The other day as I was navigating an unfamiliar street and preparing for an unusual conversation, I must have had a serious look on my face. A man commanded me in Spanish and then English to smile. I had to laugh at how serious I was with my errand, how I had been rehearsing my lines. Always concerned about being appropriately polite, I also wasn’t so sure if the words for what I wanted.
Of course, I smiled. In fact, I practically laughed at the irony because, especially in photos (or drawings), Oaxacans often assume a serious posture that typically does not include a smile. They may be grinning up to the minute the shot is taken, but almost always, this neutral to serious face appears, provoking me to want to command: Smile.