Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Most Hated Gringo in the World - 25

(For those who do not know, the title: The Most Hated Gringo in the World, was bestowed upon me by the Gringos in San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. It began with variations like, "You are the most hated expat in Guanajuato," and grew to a global-level title. Now, while whether "I am The Most Hated Gringo in the World" or not could be debated it is the title bestowed upon me by my enduring fans. I owe them all the credit!)

A Bamboozling Side Effect

The Gringolandizing infection is spreading. The traditional Prime Living Locations (and you should see the houses!) are now far too expensive for the retiree. They are, therefore, beginning to flood into non-traditional living locations in Mexico and are attempting to "Gringolandize" these areas.

What the potential Gringolandians are hearing about the non-Prime Living Locations is the same sales pitch; the same hornswoggling flimflam that life is cheap and easy. In areas of Mexico where life maybe cheap, life is anything but easy. In Guanajuato, I might add, real estate prices have risen at an eye-popping rate over the four years we've been here.

Also, the transition is beginning. The Guanajuato locals are scrambling to learn English. Just in the past three months, whenever we walk into town, locals who don't know us are now speaking English to us instead of Spanish (they see our Gringo faces and assume we can't speak Spanish). It's begun. The same cultural hybridization my social scientist friend describes in San Miguel de Allende has begun here. We see the difference, both gross and subtle, all over town.

The Plain Truth About Living in the Non-Prime Locations in México is life is not easy unless you set about mastering Spanish. Life considerably improved for my wife and I as we got better and better in Spanish. In fact, the other day I took a look at the more than 450 articles I've written since living in Guanajuato. I saw a trend in my writing that reflected my adjustment to the culture as my Spanish improved. The more Spanish I knew, the more I could ask and understand questions from the locals. This helped (and is helping) me to understand the cultural bumps in the road.

You've got to get this if nothing else rings your bell in this essay:

"Just how is the Gringo going to be regarded, or treated, in a city or town where the locals' bread and butter is not, and has not been, contingent upon the Gringo tourist or expatriate?"

The lady quoted above who said, " will find a strong family-centered life and a tightly- focused community..." cannot possibly be presenting this aspect of Mexican culture as an appeal to move here. Here's why.

The Mexican community is a tightly focused, strong family-centered culture. In fact, one cultural analyst I've read makes the statement that family groups are everything in Mexico.

However, if the writer who invites her readers to come one, come all to Puerto Vallarta to learn more is talking about the Mexican culture when making mention of finding "a strong family-centered life and a tightly-focused community...", and I rather think she was, you are not going to be knocking on the front door of Mexicans homes in the non-Prime Living Locations without possessing the passport to this aspect of Mexican culture: Spanish.

Nor are you, without Spanish, going to get an invitation to be a part of this "... strong family-centered life and a tightly-focused community."

Spanish is the portal to the culture. As almost every researcher who writes about the effect of Gringolandians on Mexico's culture report:

"In other words, to what extent do these American migrants assimilate into Mexican society? The answer is minimally. Few American residents of San Miguel speak Spanish, including those who have lived in the city for ten or more years." Quote Source

If American migrants to the Prime Living Locations in Mexico are not assimilating into Mexican society, then what are they doing?

They are Gringolandizing. They build and live in bubbled housing-Little American Enclaves-and look out at the real culture. They are not expatriates. They are Fakepatriates.

Note that contextually, the author of this quote links cultural assimilation with the learning of the language.

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