Disco Time Warp: Dancing Through Checkpoints

It is late Wednesday evening—about nine hours into our second road trip of the week—and we had spent the past few hours lightly dozing as the bus lurched northeast from our home base in San Cristobal towards Palenque. The sun has long since set, and the mood on the bus has been drowsy and melancholic; slowly, individuals and seatmates in the back of the bus break from lethargy and begin to re-engage, quietly whispering until, like the domino effect that is ever so common on buses of the sort, the group grows lively again with sustained chatter, snack-munching, and semi-delirious laughter. Sensing a collective desire for a break in travel monotony and a distraction from the sickening speed bumps, Pablo pulls out his Bluetooth speaker; we take turns connecting our phones, beginning with Max’s bluegrass tunes. The back three or four rows of the bus listen to the music and engage in casual yet animated conversation, giggling about our group’s odd collective devotion to Oxxo (our consistent source for all things snack-related), or conjecturing about the possibility of a pool party upon our late night arrival, hoping that Max and Marcial might revive their highly popular synchronized swim routine, developed during our first trip to Tapachula. We avoid speaking about migration—though it is the underlying purpose for our road trips and practically unavoidable to dismiss, we also have recognized the importance of sacrificing sobriety for effervescence.

The role of DJ shifts, and we replace the folk-style music with some dance-pop, R&B, and hip-hop (just to name a few), taking turns blasting Diana Ross, Missy Elliott, and Rihanna. The mood turns lively as we dance with our hands in the air. At first, the party remains simple, consolidated within the back quarter of the bus. As we continue dancing in our seats and shouting to the music, it becomes evident that this is no normal bus party. Tame seat-dancing has quickly escalated to a full on, technically equipped extravaganza. We negotiate our way through our improvised dance party as Marcial, our bus party coordinator par excellence, shouts “sound design, sound design!” We pass the tiny, portable speaker around the back of the bus, swirling it in circles and relishing in the ebbing sonority. As we have been dancing in complete darkness—with the exception of miniscule red lights conveniently located above each seat (perhaps built-in ambiance for dance parties?)—Marcial calls for more elaborate lighting: “light design, light design!” He turns on his smart phone flashlight and begins waving it around, cupping his hand over the light for a fabulous strobe effect. The back of the bus becomes a generative party lab: “Does anyone have a Poweraid bottle?” Paola quickly passes her blue Poweraid back to Marcial, and he uses the flashlight on his phone to reflect the blue pigment around the bus. The energy begins to pulsate forward as we yell “Wherrrrreeee have you beeeeeeen all my lifffeeeee, allll my lifffeee.” The vibrancy can no longer be contained within seats, and the party shifts to the aisles: Emily, Rachel, Salma, and Nakai skillfully dance through the narrow aisles as the bus. Marcos opens the “lighter app” on his iPhone and holds it in the air before joining the others in the aisle. Paola and Olivia, their feet resting on the seats in front of them, begin to move their feet in time with the music, and Marcial moves into the aisle to provide lighting for the improvised foot dance. And though the dancing—begrudgingly—must take a brief hiatus for a checkpoint, we party on until reaching our Palenque destination.