t find the word when we first tried to look it up. It should have been a warning to us.
Like many things in Mexico, it just isn’t that simple. It was only after we lived here for a while that we began to understand the word. It certainly does mean tomorrow when saying goodbye but at other times, who knows? We found out the true meaning of the word when a plumber, electrician, carpenter, auto mechanic or other tradesman told us he will take care of our problem mañana. He didn’t mean tomorrow at all, just, “not today.” By now, we know the word also means, “In the morning.” When the man we’re waiting for doesn’t show up we start to wonder. Did he mean mañana, tomorrow, or en la mañana, some morning of some mañana?
We’re learning that Mexican society operates within its own time-frame. It leaves time for socializing and attending to personal affairs. It gives priority to living rather than working. It also produces a word, momentito. The accompanying hand signal given with the first finger and thumb, indicates a small delay. The actual wait can stretch almost to infinity. Always carry a good book. Maybe a biggie, like Gone with the Wind. A friend of mine swears he read the whole Bible during momentitos. He sure can quote Scripture!
This elastic time system may make Mexicans sound like liars. T’aint so. They are just trying to eliminate angry confrontations. They tell us that all will be well. We leave, happy, enjoy the rest of the day. Would it be better to know in advance that it might be days before the craftsman shows up? They’re teaching us another Spanish word, espero. It means to hope and to wait. It’s made to order for those who live in Mexico. As we wait, we hope, as we hope, we wait. That tradesman is offering us hope. Besides, even though he’s got four other jobs scheduled before ours, who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Perhaps another reason for less than candid communications can be traced to the history of the country. Their ancestors were enslaved and robbed of their land. Politicians who promise everything and do nothing have betrayed them. Mexicans have learned to bury their anger and impatience. They laugh, sing and smile, hiding their frustrations. They live for today. Let others worry about mañana. The secret of living here happily is to adopt the Mexican time-frame. When you do, you will find yourself free from deadlines, unafraid to postpone things or be late for appointments. Take the time to talk with friends, smell the flowers. Retire from the stress that the clock and calendar have imposed and continue to plague many of us. We are not going to change the habits of our Mexican hosts.
Therefore, relax, be patient. When that tradesman does finally show up, extend a hand in friendship and greet him with a smile. Now, you know. mañana has finally arrived. But if he doesn’t finish the job and leaves, saying hasta mañana, remember, it’s only a polite phrase. Hasta Luego!
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com