Friendly Mexican myth

Yesterday morning, after completing yard chores like watering the terraza’s potted plants, brushing the terraza’s wooden shelves, sweeping the floor, wiping ceramic planters, washing the yard patio’s table and chairs, cleaning the birdbath and replacing its water, removing three huge, cold-damaged philodendron leaves and so on, I sat on a rocker in the terraza for a rest because I deserved it. My child bride was knitting inside.

I looked at the columns of rebar the neighbor has soaring about five feet above and abutting my property wall. He’s building something — a barn? — and he works on it most days, alone. It’s at the back of his and my property. I am happy about this. It mostly follows where he has a large shed roofed with laminated sheets that are badly held down. It’s for his tractor and horse. During a wind storm years ago, one of the huge sheets sailed over into our yard. It could easily have broken our large dining room window. Came close.

They are not nice people, and I debated with myself about what to do with the sheet, but I just hauled it to the street out back and left it by his entrance. I never heard a peep about it, not a “sorry about that” or a “thanks for returning it,” nada, which is what I expected.

Not a cop in sight.

Most Gringos who live in Mexico gush about the friendly people and the “lovely culture.” That sort of silliness amuses me for two reasons. Let’s start with the culture. Do they love the macho-ism? The drinking? The corruption? The narcos?

Just this week, narcos paraded in broad daylight in homemade armored vehicles down a street in another part of my state. While Mexican culture has many lovely aspects, true, it has just as many unlovely and dangerous ones.

And then there is the “friendliness.” If you want friendly, visit the American states of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia or Texas where genuine friendliness is abundant. Friendliness in Mexico is restricted to people you actually know and like. Mexicans are not friendly to strangers, though they can appear so. It is a false friendliness.

This is where I insert the famous and accurate quote from Octavio Paz:

“A Mexican’s face is a mask, and so is his smile.”

These were some of the things I was thinking as I sat on my rocker admiring the lovely morning, anticipating the yummy roasted chicken I would be enjoying for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant just down the road a few hours later.

It’s a very friendly restaurant.

22 thoughts on “Friendly Mexican myth

  1. The states you noted have friendly people and not-so-friendly people. The times I have been in Mexico, the locals were having fun playing the Gringo tourists. I had to be on the lookout not to be cheated or overcharged, things being stolen out of our car or beggars interrupting our lunch. Other than that, we had a good time. To be fair, in some parts of Europe I had some of the same problems also.

    Like

    1. John: The states I mention also have unfriendly folks? Well, of course, but on average you’ll find people far friendlier in the Old South than you will in other parts of the country. Admittedly, to a great extent, rural folks in whatever state are more welcoming than city slickers. As for your trips to Mexico, it sounds like you headed to touristy areas, which makes sense though it likely was not the best choice. We Mexicans are sharp. We go to where the money is, where we think clueless Gringos are easy marks, and they often are. And we fleece them. The more touristy the spot, the more likely you’ll experience this. There are lots of great spots in Mexico where you will be far less likely to get ripped off. Where I live is one of those places.

      Like

      1. Boston is most definitely not friendly. In fact, the cold, cruel city reputation that New York enjoys on the West Coast is actually much more apt for Boston. New Yorkers, at least in NYC, are generally pretty friendly, though certainly direct and plain spoken. But only in Boston can you walk down the street, say hello to a stranger, have that person look you straight in the eye and not say a word as he passes.

        People here complain that Californians are “fake friendly.” But that caused me to create a sort of aphorism, which is to say that I’ll take fake friendliness over genuine hostility any day.

        Cheers,

        Kim G
        Boston, MA
        Where the city seems a smidgen more friendly than 20 years ago, perhaps due to all the transplants like me.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Frankly, I find Mexicans friendlier than Bostonians, but me speaking Spanish probably helps a good deal. I’ve never properly leahned how to pahk my cah in Havahd Yahd, especially when Liser accompanies me. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve met some pretty big a-holes in rural areas and some very nice people in big cities, and visa-versa. Anyway, if a country wants tourism, it should make sure that the tourists are not fleeced by the locals. That goes for any country, amigo, not just yours. But I enjoyed my stay and will someday return, with a lot of dollar bills for the beggars. I also had to do that in Vienna. Go figure.

    Like

    1. John: Better to hand out pesos in Mexico than dollar bills. It’s also a good idea to not overdo it, which is to say don’t hand out what seems a moderate amount to you but is a freaking fortune to the locals. I see it all the time and cringe. What that accomplishes is to give the locals the idea that Gringos are filthy rich and foolish with their money, both of which just encourage the ripoffs. Overtipping is bad too for the same reason.

      Like

    2. John, P.S.: As for your thinking Mexico should make sure tourists are not fleeced, be aware that Mexican government is far less involved in its citizens’ lives than is the case above the border. We take more of a hands-off approach. Compared to the U.S., people here pretty much do what they want. One can see this as positive or negative, but it’s what it is.

      Like

  3. We get millions of foreign visitors every year. I doubt very much that many would visit if they were being fleeced.

    Like

    1. Antonio: Quite right, and Mexico is a great place to visit, but some places are more prone to fleecing than others, I suspect. I’ve heard really bad things about Playa del Carmen. Never been there myself. Actually, I’ve never been to any of the big tourist places except San Miguel and Ixtapa, Guerrero. Never been fleeced in either one.

      Like

  4. The gringos’ silliness never ends. Last night on an expat forum, an elderly gringo complained that the old outdoor venue next to the house which they’d just moved into hosted a loud party of teenagers playing techno music. The police didn’t show up until after midnight, three hours after they’d been called, doing nothing. These young folks’ music might have been tolerable had they been appreciating “Mexican culture,” which the elderly gringos insisted went from ranchera to mariachi, but techno-disco was simply intolerable. What were they thinking would go on at the outdoor event venue next door to them – Easter egg hunts and afternoon tea parties?

    They harbor this romanticized notion of Mexico, a Big Rock Candy Mountain of a country. When issues of crime are brought up, only the cartels take the blame, because an ordinary Mexican, imbued with all the morality, could never be a common criminal.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ah yes, the “culture.” Given that only a handful of Gringos that I know can even speak passable conversational Spanish, I increasingly find it hilarious when Gringos talk about Mexican culture, as if they had any idea of what they’re talking about. Ms. Shoe’s comments being a perfect example. Yeah, loud, all-night parties with zero regard for the neighbors or anyone else is a firm element of Mexican culture. As is a complete aversion to calling the police for any reason whatsoever. As is a near-total distrust of the government. Any gringo who truly understood Mexican culture would never live anywhere near a “Salón de Eventos.” Of course there are lovely aspects too — the tradition, the family values, the artisanship, the colonial architecture, the ability to make something of nothing, alebrijes, festivals, etc. But it’s a complete package — good and bad.

    As I like to say, I love Mexico, but I have no illusions as to what it really is.

    ¡Viva Mexico, cabrones!

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where all of the culture — symphony, museums, university classes, etc — seems to have been killed off by Covid. Pity.

    Like

    1. Kim: My favorite Gringo-loves-the-culture story: I was sitting some years back with a Gringo couple downtown. They had been here less than a year. The wife spouted the usual malarkey that she just “loooooved the culture.” I rolled my eyeballs inwardly. A few months later, I ran into the fellow again. He was sitting alone. I asked where his wife was. She had returned to the United States, and he was soon to follow. I asked what happened? He responded: “She couldn’t take it anymore.”

      Like

  6. “I increasingly find it hilarious when Gringos talk about Mexican culture.” As do I, amigo! Especialmente la ironía de los seudo expertos!

    Like

      1. You have my word, don Felipe. Just English from now on. But in my defence, my statement would be lost on many in either language.

        Like

Comments are closed.