Why Mexicans Don't Like Gringos

Many Would Prefer Ebola

March 25, 2010

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First, human nature, an ancient plague of bubonic virulence. In the grand casino of existence, the deck is stacked against amity. Ain’t no kind of people likes any other kind. British Canadians hate the French. In the US, whites hate blacks hate browns. Sinhalese hate Tamils. In India, Hindus hate Muslims. Irish Catholics hate Irish Prots. Diversity is a terrible idea. Nobody don’t much like nobody. That’s just how it is.

Some immigrants, for example Europeans, quietly adapt to local habits, learn the language, exhibit the reticence that constitutes international good manners, and integrate themselves into the new country. We don’t. Americans, in which category I include Canadians, simply don’t belong in Mexico, at least most of those who come. Degrees and exceptions, yes. But…the hesitant walk, the anxious body language, the clumping together like clotting corpuscles in gringo venues—the gringos just look funny, alien, isolated. They aren’t bad people, or anyway  no worse than the dismally low baseline for a race that amounts to a collection of technologized chimpanzees. They want to be liked, set up charities, try to do good works and usually succeed. It doesn’t help.

I have a tee-shirt that says “Chicago, Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten.” Yes: Some instinct arouses a faint but real antagonism toward the visibly uneasy, against outlanders who look as if they might be afraid, which is why when you walk through bad places it is best to look as though to might do extreme things, like dismember anyone who messes with you.

When you are in somebody else’s house, you mind your manners. Enough expats, usually women, don’t understand this. It doesn’t take many. For example: On the intercity bus from Chapala to Guadalajara, an inattentive gringa missed her stop just outside of town and freaked out at the thought of going to Guad, the next stop and an hour away. She began yelling, and I mean yelling, at the driver to stop. He didn’t understand her, this being Mexico where the language, surprisingly, is Spanish. She turned abusive and screamed—this is verbatim—“You are the worst! You suck! You are the worst!” This in front of a busload of Mexicans. I refrained from strangling her, and have regretted it ever since. Can you imagine why gringos aren’t loved?

Then there is money. Many, perhaps most, gringos here live in palatial houses in gated communities in the hills, meaning ghettoes designed to keep Mexico out. The internees in these opulent barrios may not think they live in luxury, but by Mexican standards they do. Too many of them flaunt their dough or, more correctly in most cases, seem to be flaunting it because they can’t imagine the Mexican perspective. You see BMWs, flashy SUVs. The owners of these Cleopatrian barges don’t mean to offend.. Perhaps they think they have earned what they have, and mean to enjoy it. To Mexicans who work for a living, and not that hot a living, the (to them) lavish display is easy to resent. Very easy.

These gilded space aliens almost never learn Spanish, which means that they can never be part of the country. What would you think of a German who lived for twenty years in the United States and spoke only five words of English?  The gringos have their reasons, some more appealing than others. They are old and tired, want to spend their remaining years hanging with friends, maybe boozing. They aren’t comfortable in a brown staccato country of profoundly alien culture. They really want to be in Lauderdale but can’t afford it. With the years, the memory quits. They are, depending on the person, lazy or arrogant or not. But they don’t learn.

The Mexicans think, “Who are these guero bastards who live in big houses and drive rich cars and then expect us to learn their language? Que se chingen.”

Not all of the pale intruders fit the description. A few men marry Mexicanas, others live in actual Mexican neighborhoods with the garish music and dogs barking and horses trotting by with children riding bareback. At the American Legion post in Chapala you find ex-military guys who don’t learn Spanish either but they aren’t lalala and hoity-toity and embalmed in big-ticket Mercedes like bugs in amber that haven’t died yet. They are much more like the Mexicans themselves, foreigners who belong here as distinct from foreigners who don’t.

American women, greatly more than their husbands, want to turn Mexico into a replica of the United States, a transformation which Mexicans astoundingly do not find desirable. In Mexico, there are bars which by tradition are for men only. Cellulitic dyed-blonde wrinkle whales shove their way in, expecting Mexico to rearrange itself for their convenience, and are hated for it.

Hereabouts, if a bar-owner has a pooch, and said horror chooses to wander through, or curl beneath a table to sleep, it is regarded as a tragedy of lesser magnitude than the San Francisco earthquake. To date, there are no deaths attributed to dog poisoning. On three separate occasions, one of which I watched, a gringa has gotten her knickers in a twist about the Beast beneath the Table, perhaps fearing aerosol rabies, and begun yelling at the bartender. Self-absorbed meddlesome arrogance does not play well locally. I bet you are surprised.

Then there is the powerful unconscious condescension, which the gringos don’t notice but the Mexicans assuredly do. If you read the Ojo del Lago, the local real-estate freebie you would use to wrap fish that you didn’t like, you find endless columns by gringos about how they love the country and just appreciate the culture all to death and just this morning they exchanged a few bantering words with the gardener and the maid, who are so smiling and friendly. Why, the Mexicans are just like people. Well, pretty close.

Again, the gringos  don’t know they are doing it. (And not all of them are guilty.) The locals sure as hell notice. The smiles and chuckles from the household staff spring more from the need to make a living than from enjoyment of intercultural affection.

An American woman, studying Spanish with an acquaintance of my wife, complained to her teacher that because of economic straits in America she and her husband had barely been able to buy a ritzy house in Mexico and would have to put off buying a second car. The teacher later commented wryly, “I’m thirty-five and I’ve never owned a car or a house.”

Witless? Wantonly unaware? Deliberately trying to make the teacher feel bad? It doesn’t fly.

While far more Mexicans learn some-to-good English than expats do Spanish, maids usually know little. An almost irresistible tendency exists to regard anyone who speaks one’s language poorly and behaves ingratiatingly as, well, inferior. One would never say such a thing, but one would think it. Which shows. But talk to Pedro the gardener off duty in Lobos cantina in Chapala—where, thank God, few gringos go, and anyway they couldn’t talk to Pedro—and you find that Pedro is a man, not a charming teddy-Mexican in brown terrycloth, that he isn’t even approximately stupid, and that his opinion of gringos—well, we’ll leave it at that.

A gringo I know, nice guy actually, tried to buy a computer part from a Mexican dealer, who didn’t have it in stock but offered to go to a nearby supplier and get it. The gringo told the fellow to pick up a coke and some potato chips (or some such) for him. Would you tell the proprietor of an electronics store in the US to buy snacks for you? But you see, all Mexicans are house boys.

 They notice.