Dear Mexico, I'm Sorry You Are So Misunderstood
Five Reasons to Dispel One-Dimensional Myths
I am not Mexican by blood, but I am Mexican in spirit. You see, I have discovered a culture that enriches my life and makes me a better American. I grow weary of hearing only about the Mexican immigrants who enter illegally, or how all of Mexico is perceived to be nothing but violent border towns run by drug cartels. It saddens me to think that the majority of Americans, and other citizens of the world, will never see the Mexico that I do. I have written extensively on this topic, but for the purpose of this piece, I have chosen five ways this country has edified my life; and believe me, there are many, many more. I dedicate this article to the people of Mexico who know how blessed they are to come from a land rife with an incredible history and agricultural abundance.
Mexicans live in the spirit of their ancestors- they create stunning art. The real Mexico is my spiritual place. When one travels to the interior of this majestic land, there is so much more than pristine beaches reserved for rich tourists. Mexicans come from centuries of artisanias who built great empires. I never grow weary of buying the colorful folk art that spills into town squares and city streets like overgrown flower gardens. Every piece of hand-crafted art represents a history rich in survival, conquest, faith and love. The indigenous peoples (made up of many Indian cultures) make their living with their hands. Their work is comparable to any European painting or sculpture sequestered in great American museums. I breathe the importance of life’s inherent gifts when I’m in Mexico because everywhere I go, I am bombarded with beauty, including dance, theater and the culinary arts.
Mexico may be poor in income per capita, but its citizens know how to live richly. Mexicans are humble people who give freely. I use the word humble in the truest sense of the word. They understand that you get back what you put in to life. If you work hard, you can keep your family fed and comfortable. If you love hard, you are blessed with a large family and many friends. Everything else is a bonus, and nothing is expected. In fact, based on the Mexican families with whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, I can safely say that Mexicans are happier than Americans. Their happiness is not based on how many things they can buy or how many degrees they can obtain in a lifetime; their happiness is based upon sharing sacred food, music, art and dance with family and friends whenever possible. Mexicans have taught me that wealth is found in a state of mind. This wealth runs rampant in Mexico because most Mexicans live in the moment with a faith in God that trumps all hardships.
I’m never afraid to travel alone in Mexico; crimes of violence are much higher in America. I have traveled alone in Mexico every summer for the past thirteen years. I am never afraid. Of course I am careful about when I am out and with whom, but I do that in my own town in America. Yes, there are drug cartels, as there are in the U.S. as well, but they are also in specific areas, such as border towns and water ports, where tourism is discouraged. I spend most of my time in colonial towns where the citizens tell me that a random murder is very rare. There are gang murders almost every day just 30 minutes from my sleepy, suburban town in California. Mexican citizens are, for the most part, family and faith oriented. Their children are raised with strong values within a close-knit family structure. Divorce rates are much, much higher in America. I am not just a tourist in Mexico; I am considered family everywhere I go. (Keep in mind that you have to be appreciative of the culture to receive such a warm welcome.)
Mexico has an impeccable service industry. I have traveled extensively in Europe and North America. Never have I had better service in hotels and restaurants than in Mexico. Out of thirteen Mexican summers, I have only been disrespected twice by a Mexican citizen. Neither act of disrespect was in a hotel or restaurant. A disgruntled flight attendant almost pushed me out of my seat on a late night bus ride from Mexico City to Cuernavaca because she was too tired to walk a few more feet; and, a bartender wouldn’t allow me to use the restroom when I ducked into his bar in the middle of a museum marathon one afternoon. He instantly judged me as the ugly American tourist. However, when I spoke Spanish and told him of my work with Mexican children in California, he apologized profusely and even cleaned the rest room for me. Waiters, waitresses and hotel staff remember me from year to year as a long lost friend. I have gone several years between places and I am still remembered with my favorite dishes. Mexico’s economy is based upon the service industry and it shows. I have never witnessed laziness or rudeness when I am being served in Mexico. It is my honor to leave ample tips for people who go above and beyond to share the pride they have in this multi-dimensional culture.
Mexicans from all socio-economic levels love their country with a passion. Yes, Mexico is a poor country. There are no social programs to take care of homeless families and the elderly, and poverty is visible everywhere. Even the multitudes of Mexicans who come to America for a better life are saddened to leave their homeland. I have interviewed Mexicans from all walks of life and they all say the same thing, “If our government officials did not take tax money earmarked for social programs as kickback for themselves, no one would leave. Unfortunately, most uneducated citizens from poor families cannot find jobs in Mexico. They are forced to seek jobs in America where they are courted by big business to work cheaply as farm and service laborers. In a perfect world, we would never leave this sacred land, the land of our ancestors who fought so valiantly to keep it for all generations.” And so I say to you, dear readers: Put Mexico on your bucket list. I dare you not to fall in love.