Friday, December 12, 2008

The Most Hated Gringo in the World - 24

I am often accused of being "too repetitive" in my writing. Well, too bad. It bears beating the proverbial Dead Horse when the myths about living in Mexico, Guanajuato specifically, are continually perpetrated only so real estate people can get rich off of the unsuspecting and ill-informed who keep buying houses with this idea that Mexico is the Promised Land. And, I am now beginning to suspect that this will most certainly get worse before it gets better with the real estate shysters telling the Somewhere-Over-The-Rainbow group that Mexico is the answer to their recession woes. Just watch.

As quoted in my last Blog entry, here is a Gringolandian hyperbole:

"The people of Mexico routinely treat strangers with warmth and curiosity. The people here seem to have the ability to enjoy life, be more hospitable, more respectful of their fellow man."

I have some very salient examples of what life can be like living in Guanajuato should you make the mistake of choosing this area to begin your expat adventure.

But, before I list them, you've got to understand a secret that few, if any, Gringolandians ever in their lives come close to understanding. And the reason is the Gringolandians, not Gringos but Gringolandians, routinely move to Mexico based on hype and propaganda as evidenced in the above quote. They look, and not too far, to find an overly inflated, pumped up illusion or Concept of what living in Mexico is really like.

The Gringolandians keep recycling the same deception over and over again to subsequent new additions to the local Gringolandia, keeping the delusions fresh and dynamic. They even keep recycling the same "Mexican Friends" as their proof that Mexico is the New Utopia in which you will live in heaven itself.

Warmth and Curiosity

Guanajuato is known all over Mexico as one of the most closed Mexican regions (societies) in the Republic. We caught on to this when our Spanish began to become good enough to interview Mexicans on the street. For example, we were in a local restaurant when the hostess, dressed very smartly in her beige coat and dress, began a casual conversation with us. While complimenting us on our Spanish, she asked how long we've lived in Guanajuato. We learned she was from Zacatecas and asked her what she thought Guanajuato was like compared to her home state. Well, you would have thought we had opened a floodgate. She told us that Guanajuatenses, people from Guanajuato, were so closed so as to be virtually impossible to get to know. She used language in Spanish that conveyed the idea of clannishness in the extreme.

Two additional testimonials to this little bit of unknown truth about Guanajuato were verified by two ladies we met from Chihuahua City. Both of them, one of whom became a close friend, told us they had lived in Guanajuato for more than 10 years without making a friend. Our landlady, who is from Guadalajara, told us though she's lived in Guanajuato for more than 50 years, she's been the house of a fellow Guanajuatense only once. She has no friends other than her dear husband and us.

Unless you hail from three generations of Guanajuatenses, and are catholic, you are not accepted in this town. And mind you, I am talking about how Guanajuatenses treat their fellow Mexicans from other states in the country!
So, how does this work out with the Gringo?

Try walking into the athletic shoe store in the mall and see how you will NEVER be waited on. Watch how the clerk sees potential MEXICAN clients who she bounds up to with a cheery smile and a musical lilt in her voice and sings forth, "A sus ordenes…" – At Your Service. Then watch the look come across her face that goes something like: "Maybe that Gringo Slime will just die."

Try getting a coffee at the Italian Coffee Shop in Guanajuato's Historic Center and see how you are regarded as an interruption and when they do finally find the time to throw a menu at you, you are looked at like they are now going to hate you to the grave for having to look at you and breathe the same air.

I am not making this stuff up.

I am not sure which Mexico people are talking about when they say, "The people of Mexico routinely treat strangers with warmth and curiosity. The people here seem to have the ability to enjoy life, be more hospitable, more respectful of their fellow man."

We have lived here for more than six years and are still looking for that Mexico!

A cab driver pal told me that if a Gringo does not try to speak Spanish, the fare doubles.

