Apr 11, 2009, 6:07 PM
Post #19 of 69
Two things I find more interesting are that people think the word "gringo" is pejorative (not recognizing its root in medieval Castillian "greigo" ... Greek... as in the English saying "It's Greek to me": basically meaning people who use a different language) and that people seem personally offended to see beggars.
Mexican culture long predates our notions of the "deserving" poor. Poor and hungry is poor and hungry. Indigenous thinking (and law) required feeding those unable to feed themselves and recognized the rights of the people unable to care for themselves to take what they needed. Famously, corn within your reach from the path was yours for the picking... but only if you needed it.
Iberian culture has roots in Islamic, Judaic and Roman cultures. All recognized the moral value of giving charity (and saw it as a benefit not to the recipient, but to the donor... "better to give than to receive," as it says in the New Testament). That's taken literally. While people do write checks to the Red Cross, there is no quid pro quo of virtue in that. As recipient, you are exhibiting humility, a virtue not much encouraged in northern (Protestant) cultures, but more importantly, as donor, you are practicing charity in a much more personal way than when you send off a check (or make a paypal donation).
Famously, there is an order of nuns who beg on the streets in Mexico City, not because they are poor, but because humility is a virtue. Maybe your gringo beggar just is practicing humility.
Or he's unable to care for himself. Assuming the fellow is (a) gringo -- and not a Mexican of less indigenous ancestry than others or an immigrant or first generation immigrant, and (b) his visa is not one that allows him to earn his own income through his own effort, and (c) he's not just a very bored rich eccentric then the most likely explanation is that he is mentally ill.
Still, there's that unstated assumption that a "white" person should be immune from misfortune (and that "brown" people somehow earn their woes) which is much, much more troubling than a guy begging for a few pesos.