Travelling the world as a baby boomer has its challenges: sitting in cramped airline seats and climbing long flights of stairs after a long day can be a test when the years start adding up. But there are also times when you get a little extra care and courtesy, times that make you think: it’s good to be a baby boomer.
I’ve always found that Latin Americans treat their older citizens with admirable respect. And I’ve experienced it myself, from time to time, with people offering me a seat on the subway or carrying a bag I could have handled myself. But on my recent trip to Mexico City, I had an experience that made me feel how good it is to be a baby boomer.
After a long hunt, I arrived on a hot afternoon at La Casa Azul — the Blue House, in English — where renowned artist Frida Kahlo (at right) lived and died, and where she created many of her famous paintings. It was also where she and her husband Diego Rivera hosted a long list of luminaries, including Nelson Rockefeller, George Gershwin — and Leon Trotsky, the exiled leader of the Russian Revolution. Trotsky lived with them in the Blue House for two years in the late 1930s, and was later assassinated in a house nearby.
Today, the house is a museum, filled with the couple’s possessions and their art. And it’s a lovely sight — as blue as its name suggests, and situated on a pretty street in the city’s picturesque Coyoacán neighbourhood. But I was less than pleased to see a line-up of people outside, stretching halfway down the block. I was in for a long wait to get in.
There was nothing to do but line up. But before I did, I took a look at the sign near the door, listing the hours and the admission price: 200 pesos for foreigners, but just 15 pesos for pensionados, or retired people. Just what I like – a big seniors discount. But did it mean me? At some venues, the discount didn’t apply to foreigners.
I approached a middle-aged man in a suit who was busily managing the crowd. Did the discount apply only to Mexicans? No, he said: it was for everyone. “How old are you?” he asked. I told him. He said something in Spanish that I didn’t catch. But I was already on my way to the back of the line.
Suddenly, I heard him call “senor!” I looked up to see him beckoning me. “Come with me,” he said, in English. I did as he asked, and to my amazement, he led me right past the slow-moving crowd and straight to the ticket desk. “A pensionado ticket for my friend,” he ordered, and disappeared before I could even thank him.
A minute earlier I had been a slightly tired retiree, cooling my heels on the sidewalk. Suddenly, I was a VIP, going to the front of the line, and paying a pittance – about a dollar – to get into the museum. The warmth of the welcome followed me through the house (which is well worth the full price of admission). I left with a smile on my face.
So at least in Mexico City, it’s good to be a baby boomer. All these years of living have earned us some respect. Still, nothing’s perfect. On the way out, I crossed the street where a souvenir vendor was peddling memorabilia adorned with Frida Kahlo’s image. And there, on the ground, was a basket of impish-looking dolls bearing Kahlo’s unmistakable black hair and unibrow. Maybe they’re everyone is quite so respectful …
If you’re interested in La Casa Azul and Frida Kahlo, this Wikipedia page offers a detailed description. As well, the movie Frida recounts the dramatic story of Kahlo’s life and her marriage to Diego Rivera.