A 78-year-old woman and her forty-something daughter who have been born and bred in Guanajuato told us they don't get why any American would love to live in Guanajuato because of the way they are treated here. Everything I have written about life in Guanajuato I have gotten from these ladies and other Guanajuatenses whose hardcore shells we eventually were able to crack. This elderly Guanajuato resident told us the further north you move in Mexico, the better the Gringo is treated.

Just today, we had the horror of trying to get on a bus to get home from a downtown trip. The cabs were not showing up, so we grudgingly decided to bus.

If you doubt at all anything I have written in the Blog, any of my books, any of my print and online stories, just come here and try riding a bus. No…wait…first try traversing a set of stairs to get to the underground bus stop and then try getting on the bus. It is a disaster.

First, Mexicans show their Spanish cultural heritage when traversing staircases. They do not queue or walk in an orderly fashion up and down the stairs. Apparently, no one ever informed this country that traffic on stairs could be managed most effectively by having lines of humanity walking up and down at the same time on opposite sides of the staircase. Mexicans, like their modern Spanish cousins, surge. If you are trying to go the opposite direction of the surge, just give up, relent, thrown in the towel, surrender, because you can't win. You will have to wait until the surge of hundreds disperses.

Then try getting on the bus.

Second, this is where the respect for their fellow man really shines. They not only also surge in a mad dash for the bus door but also will do one or all of the following:

Pinch you on your ass to make you turn around so they can duck under your flailing arms to get on the bus before you.

Grab the pockets on the back of your pants and pull you backwards so they get to jump your place in line. Sometimes a variation on this technique is that they spin you around so you end up actually facing away from the door.

As soon as you grab the bus door handles to hoist your traumatized Gringo self into the bus, they simply duck under your arms. You see Gringos are all the size of Jolly Green Giants on steroids compared with the average Mexican. The Mad-Hatter Mexican is aware of this and uses this technique often.

Well, today we were in a bind and had to take a bus home. As soon as we saw our bus coming, we pulled a TMOTypical Mexican Operation.

I screamed to my wife, "RUN!"

As we were running to the door, I held out my arms like wings with my hands pointing to the ground as though I were a turkey in distress contemplating Christmas dinner, and flapped my arms back and forth. I kept one eye on my wife while watching the "duckers" trying to dodge my flapping arms (I realize this seems a bit deranged and frankly I do not care). One lady, an ass-pincher (more on that later), tried ducking under my left hand but to evade her, all I had to do is dip my knees slightly while wagging my hand as though I were in the throes of a profound seizure.

The lady I was able to successfully prevent from squeezing between my wife and myself (another common Bus Combat Tactic) got on the bus with a look on her face of sheer hatred and I am sure she was contemplating just how she would kill me the next time. She squeezed past me once the bus was in motion and exacted her revenge with an ass pinch.

Once I had a man actually put his arms in a bear hug around me and throw me from the bus's first step just so he could get into the bus first.

More Hospitable and Respectful

I wonder which Mexico is more hospitable and more respectful of their fellow man? One of the things Gringolandians try telling you is that the Mexican is so patient and will treat you so lovingly while patiently trying to help you with your bad Spanish.

In Guanajuato, be prepared to have someone (or several people) laugh in your face when you speak Spanish to him or her. Of course, not all Guanajuatenses without exception will do this, but a significant amount, especially the younger ones, will totally roust you when you try getting them to help you. Whether in a frutería, carcineria, or a dulcería, you can be pronouncing your Spanish perfectly and they will pretend they can't understand you….

Or, if you are really lucky and the boss isn't there, they will simply shrug their shoulders and tell you over and over again that they can't understand you.

Here's a tip: They simply don't want to wait on a Gringo.

This has happened between Guanajuatenses and others from different regions of Mexico or Latin America.

So, my quote:

"The people of Mexico routinely treat strangers with warmth and curiosity. The people here seem to have the ability to enjoy life, be more hospitable, more respectful of their fellow man."

…is the epitome, the zenith, the height of superlative hyperbole, especially in Guanajuato!


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