It was an evening out of the tabloid press.
As I walked out of baggage claim in Mérida's airport Monday night following a return flight from Mexico City, crowds of young women began to holler and mob several of the younger men from my flight who'd stepped into the reception area just ahead of me.
Back in the boarding area of Terminal 2 in Mexico City's Benito Juarez Airport, I'd become aware that what I assumed was some sort of pop music group was waiting with me for the Mérida-bound flight. I didn't recognize them, but from the garb and talk I assumed they were on their way to Yucatán for a performance. This deduction was more-or-less confirmed when I was pressed in the crush of autograph seekers and picture-takers as I tried to wheel my bag through the arrivals area in Mérida.
I had to wait for a minute or two while my neighbor Margarita (who was there to pick me up) jostled to take a photo of her teenaged daughter with a lead cast member of La Academia, actually a television program that is a Mexican combination of Big Brother and American Idol. The cast and production crew visit different states of the republic where they shoot a series of programs in which local young talents live together in a large house and then compete with each other by performing, with the obligatory drama of social friction and weekly eliminations, all of which is documented and edited into program segments. This apparently garners a large national following. Winners are given recording contracts and some go on to become well-known performers or recording artists. The program was to begin casting in Mérida the following day for its next series of shows based upon Yucatecan talent. My friends were very impressed that I had been on the plane with this famous TV cast. They were even more impressed, or should I say incredulous, that I had no idea who these TV stars were.
Margarita told me she had also just taken her daughter's photo with a famous plastic surgeon who had arrived. I guess he's a guy who does lots of stars and famous people in Mexico. Her suspicion was that he was in Yucatán to "botox" a certain key political figure with rumored higher political ambitions.
Speaking of politicians, my neighbor mentioned that while waiting she'd noticed lots of party operatives hanging around in the terminal, apparently there to greet a few prominent pols who got off my flight. This was due to the fact that the governor was giving her annual report to the people later the same night, and obviously important people were arriving to attend the event. Margarita had recognized some, and had shaken hands with a number of them.
One of these, she said, looked like the brother of ex-president of Mexico Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and she indicated a small cluster of men in dark slacks and white guayaberas against one wall. She'd said hello to the man and shaken his hand, although she didn't continue the conversation to confirm his identity because she felt out of place wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, having just driven in from the beach to pick me up.
Well, when I opened the newspaper the next morning, I discovered (and Margarita later confirmed) that she was wrong. It wasn't Salinas' brother she's spied. It was the ex-president himself. Carlos Salinas apparently had been on my flight.
So I'd jet-setted with them all: reality-show stars, the celebrity botox-and-boobs surgeon to the rich and famous, and an ex-president of Mexico.
I had a tabloid moment, and I'd had no idea.