Friday, February 28, 2003

The yanomani are my people

Most people, when they’re kids, have some adult that sort of looks like them. In fact, they have entire families that sort of look like them. My mother is a diminuative thing, the size that people use to be in the olden days—under 5 ft 3, and under 110 pounds. She has no fat on her face, meaning her face looks sculpted. Normal. You can see cheekbones and a chin. My father looks like a Mexican. If he was in Arizona or Texas you wouldn’t even see him, he’d blend in so well. My brother pretty much looks like my mother. I look like I dunno what.

For many years I never saw anyone who even vaguely looked like me. My grandmother, my father’s mother, was Chilean, but she looked like a willowy Sofia Loren. My grandfather looks like a South American magic realist. What I mean to say is that they looked European. I don’t know how they ended up with a little Mexican kid, especially when his twin sister, in her 20s and 30s, looked very much like Tura Satana, but with icy blue eyes. Yowch! Why could I look like her?

And then as a teen I finally saw my people. They were on some National Geographic type special, living in the amazon jungle, either never having seen the rest of us before, or just lying about it and laughing behind our backs. The yanomani.

The yanomani are not pretty people. Their skin color is sort of a sallow yellow, and they offset this by dyeing their straight thick black hair, probably their only redeeming physical feature, a strange bright red. Not auburn. Red, like a fire ant. No doubt the dye comes from some amazonia plant that’s highly endangered due to clear-foresting by the McDonald’s corporation. I mean, it couldn’t be manic-panic, could it?

So this beautiful hair they have, they dye it this absurd shade of red and then they put a bowl around their heads and cut the rest off. They all have bowl haircuts. And not cool 1960s Yardbirds bowl cuts, but the ugly one when the bowl is too small. The bright red bowl-cut hair and sallow yellow skin really accentuate their fat, flat, formless faces, rubbery lips, crooked noses and double chins. How the hell do you end up with a double chin in the amazon?

Their bodies, although prone to chubbiness, don’t look as if they should have faces atop them with soft fat chins. But they do. And that yellow skin would make you think hey’d have those adorable central American noses that are a little wide and retrousse. But they don’t. They have Scottish noses and fat-people chins. And, like I said, they are not a fat people per se, but they pack on the weight pretty easily. I suppose that’s some sort of advanced evolutionary function designed to keep humans alive in lean times, but get over it! There’s always food! And they absolutely do not get fat in a cool, curvy way. They are not Anna Nicole Smith fat. All the weigh ends up in their belly, making them all look like some sort of indio “Love Is…” characters.

But for some reason, the yanomani always seem happy, at least in the documentaries. Maybe it’s their simple way of life, the lack or mirrors and Britney Spears videos, or maybe it’s the coca leaves, but they don’t seem to care that they’re the ugliest people on the face of the earth. Just my luck to be a yanomani in early 21st century New York City.


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