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Ask an old gringo about Mexican happiness, jobs for foreigners, Mormon mother, books in English

Marvin West

Family, friends, good food, and good times in Mexico contribute to a sense of well-being
© John Gladstein, 2004

Question: I saw on TV that Mexico ranks 10th in the world among happy countries. Are Mexicans that happy?

Answer: I am often surprised but most Mexicans I know seem happy, even under difficult conditions. There are at least two possible explanations. The value system is different from many places, the United States, Japan and Germany, for example.

Happiness is not tied to job promotions, Mercedes super cars and mansions on mountaintops. Expectations are generally lower. Many do not enter the rat race.

Strange as it sounds, family, good food, good times and a sip of tequila are more important than pesos.

This is not one size fits all. That assessment does not apply to everybody. Of course there are ambitious type-A personalities in Mexico. Some are grasping for the moon. Some may have it.

I saw the study report which said Switzerland is No. 1 in happiness and that all Scandinavian nations are in the top 10. Secure employment and standard of living are undoubtedly factors in their satisfaction.

In considering Mexico happiness advantages, it has more ripe mangoes and some less snow than Norway.

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Question: Can an honest, willing-to-work Canadian get a job in Mexico?

Answer: Maybe, under certain circumstances. If you have a skill that is uncommon in the Mexican labor market, an established company might hire you. An advanced degree in mining, petroleum engineering or solar or wind power management would be a decent launch.

There are limited opportunities for professional athletes. There is some turnover in real estate sales where English is required. You can push time shares in Puerto Vallarta. There is a catch. You have to sell something to survive.

Teaching English is a possibility if you can neutralize your accent. Pay is low and you might not like study habits of some students who attend classes only because daddy says do it.

Foreigners can start their own businesses. There are hurdles to jump and hoops to dive through and forms to fill out in triplicate.

Patience and pesos are required at the start. Please hire Mexicans.

Here is free advice you did not request: Find a job in Ottawa, work hard, save your money and come to Mexico when you can afford to enjoy the scenery, terrific tacos and the people.

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Question: What is the story behind the story of the Mormon mother who was arrested on a Mexican bus and charged with smuggling marijuana?

Answer: Oh my, I was trying to forget that one. Error in judgment, shortage of common sense. It could have been a setup for a shakedown but it was likely just a blunder.

In case you missed it on the international news, here is the background: Yanira Maldonado, 42, mother of seven, went with her husband Gary from Arizona to Los Mochis for the funeral of a relative. On the way back to the border, their bus was stopped in Querobabi and everybody was ordered off for inspection. Police or soldiers checked everything, even luggage.

An officer reported finding two packages of marijuana, 12 pounds, under the seats the couple had occupied. Both were arrested. It was later decided one package was under an empty seat. Gary was released. He hired a lawyer who suggested a $5000 bribe. Ouch.

The mother was locked up, guilty until proven innocent. Friends prayed. U.S. politicians sent dispatches. Fortunately, an investigation occurred. Video from the bus terminal at the origination point showed the two boarding without the packages of marijuana. A judge released Yanira. She lost nine days of her life.

Governor Guillermo Padres Elias of Sonora apologized for the ordeal. He took credit for making sure Yanira was safe and wasn't transferred to a federal prison. He said he worked to ensure court proceedings went quickly.

"In a few words I could say we're very sorry that she was in the wrong place in the wrong moment."

Here's the rub: The Mormon couple didn't look too much like drug smugglers and hiding marijuana behind your seat isn't very smart. Other passengers said one man who had been seated behind the Maldonados fled after the bus was flushed. You don't suppose he was the culprit?

Here is the silver lining: Yanira did not rip her native country. She did not exclaim how illogical was the arrest. She did not file suit against anybody. She said she will go right on riding the bus when necessary. She said she will visit Mexico again when there is a reason. She thanked those who prayed for her well-being.

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Question: Where in Mexico do you find books in English?

Answer: At our house would be a start. We have a few hundred, some imported each time we drive south, some purchased at estate sales, some rescued before they were dumped. None are classics. Most are mysteries.

The famous Lake Chapala Society has a loaner library.

Believe it or not, in many cities frequented by tourists are stores that sell books in English.

Examples: "Libros, Libros, Libros" in Mexico City is in the Lomas Barrilaco neighborhood. Sandi is the hot spot in Guadalajara. There is a tourist season bookstore, Alma Libre, in Puerto Morelos. They may be everywhere. There is a trick to finding those places. Ask around.

There is another interesting supply: We have found restaurants with a table in the corner set up for exchanges. Bring a book, take a book, mostly paperbacks, mostly romances.

The concept alarms me. Needing a book while waiting for your food implies the kitchen is very slow or the waiter just works on weekends.

Published or Updated on: June 14, 2013 by Marvin West © 2013
Contact Marvin West

Marvin West, mostly retired after just 42 years with Scripps Howard newspapers, is senior partner in an international communications consulting company. This column is from his forthcoming book, “Mexico? What you doing in Mexico?”  West invites reader reaction; his address is westwest6@netzero.com.
 

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