Mexico As A Concept

By: Douglas Bower

Americans are told through slick and appealing magazine ads and maybe a seminar or two that they can move to Mexico and miss nothing-all the comforts of home right here in Mexico. They can have everything in that nasty old Third-World country that they had in America. You don't have to miss your favorite TV shows because you can install satellite TV and have Desperate Housewives beamed into your Mexican living room. (Who wouldn't come running?) You learn that you can have absolutely everything you had in the States right here in Mexico at your disposal. You can transport all that you were in America to Mexico. It's like moving to another state in America where everything will be cheaper and the locals will just adore you and will be so thankful you came into their lives, "We are at your service, All Mighty American Expat. ("We are Americans, hear us roar!")

Who would not be attracted to that as the Concept of Mexico?

In other words, Americans think that because they have a familiarity with American-Hispanic culture in cities like Houston, Brownsville, Laredo, McAllen, Dallas, San Antonio, San Diego, Los Angeles, El Paso, that they have mastered Mexican culture and have a high degree of Mexican cultural fluency. They are, Americans would reason, the same people. They equate American-Hispanic culture and Mexico's culture as one in the same as so they reason they will have no problem adjusting to any of the Prime Living Locations where hundreds of American expats have carved out something from the unique local cultures of ancient Mexican cities and call it Expatriation. What is equally appealing and probably settles it in the minds of nearly 100% of Americans who move to these Prime Living Locations is that they could spend the rest of their days there and never have to utter one word of Spanish. And, that is true.

The Prime Living Locations in Mexico have within their Mexican cities Mexico as a Concept existing as a separate dimension. The American Gringos have created this alternate dimension within each Prime Living Location city into which the gringo wannebee enters and essentially lives their lives surround by other gringos that occupy this dimension. They eat and breathe a little America within this dimension that the Mexican calls Gringo Landia. The Gringolandians can look out and into Real Mexico. An American woman recently got a glimpse of the dual-dimensional cultural bubbles in San Miguel de Allende.

In an article in the L.A. Times, a lady visiting San Miguel de Allende made this comment about the Sunday House and Garden tour she took:

"It was at this point that I realized that if I really wanted a taste of Mexico, I might as well go home to Echo Park. The tour wasn't so much a backstage pass to aspirational cultural immersion as it was an English-only how-to guide for getting away from it all without giving anything up. Each dwelling was mostly notable for just how thoroughly the householders had managed to bring the comforts of the north into the wilds of the south."

The Gringo Landia dimension has all the gringos could ever want right down to a country-club, Disneyland-like lifestyle. The Mexican, who lives in Mexico as a Reality works side-by-side for the Gringos but have been driven away from where the Gringolandians reside because they cannot afford to live where they did formerly before the Gringos invaded. The occupants of Real Mexico, the locals, existing side-by-side with Gringo Landia's residents crossing each other's paths only when absolutely necessary.

The occasions during which a rift in the walls of these dimensional existences grow weak and must cross, leak, if you will, is when a Mexican has to serve a Gringolandian as a maid, gardener, a repairman, a roof contractor and his work team, or a public event. This is somewhat akin to when matter and antimatter mix. The resulting explosion can be catastrophic. And, there is a reason why the mixing of the two dimensions results in catastrophe.

For the American to think that because they may have a passing acquaintance with an American-Hispanic culture that this means they have mastered the Mexican culture is a grave error. This belief affects American-Mexican relationships from the Fortune 500 and 100 company's CEO's, who want to begin a business venture in Mexico, to the common ordinary American retiree who wants to retire in Mexico. They hold the gravely false belief that because they are acquainted with Jorge Garcia Mendoza Carrillo, a third-generation American of Mexican ancestry, they are experts in Mexican culture. They could not be more wrong.

A thoroughly Americanized person with Mexican roots, even though maintaining Spanish fluency, is no more biculturally capable of dealing with Mexican culture than is your Spanish-fluent Irish American. The linguistic ability is the key to the door of cultural mastery, but they may very well be as culturally inept as any other Spanish-speaking American coming into Mexico. What happens is a CEO of a company that has a branch in Mexico will send in a second-generation American-Mexican who has maintained his or her linguistic roots but not cultural roots fully expecting they will have no problem straightening out a problem that has arisen between the plant's American management and Mexican workers. They end up having to hire bicultural analysts (consultants) who have to come in to clean up the mess made by monocultural personnel.

If that happens (and it does all too frequently) within the confines of American companies trying to deal with Mexicans in a business setting, imagine what the gringo whose cultural mantra and proof of their cultural mastery is "Yo quiero Taco Bell" is going to encounter when moving to a Mexican city? Is it any wonder why the crossing of the dimensional rifts in an expat setting occurs in such an explosive concussion?

I tell you that if when peace does reign in an expat setting in the Prime Living Locations in Mexico, it is because of the almost saintly obsession of the Mexican detesting conflict and becoming accommodating to avoid the explosion. It can't be the Americans because the American way is something like, "If my Ugly American Syndrome doesn't get me what I want, I will just give them more Ugly American Syndrome."


NEXT: Mexico As a Concept and Not As a Reality part 5

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