Up until last Saturday, I was the proud owner of a pair of amazing black sandals, known as chanclas here in Mexico. They were the perfect traveling shoes -- compact for packing purposes, comfortable for walking purposes, and flat for height-control purposes (I already tower over about 75 percent of the Mexicans I meet, so there's no need for high heels to exacerbate the issue).
Those shoes toured the streets of Culiacán. They climbed the pyramids of Teotihuacán. They crossed the border into Guatemala. So it only seemed natural that they'd accompany me to Vive Latino, a two-day music festival I checked out in Mexico City this past weekend.
So what if the shoes had gotten a little old? A little scuffed? So what if the soles had started to fall off? It gave them personality, man.
And that's precisely what made 'em famous.
So my fellow rockeros and I were sitting on a lawn, taking a breather between bands. Boredom must've set in (or maybe it was the beer), because my amigos started to invent a dialog about the concert, with the soles of my shoes doing the talking. This bout of maturity is perhaps best illustrated by photo 1, above.
One amigo -- we'll call him Miguel -- spotted a concert camera crew on the other side of the lawn and made a beeline for the videographer. His pitch, reported to me later, made this ex-PR girl proud:
"Hey guys, guess what? There's a funny gringa over there, and she has talking shoes!"
Imagine my horror when Miguel turned around, grinning mischieviously, and started walking back to our patch of lawn, accompanied by the camera crew. Given my protests about not speaking Spanish, the crew proceeded to interview not me, but my shoes about their Vive Latino experience.
Where were they from? What was their favorite band? Why had they come to the festival?
I giggled most of the way through the interview, picturing the reaction of my students back in Oaxaca upon seeing their ridiculous English teacher's shoes live on TeleHit. So my friends supplied most of the dialog, including the part about how the poor English prof couldn't afford new shoes because she'd bought concert tickets instead. Not so far from the truth. See photo 2, above.
The interview complete and my shoes' 15 minutes of fame firmly sealed, we headed over to the main stage to take in another band. We manuevered our way toward the front of throng of 19-year-olds surrounding the stage.
The music started.
Then the jumping started.
Then the pushing started.
And then I lost my shoes. My famous, talking shoes.
The chanclas fell off my feet with all the jumping, and then the crowd pushed me away from them. I couldn't bend down to search the ground for them for fear of being trampled. I was getting stepped on. I was in pain. I turned around to retreat, pushing my way out of the crowd. I emerged, sweaty, my bare feet black from all the dirt and who-knows-what-else on the ground.
Ever-helpful, my resourceful friends constructed shoe subsitutes (photo 3, above) using two styrofoam plates from a generous taco vendor and bits of trash found on the ground. My new shoes caused quite a stir: People pointed and laughed. Passerby smiled as they figured out what had happened. A couple stopped and asked to take a photo with me.
The new shoes were perhaps even more (in)famous that the chanclas had been.
We patrolled around the concert venue for about an hour, asking various vendors if there was a booth that might sell shoes. My friends motioned toward my feet and gravely explained the situation, attempting to stifle their laughter. Their funny gringa friend was again the focus of attention.
After much effort, I was able to score some Bob Marley-themed sandals for $120 pesos (photo 4, above). They'll never replace my chanclas, though.
Chanclas, 2008-2009, RIP.
Sacrificed to the gods of rock.