say your piece
OCTOBER 9, 2003
White men Can't Tan:
RED Goes to Cancun
By Craig Froehlich

ust in time to arrive two weeks after the World Trade Organization left town in a huff, a RED staff member rolled into the Mexican city of Cancun. This arrival in no way related to the opening of Cancun’s Freedom Paradise, the first resort in the world designed exclusively for obese people. However, extra-strength hammocks are an idea whose time has come.

Why would RED go to Cancun? For one, to see if any of the kids featured in MTV’s Cancun excursion remained in town, turning tricks for kamikaze shooters. Also, we were pretty sure that any riots from the WTO wingding would end up on the next Rage Against the Machine video and we wanted to be able to say to our grandkids, “That’s me throwing a chair through the front window of T.G.I.Fridays.”

The jewel of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun entices travelers with sand that looks and feels like powdered sugar, rolling turquoise waves and the opportunity to order a fucking cheeseburger in yet another exotic locale.

  RED staff writer Craig Froehlich takes a break from the touristic side of Cancun to pass, rest in the sun, free of its evil skin-burning rays.  

Once a sleepy, unspoiled fishing village, Cancun’s exotic marine life began flourishing just a little too much. Sea turtles swaggered through town in flashy clothing and demanded money from helpless artisans and shopkeepers. To combat this menace, a Mexican freedom fighter known only as Señor Frog built countless resort hotels on Cancun’s immaculate stretch of beaches. These hotels decimated the habitat where the turtles laid their fragile eggs. Fertile turtles of yesterday now face extinction (a serious blow to their intimidation factor). Many of Cancun’s grandest shot glasses and T-shirts now bear the name of the heroic frog.

A glimpse at the region’s many diverse and beautiful T-shirts offers a glimpse into the complex culture of a Mexican resort town. Especially telling are the shirts favored by American tourists. After milling through bustling markets and soaking in the local art and cuisine and their distinct Mayan flavor, many Americans find the need to tell the world: “I’m shy…but my cock is huge.” However, American fancies almost immediately wander to more pressing matters, namely: “Where’s the booze?” and “Give it to me.” The hospitable locals appear more than happy to appease and offer countless museums/stores dedicated to tequila while showcasing a small rooms worth of ancient Mayan treasure in a back room of Daffy’s Den of Daiquiris.

But if one must soak in the local culture (i.e., you’re trying to impress a girl), many affordable tours are available to nearby Mayan ruins. If you’re lucky, your tour bus might take a detour off the main route. If you’re unlucky, your tour bus might also take a detour off the main route. However, the latter scenario involves more submachine guns and white slavery then the former. The bus driver can open up a whole new world to you, and I don’t mean sexually, by cruising through one of many small villages interspersed throughout the Yucatan jungle. Before you know it, you’re on something of a safari with human beings serving as spectacle. For the sake of political correctness, the people seem generally less bored and host fewer clouds of flies than the lions at Busch Gardens. This brings to mind a little quiz. Which do you consider a worst-case scenario? (a) It’s time to do laundry again. (b) The closest thing you have to a washing machine are strong arms and a sturdy bucket. (c) Although you are the most beautiful and promising girl in your village, you end up marrying locally and now toil the day away by washing the clothing for your entire extended family and in-laws after a raven carries away one-half of your only pair of fourth-hand socks. (d) All of the above, plus a tour bus full of people slows to a crawl and leers and points as if you’re the strangest sight they have ever seen. They cement your humility by documenting your labor on a camera that costs more than the entire annual income of your village.

A good tour guide not only doesn’t sell you into white slavery, but can offer a new perspective into the cultures you encounter during your vacation. He might even speak so passionately about the plight of his native people and centuries of decimation at the hands of European imperialists that you feel like kicking the ass of the first Spaniard you see. Please note that local officials might be more sympathetic to your case if your Spanish victim resembles Hernan Cortez and isn’t a 20-year-old girl from Barcelona with trendy shoes and purple-tinted glasses.

Novice travelers to Mexico might get caught up in false rumors about the ready availability of morphine for over-the-counter purchases and this foreign land’s strange, exotic McDonald’s ad campaigns. But try to venture off the beaten path of other tourists and take in the real Cancun—a Cancun rich in culture and spirit and not a place to not get a tan and to crawl into a tequila bottle and never come out. However, when leaving the beaten path, take precautions. Don’t wear your “Mr. Moneybags” ball cap and dollar-sign belt buckle in Cancun’s shadier neighborhoods, for many Mexican criminals lack a sense of irony.

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