The Curiosity Never Stops
I was walking though a noisy political rally yesterday and I thought, why not write a blog? I like to write and I live in Mexico, a country that is greatly misunderstood by my people, Americans, as well as English-speaking people everywhere. There are huge issues on both sides of the border – immigration, drugs, past conflicts – and also a daily life that, for me, is often a routine as well a struggle of understanding. We are neighbors, but in many ways we are worlds apart.
A great exchange of culture occurs between Mexico and the US. While much of the world engages in boring debates about how American culture is taking over, Mexico invites all the McDonalds, Wal-marts, and all what goes along with them, but no one really seems to be afraid that Mexico is losing its culture. On the contrary, Mexican and Latino culture is becoming more and more important in America* every day.
Sure, plenty of Mexicans hate the US, but it is a good-natured, shoulder-slapping hate, unlike the hysterical, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs hate from certain people and groups within America or in other first-world countries I have visited, which is often the hate of someone inside the system who wants out, or at least wants to lay blame for the guilt they feel for their over-privileged lives. We’ve all seen anti-globalization protesters wearing branded clothing or heard drunken Canadians ranting about how obnoxious Americans are. Well, at least I have – not enough to want to ignore the terrible things my country has done and is doing, but enough to change tables.
In many places of the world Anti-Americanism is fashionable and expounded by the ignorant, but in far too many others it is completely justified. Mexico has been thoroughly screwed over by the US, both on a national and personal level. One third of their land was taken by us in the Mexican Cessation after the Mexican-American war, which ended in 1848. We Americans learn about this through the heroic eyes of Davy Crockett. Not so in Mexico. In the Mexico chapter of his book “Holidays in Hell,” PJ O’Rourke retells a joke he heard in Mexico.
“Why do you hate us?” asked the American.
“I don’t hate you, senor, but you did take a third of our land. And not only that, you took the third with all the paved roads.”
Two enormous issues are affecting both sides of the border in distinct but overlapping ways – immigration and the drug war. As I learn more I hope to explore these subjects in blogs. In Mexico the truth, even if it is complete bullshit, comes from the street, from the conversations I have with people from all walks of life, from students and businessmen to the guys who wash cars on the street outside my apartment.
Many Mexicans have crossed over to America, often illegally, or they know friends or family who have. The American perspective is interesting – most of it comes from people who have never been to Mexico and is often shaped by their experiences with Mexicans in America. Those who get their information from the television often imagine a surging wave of drug dealing Mexicans crossing the border at leisure, ready to take Uncle Leroy’s job away forever.
However, there is a large amount of grassroots support for immigration reform from middle class, moderate, “normal” Americans – people like my dad, who might be conservative on a lot of issues but who believes that Mexicans make up an important part of American society and workforce and therefore deserve better treatment. Also, support comes from unlikely sources – George W. Bush, asshole he was, wanted to naturalize all Mexicans living in America, convinced of their legitimacy because, being from Texas, he’s known Mexicans all his life.
People ask me why I moved to Mexico, and while there are many answers to that question, my favorite is that life here is always interesting. All I have to do is step outside my apartment and I am in for adventure, or at least a learning experience. Plus, I don’t live in glamorous, touristy Cancun or Acapulco; I live in Toluca, in central Mexico, the highest city here and capital of the most important state, not beautiful at first glance or even as a whole, but littered with pockets of beauty, either tucked away or so in-your-face that it takes many viewings to really see.
*A note about the words “America” and “American.” I describe myself as an “American” because the English language lacks an adjective to describe people from the United States. Latin Americans take exception to this because as they see it, they are Americans too. But the fact is that we don’t really have an alternate word, while adjectives for people from the US exist in Spanish – you can use “estadounidense” or “norteamericano.”
However, when you speak to people whose first language in Spanish, “America” should be used to refer to the continents of North and South America together, which are considered to be only one continent in Mexico and elsewhere. If you use it to describe the US, it is as if all the other countries in America are insignificant and subordinate. Think about it – what if the Chinese considered themselves alone as Asians? So, it is logical that when you are speaking to a Latin American, you should be aware of the perspective with which they view these words.