We were walking through a local neighborhood in Isla Mujeres the morning after the inauguration. A gray-haired Mexican man was sitting in a lawn chair in front of his cement house, taking the sun and reading the morning’s news. He looked up, smiled at us, and called “Obama!” He held up his newspaper for us to see. The front page banner cried “Esperanza!”
We grinned back and said, “Si se puede!” Yes we can!
Did he know we were Obama supporters? We were so happy that morning, perhaps we glowed. On the other hand, he no doubt had read the news the week before that for the first time in history, a US president-elect met with the Mexican president in Washington. D.C. Taking time to do so just days before taking office surely sent a message that Obama cares about US relations with Mexico. That gesture of respect may give people here a bit more hope.
The day before, we had spent several hours at Jax, a local open-air sports bar/restaurant. About 40 Americans watched the sea change happen in Washington. A passerby might have thought there was an important football game on because the bar was packed and everyone was totally focused on the five TV screens. Newspapers were spread out on the tables with big photos of Obama and headlines like “Sueno Realidad” – Dream Reality, referring to Martin Luther King’s dream being at least partially realized in the election of our first African American president.
On this Caribbean island, we cheered, we cried, and we got goose bumps witnessing this pivotal moment in U.S. history. We felt close to the other Americans, friends and strangers alike, who cheered Bill and Hillary when they appeared, who roared when the camera first picked up Barack, and who rose at the end of the ceremony, tears spilling from many eyes, to sing the national anthem. We were proud of our country, proud of the course correction we are making, and thrilled to have shared this moment in a small bar in Mexico where the people seem as happy as we are to have a new US president.
A couple of days later, we were on the mainland doing errands in Cancun. Our taxi driver told us that his ex-wife and their grown children, who live in Dallas, are delighted by the election. They have, he confided, “Obamamania.” Not a term we ever anticipated hearing from a Spanish-speaking cabbie.