Friday, January 2, 2009

The Most Hated Gringo in the World – 28

What I did not count on when I began writing was the multitude of readers who would buy the books I wrote and, in turn, try to give a "reader's review" of the book on which, in essence, amount to personal attacks.

You've got to know something that I have, in recent days, figured out. There are two types of Gringos who move to Mexico. What I am talking about is a kind of demographic of immigrants (if you can even call them immigrants) of those who move here and call themselves expats (fakepats?).

One type, and this is a rare minority, is the Gringo who moves here with the intention of learning Spanish and trying to integrate into the culture as much as is humanly possible. This type will have some variations but there is this drive to be a part of Mexico. Whether or not they make it is dependent upon all manner of variables, but they seem to stay in there swinging that linguistic and cultural bat.

The other type definitely makes up the majority of Gringos in Mexico. They tend to be liberals in both politics and religion. That is to say they are democrats and more or less have no religion. They tend to be of a certain temperament type, which is, I must insist, the stereotypical American that most of the Mexicans we know believe is true of all Americans. They know virtually no Spanish and care only that the culture of Mexico is there to serve them.

Now, here's where it gets very interesting. Type one will buy our books, read our articles, and review them. What I mean by review is that they will make critical remarks and you can tell from how they refer to examples in the books and articles that they've actually read them.

Type two, the ravaging and raging liberal, also buys the book…maybe. Some of them read the free chapter, look at the table of contents, read the other liberals' comments, and then launch into something like this:

P. Chapin "patchapin" (Pahrump, Nevada) - See all my reviews

If you want to find out about Mexico, don't buy this book! Not only badly in need of editing, it is so far out of line with Mexico the fool might as well write about living on the moon.

It is so inaccurate, so filled with Anglo-only perception, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This person just loves the sound of his own voice and opinions. He manages to miss the target no matter how he approaches it.

pat chapin

The real expatriate, not the Fakepatriate, tends to write something like this:

The Plain Truth About Living in Mexico

Highly Recommend, September 8, 2006 By Bruce Drake (Washington, DC) Former Editor with NPR News As someone who has visited Mexico several times as I struggle with my study of Spanish, and who is thinking of moving there, I found this book to be far superior to the general run of guides on the expatriate life or retiring in Mexico. Some of the others of this genre just lack the ring of authenticity, or seemed to be aimed at people with a lot of bucks who are headed for a gated community or an expensive house in Cabo San Lucas. But the Bowers' book has that ring of authenticity and is squarely aimed at the (for lack of a better cliché) "average Joe" who is looking for a life that is different and/or better and needs down-to-earth practical advice on how an American can make this transition.

To date myself, the Bowers' reporting reminds me of the usefulness of a Travel Forum I used to frequent on one of the pioneer online services, CompuServe, where I got the best travel ideas and advice ever from the many participants who gave their firsthand reports, and to whom you could pose the kinds of questions that you don't see answered in newspaper travel sections or guidebooks.

So, if this is the kind of information you are looking for, buy this book as well as the Bowers' book on Guanajuato.

How does one reconcile this? How does one put the pieces of this puzzle together? Here you have a woman, who is an artist and this, frankly, explains a great deal, who resorts to a personal attack in calling me a "fool" while the other reviewer, with impeccable journalistic credentials, reviews the book favorably.

One woman from New York (also explains a great deal) wrote on that she was going to get on a plane, come to Guanajuato, Mexico (where I live), find me, and then was going to slap the stuffing out of me. took off that threatening review.

I've gotten death threats.

I've also had Americans who have come to Guanajuato, found my home, and thanked me profusely for writing the books and for my honesty about life as an American expat.

Just the other day, a couple from Dallas bought us coffee and breakfast to thank us for the help the books have been to them in deciding to come here for language school and eventual expatriation. I was so embarrassed at the praise this kind-hearted woman and her husband were heaping upon me that I thought I would sprout wings and a halo.

Here is a quote from a reviewer of another popular book about Mexico on Amazon that pretty much sums up the truth about touring or living here:

"Having traveled around Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Baja by bus, camioneta, bicycle, and foot, I was amused by the authors' insight.

But Mexico is DANGEROUS, and this book wishfully and flatly denies it. I and other Mexiphiles that I traveled/consorted with are survivors of violent muggings. One, a Mexican-American who went to Mexico City for back surgery, was kidnapped (and miraculously, released alive after three harrowing days). YMMV. Thugs know you're unarmed and carrying what to them is serious cash, or that you are a woman with no recourse.

This book has a strong following among those who have yet to meet with danger. There is just no getting through to these industrial-strength deniers. I stayed with some in an expat colony (read "trailer park") in south Baja. They vaunt this book for telling it like it is but they rarely venture beyond their fortified perimeter.

For a realistic, balanced perspective, at least glance at the country info sheet for Mexico on the State Department's travel site. Try The Daughters of Juarez for insight about the police, if you don't have enough of your own already. Google for "CNN kidnappings."

And Mexico is no longer as cheap as the authors pretend: Mexico's economy has reached the trillion-dollar mark due to trade opening up via customs unions such as NAFTA. Prices are generally rising because more of the people are prosperous and are spending more. Some were left behind, and here's hoping you don't encounter any of those at gunpoint. (In Guadalajara, expect high U.S. prices on everything.)

This is good for exploring backpackers (as opposed to vacationers who just stay put in a pricey resort), but more caution and funds are needed than the authors let on.

UPDATE: In the latest edition, they open their chapter on safety by stating that personal crime stories outlive actual conditions by years. Then they "prove" that the U.S. is more dangerous than Mexico by quoting books published in 1908 and 1931! Hypocrisy.

There is an undercurrent of anti-Americanism throughout. No surprise, I guess, considering the title.

An example of the carefully-crafted sentences in the safety chapter: "In fact, statistics show that you are more likely to be the victim of violent crime while in the United States than in Mexico." But "in fact" they don't cite any statistics. They don't even name their source(s). They don't explain that violent crimes commonly go unreported in Mexico for a variety of reasons and ergo aren't reflected in any statistics. I asked a priest why they didn't report a robbery of the rectory ("Please don't say anything!"). They didn't want the newspaper advertising them as a lucrative target. A woman who tries to report an assault is humiliated in front of male officers and/or a waiting room full of people who are there to report other crimes. Many locals dismiss the notion of reporting a crime to the police as futile; even if they report it, it doesn't get entered and tracked in a computer system. Statistics are often scrubbed when reported to higher-ups to make it appear that everything's fine. "

This reader's statement found in the quote, "For a realistic, balanced perspective..." is absolutely what I have been trying to do: present a reality check for those who could be fooled by the hype (deception) that is designed to get you to buy real estate.

By the way, the book this large quote is referring to is one of the many I've read. Those who detract my books refer to it as the book you should read if you want to know the truth about Mexico.

Type two Gringos do not want their illusions questioned. They want to think of Mexico and Mexicans as safe, sweet, endearing, honest, waiting to serve the American, etc.

They will not entertain one word that says anything else.

And, that's all I am saying!

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