By Mark Saunders
When I’m back in the States and people find out I live in Mexico, they always ask the same three questions. Is it safe? What do you do for health care? And what’s on TV? Because I’m not sure how much time I have left in life, I think it’s a good idea to prioritize and tackle the most important question first: namely, our TV viewing options.
We have plenty. Our standard cable package includes about 80 channels, and, as in the USA, most of those channels are filled with spouses screaming at each other, boring local community board meetings, and the same woman who appears just about everywhere in the world, wearing a tiny workout bikini and showing viewers how to tighten their abs.
But much like how they keep old Detroit beater cars from the 50s and 60s running, Mexico also keeps old USA television shows alive and well. My favorite is the Bonanza channel that runs the old Western starring Ben Cartwright and sons around the clock—and in Spanish. Have you ever gotten a good look at those three boys? Adam, Hoss, Little Joe? They don’t look anything like their father. So I’m guessing there once was a ranch hand named Big Joe who was pretty handy with a lasso and branding iron. Or, more likely, three ranch hands who didn’t always sleep in the bunk house.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I did a little research and learned that the three boys all had different mothers. By the time the series began, all those moms had died. Hmm. Makes you wonder what’s buried on the “Ponderosa” besides fir trees.
Watching shows in Spanish with English subtitles—or English with Spanish subtitles—is an excellent way to improve one’s foreign language skills. But, it has its limits. In an English-speaking show, for example, when a character, usually male and usually in a violent scene, drops a series of creative F-bombs, rattling them off as if carpet bombing a jungle, the polite Spanish subtitle shakes its head in disapproval and merely writes “maldición” (aka, curse or bad word).
I love that about Mexico, the politeness and awareness of others in the room. Unfortunately, if you find yourself in a heated argument in Spanish down here, I doubt shouting maldición at your opponent will get you anywhere.