Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Most Hated Gringo in the World Report – 19

I was having coffee with a couple that, for the most part, share my view of life in Guanajuato. Mind you, we all agreed that Guanajuato really appeals to many Gringos (albeit those woefully equipped to ferret out the culture), but we also agreed we wanted to experience life in another part of Mexico.

And, that's ok on both counts. If we would rather experience a different interpretation of Mexican culture seen in other regions of the country, then that's ok. If you love terminal provinciality, then more power to you. The point being, don't threaten the life of your fellow gringo for holding a more informed and well structured argument for why he or she wants to live somewhere other than Guanajuato.

Our coffee klatch partners asked just what it was I've written over the past years that has earned me the title of The Most Hated Gringo in the World.

In a nutshell, here is why I think the Gringolandians (not the expats but the fakepats) want me dead. It is for trying to explain the following:

We began meeting Mexicans in Guanajuato who were not from Guanajuato. They were in Guanajuato for reasons like marriage, school, or employment. They were born in other regions of Mexico. They were raised in other states but spent most of their lives in Guanajuato. Even those who had spent most of their lives in Guanajuato were, as is typical in Mexico culture, raised at home in the culture of their "home region."

What I mean is that if so-and-so was born in Guadalajara and left for Guanajuato when she was ten years old, she and her siblings would have been raised at home as those from Guadalajara.

The first Mexican lady we met and with whom we discussed Guanajuato Culture was born and raised in Chihuahua City in the state of Chihuahua. She is the wife of a Guanajuato University Professor. She was the first to tell us that though she had been in Guanajuato for ten years, she had no friends. She went on to tell us of the virtual impossibility to make friends with Guanajuatenses (those from Guanajuato).

The second lady we met was a store vendor. While casually talking with her about where we were all from, she mentioned her roots were also from Chihuahua City. We mentioned that we knew someone who said such-and-such about Guanajuatenses. She not only confirmed what the first woman said, but went on to say that the people of Guanajuato were "closed" to the point of being uber-provincial or xenophobic. Though she didn't use those words, that is what I could gather from the Spanish terms she used. She also said the only friends she had were those Mexicans who lived in Guanajuato but were not originally from Guanajuato.

The third lady we met was a restaurant worker. She was from Zacatecas and was a fresh transplant to Guanajuato. I mentioned to her what our friends from Chihuahua had told us about the people of Guanajuato. The lady from Zacatecas confirmed this as well. Only she added words like selfish and unkind.

When I wrote about this, I got called a racist, bigot, and "Hitler." How Hitler comes into the picture I cannot possible begin to know or explain, but that's what Mr. Bill called me in response to that article.

I also got demands to tell the names of the people who had been telling me this stuff.

Now, I am sure that if I got death threats as the result of quoting my Mexicans friends, I wasn't going to be so incredibly stupid as to give the names of those telling me that Guanajuatenses were unkind, unfriendly, and xenophobes. Mr. Bill and his cohorts would have gone after them too, I am almost positive.

I did go to an American who had related a story to us about a Canadian women and her small son who got a firebomb thrown over the wall of the house they were staying in. What a loving attitude those Guanajuatenses offered this poor terrified woman. I told the American pal who told me this that the Gringolandians who were after my hide called me a liar because I would not name names. In calling me a liar, they were calling my friend, who told me the event he witnessed, a liar as well.

Another person offered some additional and very interesting observations. She has lived in Guanajuato for more than two decades. She is Mexican-American.

In an online chat, I asked her:

Have you ever spoken with Mexicans from other regions of the Republic
who have commented on GTO's "provinciality" and what have they
indicated were their feelings.

Notoriously xenophobic

The exchange went on:

We've spoken to Mexicans from three of the Northern states
who have indicated GTO was too closed of a society to get to know anyone as a
friend. We know two from Zacatecas who tell us they've lived in GTO for
more than 10 years each and have no friends who are Guanajuatenses.

Yes, I've heard the same thing.

Do you know of Guanajuatenses who all but eschew those Mexicans or other
Latinos (or Gringos) who are not Guanajuatenses?

To be accepted here you have to be third generation, even if you are Mexican.

Now, correct me if I am wrong here, but this is exactly, almost verbatim, what I have been writing for more than five years about Guanajuato.

I wrote her about how stunned I was to hear her telling me the same things for which I have been scorned and wished dead. Here was her response:

"…You have to look at a bigger picture. Mexican society is composed of closed units, starting with the family - always has been, for survival and security reasons - especially now. You could say all these units, from the family, to the neighborhood, the political party, to the class are all xenophobic out of necessity not just in Gto but in Mexico. However, I'll admit that Gto. is famous all over Mexico for being a closed society."

"Reflect on the reciprocal relationship between vernacular architecture and the culture that lives in it."

"A factor that augments GTO's xenophobia is the architecture. 80% of the streets are inaccessible by car. The city itself is enclosed in a bowl, even the geography is inward-looking, the outside world shut out. In the callejónes human contact is personalized, unified - everybody knows everybody and their entire family history. The "in" side of xenophobia is that you really belong, there's "us" and "them". All for one and one for all - a very comforting security policy only a few groups in the world still experience. In times of insecurity, xenophobia naturally increases. Outsiders are conspicuous and permanent - even the cops are afraid to go into callejónes."

"The callejónes are like neighborhood living rooms, nobody goes there but family. How would you feel if a foreigner came and sat in your living room and demanded you talk English? What do you expect? Gringo expats are absolutely conspicuous, quintessential outsiders, and from a country that is unpopular from the Mexican point of view - to say the least. Do you think Mexicans don't resent the way their immigrants are treated in the US? Maybe one of those rude shopkeepers lost a relative crossing the same border that is no problem for you. Most ex-pats are totally ignorant about Mexico, refuse to learn Spanish and are hence rude and inappropriate. So there's lots of reasons - but yes, you're right."

Her observations more or less floored me.

My use of "Provinciality" to describe Guanajuato was perhaps too soft.

My 100% fluent in Spanish half-Mexican and half-American friend's use of Xenophobic is right on target, I would propose.

Just today, in a conversation my wife had with a Mexican woman with whom she is helping with her English, these things were once again confirmed.

This fledging English student has lived in Guanajuato since she was ten years old. She is now in her sixties. She is originally from Guadalajara. Though living here all these years, she was raised at home like a person from Guadalajara.

Speaking about the local expression of culture in Guanajuato the woman confirmed with my wife that she has no friends because her family is not from here but rather from the costal city of Guadalajara. She has had one friend all these decades and that's because this friend is also from outside Guanajuato. My wife's student confirmed the rudeness of Guanajuatenses. The difficulty in getting someone in a store to wait on you rather than be treated like you are scum for bothering to come into their establishment.

We noted this long ago and have never been wrong in guessing that a friendly store clerk has to be from out of the state. When we've asked, we've been on target that this friendly store clerk was not a local.

The reason I think I am scorned and threatened for writing about these observations is that Gringolandians are so deluded in trying to grasp Mexican culture, and the various local expressions of it, that:

"There are Americans here who fit the stereotype of the "Ugly American" – they want everybody in Mexico to conform to their expectations. At the other extreme, there are Americans here who are so gullible they fail to see the culture’s defects. Everything, no matter how objectionable, is "a beautiful native custom" and all Mexicans "are a beautiful people".—A. Wall

No comments: