Sunday, January 25, 2009

Learning Spanish – You've Got To Do It!

ICESI, the Employers’ Confederation (COPARMEX) and security experts say that more than 90 percent of the crimes reported in Mexico City go unpunished.

In more than 350 online and print (print newspapers and magazines) articles, four books, and countless Blog and Website entries, I have stressed, among many things, the vital and even potentially life-saving importance of Learning Spanish if you want to live in Mexico. I would even go as far to say that to qualify for a FM3 or FM2 visa, you should be required to have an intermediate to high-intermediate proficiency in the language.

On so many levels this is such a demonstrable thing.

I've written about a friend who had a seizure in a town in Mexico where English was not widely spoken. She was rushed to an emergency clinic where no one spoke English. Though she turned out to be fine, she was unable to communicate her rather complex medical history to the doctor. My critics have offered the idea that there are English-speaking doctors in the town where this woman was an expat. However, "so what" is what I say to that! When seconds count in a life-threatening emergency, do you want to wait for the almost impossible task of finding an English-speaking doctor or some passerby who is willing to be a translator?

Here's another point about which I am convinced that no matter how hard and long I harp, Gringos from San Miguel de Allende to Puerto Vallarta will never concede.

If you can't read, speak, or write in the language, how will you ever, no matter how long you live in Mexico, know what to do when crime comes knocking at your front door?

A salient example of this was in the new "Gto_List". This stands for "Guanajuato List" and is a chat forum on Google created for expats in Guanajuato to keep in touch.

Recently, there was a posting on the Gto_List that detailed one of its members, a long-time expat, who was hit up (extorted) for money by the police. It was a "protection" money racket perpetrated by a young man dressed as Guanajuato cop. Now, whether this guy was a cop or not is anyone's guess. I would not have doubted it since the perpetrators in this sort of illegal racket are too often really police.

Anyway, the poor woman, the victim, wrote a plaintive cry on the Gto_List asking what to do.

What would you guess was the universal answer?


Language is the portal to the culture and once you walk through the portal of culture, linguistically prepared, you just may not like what you see.

To call the police to report the police is asking for trouble in ways unimaginable.

When Gringos gave the advice to call the cops, they were revealing their massive cultural ignorance and the fact that they can't read, speak, or write Spanish. If they had any ability whatsoever in the language, read the newspapers and watched the local news programs, they would have known that not even the Mexicans in this country call the police.

"To Protect and to Serve" is an American euphemism or axiom that reflects an American cultural set piece and not Mexican.

The police in Mexico are not seen as agents of "Protection and Service." In fact, most crimes in Mexico go unreported for the very reason that the police cannot be trusted.

And, you cannot possibly know this apart from reading, writing, speaking, and listening to the news reports on TV or in the paper.

What is utterly maddening about this is how I have been preaching this non-stop in my books, articles, and in anything else I can get published. And yet, the response from Americans has been invective, vitriolic, threatening on the same level of Mexican extortionists, filling me with as much terror as I feel when I read about local news events in the Mexican newspapers.

Here is an example of the mentally disturbed illusion that so permeates the Gringolandian's mindset:

"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. The people are almost always willing to stop whatever they are doing to be of assistance to a friend, a neighbor or a stranger. It seems they welcome any opportunity to be helpful. Isn't that the way life should be?"

Keep this phrase, "… more respectful of their fellow man…" in mind while reading the Guanajuato Newspaper, El Correo, which reports,

"According to data provided by the Federal Ministry of Public Security, in the first half of 2008 have been over 893 thousand attempted extortions.

Since 2001, more than eight million 770 thousand people have received calls of attempted extortion, which have been used more than 55 thousand 600 wireless numbers. 40 per cent of these numbers for the Federal District." (Sin opciones, los comerciantes se rinden ante extorsionadores;

You can find cases in chat rooms and forum postings of allegations of Americans now receiving these "pay up or we kill your husband/wife" cell phone and home calls. I heard of one report right here in Guanajuato although I cannot confirm it.

If you can't read Spanish fluently (too bad for you), you are missing out on a heart-breaking interview in El Correo in which a Mexican businessman details his story of victimization by those Mexicans who are the people who "…seem to have the ability to enjoy life, be more hospitable, more respectful of their fellow man."

In the story, he asks rhetorically just how did these extortionists get his cell and home phone numbers and address?

The obvious answer is the widespread institutional corruption that dominates and permeates everything here. Telephone and cellular phone company employees would have sold the information to the extortionists.

And, by the way, the individual in El Correo interview did NOT report his victimization to the police.

For an English resource that seems to accurately reflect what you can read in the Mexican Newspapers, go to this site:

So, if you plan on moving to Mexico, you've got to have the resolve to stay out of the uniformed Gringo Bubbles (Gringolandias) and stay informed through the local and national news media. To do that, you've got To Learn Spanish –You've Got To Do


Please check out my new book by Clicking Here.

No comments: