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.