I’ve been living and working in Mexico for almost two years, and lately, I’ve been reflecting a great deal about my experiences-and my articles. I was going to write about Mexican family economics (and I will!), but for the moment, I need this month’s space to share some of the feelings that have resulted from all this serious thinking about my time in Mexico.
Lately, I’ve been shrouded with feelings of guilt. If you’ve been following my articles over the past year and a half, you will probably already know why. My first few articles are so positive and optimistic, and my last few are so caustic and critical. There has been a definite progression from praising Mexico to criticizing it, and that was never my intention. Why and how did this happen?
I must say, from day one, my point in writing these articles was to talk about differences between Mexico and American/Canadian culture and problems that a foreigner might face while living in Mexico. Therefore, it is pointless for me to write articles about things that are the same because it wouldn’t help the unsuspecting visitor to Mexico.
On the other hand, I have never intended to make Mexico sound like a bad place, because it certainly is not. In some ways, I think that my articles have become critical largely because I actually feel a part of the country now, and I can’t help but want to have an opinion about everything and change Mexico for the better. Indifference on my part, I think, would be worse than being critical because it would mean that I never fell in love with Mexico enough to care about its present or future.
The way I see it, there are four types of connections that Gringos have with Mexico.
- First, there are those that know very little about the country. Perhaps they have visited Cancun or La Riviera Maya and have seen enough to think that Mexico has great beaches and not enough to really see any authentic Mexican culture.
- Second, there are those who have become frequent visitors to the country. They visit every opportunity they can and often have very close Mexican friends or a boyfriend tying them to the country. I was one of these before I moved here to marry my husband. These people have seen authentic Mexican culture and have fallen in love with it. They will defend Mexico to their dying day because it harbors wonderful memories, beautiful friendships, and some sort of enchanting romantic charm for them.
- Third, there are people like me who have been living and working in Mexico for some time. We have been through the hassles of FM3s, bureaucracy, and trying to find the proper balance of adapting to Mexico and still maintaining the parts of our culture that we feel are worth keeping. We have married Mexicans or otherwise tied ourselves inextricably to a Mexican family. We still see Mexico’s charm, but it tends to get lost in our day-to-day existence as Mexico becomes just another place to live and work. Anywhere you live and work eventually loses its magic – it’s simply not a vacation anymore.
- And finally, there is the fourth type of gringo who has either lived here so long that they have adapted more or less completely to Mexican culture and don’t give cultural differences another thought, or they have enough money to create their own mini-US right here in Mexico.
Let me emphasize that I think all of these four types of relationships of Gringos to Mexico are wonderful and necessary. There is not one that is better than the other. We need each other to keep our vision of Mexican and American/Canadian culture real. Dialogue between us keeps us appreciating the foreign culture that has welcomed us, as well as the one we left behind but don’t necessarily want to forget. I am at the point now where I have done my best to become as Mexican as possible, but there are certain things that I refuse to compromise. And my personal experience has been yielding and giving in to everything Mexican. I think this is necessary; obviously you can’t expect to impose your culture on people in their own homes! But I think that what I have been looking for is a little more appreciation and understanding. Sometimes I wish people would understand that there is about 5% of my Americanness that I do not wish you give up.
A characteristic of my more recent articles is that I make terrible generalizations. I just said in the paragraph above, “I wish people”…What people? Well, the problem is I feel slightly guilty about being so honest on the internet about my life here. My articles would be offensive enough to those who know me here without putting their names, addresses, and social security number and announcing it to the public of Mexconnect.
At the same time, writing these articles and sharing my experience has helped me come to terms with everything I have gone through. They have been therapeutic and quite necessary for my sanity. So please, don’t take my stereotyping or generalizations too seriously. They are just that – stereotypes. Sometimes it’s because I feel I can’t name names, and other times my point in using them is to prove that you can’t stereotype a Mexican any more than you can stereotype an American. By being here and creating a dialogue with Mexico, we are working to break these stereotypes and show just how silly they are. So for example, if you read my last article, of course Mexicans read books. Some even have dogs in their houses. But not all Americans get divorced, either. It’s all ridiculous.
I have always been honest in my articles, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes genuine in my love and concern for this country. I won’t apologize for the transition I have made over the past year and a half, but I did reflect upon it, and I’d be lying if I said my relationship with Mexico hasn’t changed at all by living here. So take my articles with a grain of salt. The last thing in the world that I really want to do is insult Mexico in a truly mean and spiteful way. I am critical of the country the same way that I am critical of the US, because I now have roots in both places, and I care about what happens in both countries. My husband is Mexican, his family is Mexican, and my children will be half-Mexican. My children will be bilingual and have an appreciation for their American and Mexican sides, or I will die trying. I think it’s a privilege to be born into two cultures, just as it’s been an honor for me to learn to live and appreciate two very different countries.