SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- I was privy to learn a new greeting in Latin America the hard way: “Where is the mother?” a man asked me as I was walking through the streets with my baby Petra in my arms.
What!?! does this guy think that I am not capable of going for a walk alone with my own baby?
No, he was just saying hello.
A more personal greeting that hola, buenas, or adios in Latin America is to look at you squarely, and without any prior introduction, ask you where someone is that they know you are associated with. I suppose this greeting is to say, “Hey, I know you. I know you so well, in fact, that I know that your family, your wife, your children, and I am going to show you that I know you by asking where these people are.” This seems to be a greeting of endearment. It is my impression that this is a way to say that I am a part of the community, that I am known. And being known in Latin America is to have a place, and a sense of place is a novel thing for a traveler to posses.
So when I walk down the streets of Suchitoto alone, people call out to me, “Where is your baby?” When I am with my baby they call out, “Where is the mother?”
They are not worried that I may have misplaced my family members somewhere, they are not implying that my loved ones have given me the slip, no, they are just saying hello.