Packing up and moving to Mexico is a double-edged sword. Right? You’re not just moving to Mexico, but you’re also leaving the USA. Or wherever. And maybe, just maybe, it’s the tiniest bit of an F.U. to your home country. I can just hear your old, Aunt Midge exclaim, “What? Fifty totally diverse states and three and a half million square miles to choose from and you can’t just be happy here? Jeeze…what’s wrong with you? You really think Ajijic is cheaper than small-town Alabama?”
Hollywood stars and musicians amplify this F.U. message, usually around elections. How many regularly threaten to leave the USA if (fill in the blank) “___________” wins the election? There’s always some of them. And yet none of them actually ever leave when their candidate loses. (And amusingly enough, Canada seems to be the preferred destination; wait until they find out about the snow, hehe. Fortunately my readers are wiser.)
Yeah, I’m guilty too. Though I haven’t yet fully packed up, sold my Boston house, burned bridges, or fully planted a flag here, I have my own things that I’m fleeing. But I’m not going to whine. At least not in this post.
But say I do finally move here for good. How could I stick the knife in and give it just a little linguistic twist? How about moving somewhere my American friends can’t even pronounce? How about a place that even the CIA can’t pronounce? (After all, if you’re on the lam, why make finding you easy?) What better place could possibly exist than Mexico? Oh, sure, I could probably find some place in China or Japan, or definitely in Thailand, what with its seventeen-syllable, tonally-inflected words. But that’s frankly too much trouble. They’re in the wrong time zone. And every single word of every single sentence there is unpronounceable. Pure overkill. So no. In terms of bang-for-the-buck, sheer, on-demand, unpronounceability, Mexico is unbeatable.
So my secret is out: I’ve long fantasized about living at a totally unpronounceable address in Mexico. Now if you share this particular, weird fantasy, the only proper way to start is at the state level. There are thirty one or two states here, depending on whether you count the Federal District (CDMX) as a state. Sure some of them are easy-peasy, like Baja California. But how about Tlaxcala? How about Coahuila? Tamaulipas? Even Michoacán might trip up the uninitiated.
Speaking of Michoacán, it has some of the more unpronounceable place names in the country. Just driving through the state is mind-bending. You’ll be whizzing along the cuota at 70 MPH and suddenly a sign will appear with four town names, and your mind won’t even be able to get around them, never mind internally pronouncing them before the sign is a mile behind you. If you were stopped by a cop right after you passed one of those signs, I’ll bet you couldn’t even name a single town. I know I couldn’t.
But as lovely as it is, especially the area around Morelia or Lake Pátzcuaro, I don’t really want to live in Michoacán. In fact, I’m pretty committed to Mexico City. So in the unpronounceability wars, I’m starting at a distinct disadvantage. Everyone can pronounce the name of the city, and almost everyone has heard of it. That totally ruins the element of surprise. Worse, all my favorite neighborhoods are easy to pronounce too. Even a moron could easily get Roma Norte right on the first try. And La Condesa isn’t exactly a tongue twister, though the delegation, Cuauhtémoc, might throw a few for a loop.
So maybe I’ll have to set my sights a little farther afield. My favorite neighborhoods may be easily pronounced, but there are plenty of almost totally unpronounceable neighborhoods. How about the nearby Mixcoac? OK, that one is not that hard to pronounce, at least once you hear it. It’s not too far out, and is hilly, so I could probably find a place with a fantastic view. But it’s a little, “conflictivo,” and I’m not sure I’d fit in. A little farther south there’s the touristically famous Xochimilco. That one took me some time to learn. But why not set my sights a little higher, right? Try Santiago Tepalcatlalpan. That one lures you in with the seductively easy “Santiago,” and then plunges the dagger in when you get to the second word. Or how about Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl? Hehe… even the residents there can’t pronounce it. They all call it Neza. But there’s plenty of other choices: Acapotzalco, Tecacalango, or even San Luis Tlaxialtemalco. And yes. These are all real places; just click the links.
Still, even for someone with as twisted a sense of humor as me, there are limits to how far I’ll literally go to achieve unpronounceability. But I haven’t given up either. There are plenty of unpronounceable streets in and around my preferred barrios. How about Citlaltépetl in La Condesa? Not only unpronounceable, it’s a lovely, tree-lined street with lots of nearby shops and cafés to boot. Or the nearby Calle Popocatepetl? OK, that one is too famous and too well known to be totally unpronounceable. What about Iztaccíhuatl? It’s also a pretty nice street, and very conveniently located. Or what about a street with a “TL” sound? “TL” is certainly not a sound we have in English (or any other European language for that matter). Personally, I have no trouble at all saying “Tlaloc,” “Tlatelolco,” “Tlalpan,” or any number of other “TL” words. Yet I had forgotten how difficult it was for most Gringos . During my road trip down here with Dave from San Francisco, he struggled mightily wherever we found it. And if you’ve spent any amount of time in Mexico, you know it’s far from rare. Heck, here in my modest rental apartment, I’m within a block of Calle Tlacotalpan. Which, confusingly enough, is also the name of a trolleybus stop that’s nowhere near here.
Or maybe I should just go for broke. Take the street where I lunched Tuesday. Jeeze, here almost a week later, even I, a fairly accomplished Spanish speaker can’t even pronounce it comfortably. Give it a try: Calle Tlacoquemécatl.
That might well be the ultimate, unpronounceable address. If you ever ask me where I live but don’t understand the answer, that’s likely where you’ll find me.