Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A Montrealer in San Miguel

Magic versus misery
By Nancy Snipper

You may think it absurd to compare Montreal with San Miguel. After all, one is a huge North American metropolis; the other a tight-knit colonial Mexican town. You may assume that Montreal’s international festivals, remarkable restaurants, stadiums, ski resorts and opera houses are the prime ingredients for happy habitation. You might also imagine that because people from all over the world are adding further culture to la belle-ville - life in the city is fun and stimulating. The truth is no amount of sleek buildings, wide sidewalks, hockey games, hip hoppers, newcomers, notables  and  fashionistas  can make up for the sprit of warmth and acceptability that San Miguel offers.  A city must embrace an ethos and ambiance that cherishes personal freedoms and values difference.  So lucky are those who wake up and say: “I’m so glad I live in San Miguel!”  Here, North Americans and Mexicans with their two languages co-exist in harmony. Each enjoys the difference - in language, customs and way of life; it makes life more fun.  Most importantly, one culture does not attempt to repress the other.  That is what I most cherish about San Miguel.  
When I walk on the streets here, I can smile at the kids, even give them a little hug, and of course say hello in Spanish to strangers I pass on the sidewalks – if they don´t beat me to it.  It`s really sweet. Do that in Montreal, and you are given a menacing look. You may even be perceived as a weirdo. No problema in San Miguel; Here all eccentrics, nerds, wannabes, nobodies, some-bodies and VIPS are accepted – even welcomed with open arms, and age  knows no boundaries here.  
As for Montreal`s old folks, they don’t seem to be anywhere outside. They`re shut away in senior “care” homes where their only company is the one nurse tending to 45 other poor souls. Such is the norm in Montreal. Here in San Miguel, all family members go out together to partake in the evening activities.  There is laughter, music and endless people watching.   
I fear getting old in Montreal. What happens if I become senile, and end up blurting out something in English instead of French?  Will I be fined? Thanks to Bill 101, the French language police of the province happily spend their days walking the streets of Montréal in disguise checking to make sure that no English signs appear anywhere outside the establishment. If you must use English for your business, it can only appear inside the building and in much smaller letters than the French. Unlucky are those who have vision problems. Once again, no consideration is given to the elderly when it comes to reading English outside the home.  Mark my words: you will be fined a handsome sum! 
Such was the case for a famous Italian restaurant on St-Laurent Street, a hotspot for movie stars and local celebrities. The menu had the word ‘pasta’ in it, and for that the owner was handed a humongous fine.  
Word spread all over the world about this ludicrous fine and the malevolence behind the action. The province’s leader, Pauline Marois said it was a mistake and sent her henchmen to scout out lesser known places to punish anyone sporting English signs, and avoid the media.  
 By the way, all those immigrants I referred to - they can`t send their children to English schools, nor can anyone whose native language is English, except if one is born in Canada.
San Miguel is a community that nurtures us all regardless of language, looks, age and background. I love this place, so for you ex-Montréalers, enjoy the rest of your happy life here. As for those nay-sayers, who will surely castigate me for being so negative about Montreal, just come up for another harsh winter, insufferably humid summer and take a drive on the streets cratered in potholes. Then try to get help if you get a flat tire. You may be standing there for a very long time ... but less longer if you speak French.

Also posted on / Également affiché sur: Matters of Personal Interest

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