Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Most Hated Gringo in the World Report – 18


One of the many reasons for having the title The Most Hated Gringo in the World bestowed upon yours truly is that I dared to begin writing about Mexican Culture. This so irked the Gringolandians into having a psychotic break that all they could offer as a counter argument was something along the lines of:

"I've lived here longer than you have and therefore you are the most ill-informed Gringo who has ever stepped one foot over the border."

Seriously, I am not kidding. That is a direct quote. This is representative of the majority of responses I received (all anonymous, you must not forget) when I offered an explanation for the following scenario:

During the first months we lived in Mexico, we took refuge in a little barrio most of the Gringolandians had never heard of before. Picture it: here are harping, screed-retching Gringolandians who offer as their idea of logic in a Junior High School taunt that they've been in Guanajuato longer than I have and they had never in their vast Expat (fakepat) experience heard of the barrio of which I speak. One lady claimed to have lived in Guanajuato for years and had to ask me where this supposed barrio was.


There was a small store in this cute little barrio where the wife became accustomed to shopping and where she got to know the storekeeper rather well. It was in this store where my wife first began noticing that Mexicans seemed not to have a clue about lining up or queuing. Nor did they have a clue about what "taking your turn" meant.

My wife would experience getting shoved out of the way, having Mexicans shout orders over her, and even once, having given her order to her storekeeping friend, was violently elbowed out of the way by Mexican women. It left a bruise.

So, my wife asked (in Spanish) what was going on.

My wife's Mexican storekeeper friend said that those who were shoving her out of the way were Malcriadas.

This means something like badly raised.

You would have thought, by the Gringolandians' reactions to my reporting this that I had actually said that Mexican women have sex with burros and that their sons are the issue thereof.

This is, in my best estimation, where the Gringolandians' death march for me began.

Malcriadas was the first explanation we got when we asked a Mexican what was this free-for-all Turkish Bazaar behavior all about over a kilo of tortillas.

We didn't stop with that explanation nor with reporting what additional information we discovered.

Another Mexican offering an explanation told us that older Mexican women think that their age gives them the right to cut into line, shove your sorry Gringo Nalga out of the way, and be waited on first.

Another explanation is rather more complicated and is offered by a Cultural Analyst, Ned Crouch.

If you are thinking of coming to Mexico as an Expat or even a tourist, pick up a copy of Ned Crouch's book, "Mexicans and Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code." It is the rare book that spans all spectrums and is universally applicable to help you understand what exactly you are getting into when coming to Mexico.

In the small store counter scenario, here is what you are encountering:

This situation brings to bear the Mexican Culture sense of space, time, and the very real and ever present sense of Group Orientation.

Whereas Americans are the Me, Me, Me, and I culture, Mexico is not.

On the customer side of the store counter, you are standing in the space designated as "customer space." This is where people stand when they want to be waited on and possibly buy something from the store counter. This is not true necessarily in a modern supermarket, although if there is a meat counter, for example, this dynamic reasserts itself.

In the customer space where people loiter and wait to get waited on, the Mexican concept of time kicks in. Just because you were there first means nothing. You are one member of the customer group's space. Time does not move like an arrow shot through the air but like a river. Time flows. Sometimes a river moves fast and then sometimes slowly.

In the minds of all those hovering around you in the customer group's space, everyone is there at the same time. There is no individuality; there is the "group." You are all there at the same time and will eventually all get waited on, so what is your namby-pamby Gringo problem?

So when the little old lady (900 years old and counting) shows up and pushes you out of the way to shout her orders over you like a Marine calling the order to charge up the hill, she is asserting herself as part of the group. She is in "Group Time" and not on Gringo Time. There is no, "I was here first." There is, "We are here. It is group time now."

For the store clerk not to answer the old woman who rudely interrupted you giving your order would be disrespectful. It would not acknowledge the old lady as a part of the group.

There is no sequence of events. There is the group. All of you as The Group are being waited on.

Now…while this explanation seems to be a better one, I have talked with Latinos from other parts of the Hispanic world about this. When asked, they plainly, succinctly, and boldly say that Mexicans are just plain rude.

One thing that is observable is that they do this to one another as well as to the Gringos. So, it isn't a "We- hate-Gringo Issue."

Store clerks who are living in Guanajuato but who hail from another region of Mexico will tell the Guanajuatenses that they have to wait their turn. You would have thought they had been slapped in the face when they grudgingly go to the back of the line.

Interestingly, each time we've witnessed this, a store clerk telling a Guanajuatense he or she has to wait his or her turn, we've asked the clerk where he or she was born. The answer has always been that the person was born outside Guanajuato.

This is Guanajuato's Provinciality. Love it or leave it. It's one of the not-so-endearing traits.

Why do the Gringolandians' respond so violently to my writing about these cultural issues?

Because they wouldn't be caught dead shopping in a small neighborhood store. They either shop at the supermarkets or send their maids to do the shopping.

They continue in their bubbled existence and wouldn't know if this took place, much less be able to explain it.

They've told me, and sincerely believe this, that I made it all up.

No comments: