* Our best shot of the Sunday cruising ritual in Chipilo, Puebla.
I knew something was strange in this town, something different was up, when we descended from a memorial hill behind the main church on a visit last Sunday and came upon two light-skinned guys in tight T-shirts, sparkly jewelry, and studded sunglasses. They were arguing intensely besides a parked car. Spit was flying, arms were shooting.
The guys were debating something in what sounded like Italian, and from what I gleaned just passing by discreetly, the topic was either deception over a shared sexual partner or a complaint over a borrowed piece of clothing. Perhaps a belt or pair of sunglasses?
This is Chipilo, a small town just outside the city of Puebla, right in the middle of Mexico. Chipilo, founded in 1882 by Venetian immigrants, has maintained an Italian profile in Mexico for generations, much like the Mennonite communities in Mexico's north. (See the documentary work on Mexican Mennonite women by photographer Eunice Adorno.)
Just about everyone who lives in Chipilo is still ethnically Italian and still speaks the dialect of Venetian. Spanish is only heard among visitors. In Chipilo they produce cheese, keep mostly to themselves, and ... go cruising.
The cruising culture here had me tripping out. We sat at a outdoor table at a small restaurant for pasta, and watched. Chipilo teens on Sundays pile into cars or trucks or bikes, some drinking from open containers, many blasting heavy house music, and drive up and down the one and only main drag in town. Over and over.
I don't think I was mentally prepared to absorb such sights in Mexico, where a vast majority of people don't happen to look 100-percent Italian, or speak Italian or any of its dialects. Before long the Chipilo kids -- aware of strangers in town, staring sexily at us new-comers -- started nodding and waving in our direction. The older folks sat at the few sidewalk cafes across from the church and watched listelessly, sipping their Chipilo coffee.
An online search indicates there's been some ethnographic and linguistic work done on Chipilo out of universities in the Puebla area. Good to know, but I'll leave it at that. On our one day in Chipilo, we didn't pry for images or for connections with potential subjects. We just sat back, had some good Italian food, and got cruised.
* Photo above by Raphael B. Thank you, Cynthia G!