Why pay for a toilet when the river is free?

You poop, I poop, we poop

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Mexico in general has such an archaic plumbing system that it’s a wonder why the streets themselves aren’t flowing with diarrhea. Every building uses a private cistern on its roof to store tap water. The water comes from the city on some irregular schedule, and so it’s very possible to run out between fillings.

No one openly drinks or cooks with the tap water, and yet people rinse fruits and vegetables with it. They brush their teeth with it. They shower with it. They wash their hands, clothes, floors, and cars with it. They wash their counters, tables, and dishes with it. People touch everything.

The fecal contamination of food and water in Mexico is just too likely to avoid, and these conditions are bound to breed bacteria somewhere along the food chain.

When that bacteria goes in one mouth, it comes right back out as a violent torrent of vomit and diarrhea. For two days, its victim pukes and poops all over some toilet that won’t flush. They put their dirty poop paper in a bin next to that toilet. Someone presumably empties that bin by hand. The paper goes into the trash. That trash ends up on the side of the road somewhere, ready to infiltrate the water system, because the notion of a centralized landfill is somehow foreign to city planners in Mexico.

And then the cycle repeats.

There’s a strange kind of solidarity between travelers in Mexico who know firsthand about traveler’s diarrhea. We have no problem sharing our poop stories with complete strangers because everyone gets to experience the runs at some point during their visit. Just mention Montezuma’s Revenge, and every face cringes with empathy, and then the stories flow just as freely as the poop itself.

I paid 30 pesos for entrance into the incredibly popular tourist destination Agua Azul and then had to pay another 5 pesos to use the public toilet. Not only was that toilet devoid of a seat, but it wouldn’t flush. And I had to provide my own paper. The stories from other travelers are just as frightening. I’ve heard of hostels with only one toilet for a dozen guests. We’ve all eaten in restaurants that flush toilets with buckets of water. Those same restaurants offer the same buckets dipped in the same water for washing your hands!

An outhouse is a cleaner alternative to much of what we’ve seen in Mexico.

And so here I sit, chewing Pepto-Bismol tablets and resisting every urge to fart until I sit on a toilet. This is my second bout of diarrhea in a month with no sure indication of cause, because in Mexico, everything that goes into my mouth is potentially covered in poop.

Brian

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