I’m in the Autobus on the way from Ixtapa to Zihuatanejo. The fare has gone up to 12 pesos (60-cents), quite a hike since my first jitney-bus ride four decades ago when the fare was 5 pesos, accepted with a hearty gracias amigo.
The van itself looks the same, dented and in need of a wash, rows of benches bolted to the floor, a running board for agile teenagers to leap on and off like aspiring matadors. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same one! In Mexico, thrift and hardship combine to foster a save and re-use mentality. Need a new blade for that blender you bought in 1988? The local mercado will have it in a pile of hex bolts, rubber washers and a carburetor cap for a 1967 Dodge.
Across from me is a family tableau, grandmother, mother and baby daughter, cheek bones and deep-set eyes confirming the genetics. The young mother is nursing her bambina. It is not a problem; no one ventures even a furtive glance; there will be no tweets of moral outrage.
Exiting in the center of town amid the bustle of cars and shoppers milling about, the street life is animated but notable absent is the tension roiling the typical city scene. Arlene buys a white, plastic flower hairclip for 20 pesos; she is muy Mexicana.
We pass by a cart selling peanuts in the shell and I can’t resist rolling the words off my tongue, cacahuetes con cascara.
Walking along the bayside Paseo del Pescador lined with beachfront restaurants and vendors, we come to our favorite shop, La Zapoteca, where over the years we’ve purchased the hand loomed rugs and woven wonders made by the indigenous Indians of Oaxaca… but wait, this is not a travelogue.
I leave it to Travelocity and Trip Advisor to describe the white beaches and modestly priced hotels that make this stretch of the Pacific Coast the most beautiful in allof North America.
This is about a country and the people who have been vilified by our ignorant, bigoted President.
This is about Yolanda, a tiny, thin wisp of a woman who turns messy condominiums spic and span; about Rodrigo, who introduces tourists to the intricate patterns and vibrant colors woven into his rugs and serapes; about Sergio, a waiter on the hotel beach who recognizes me each winter and flashes a smile as warm as the midday sun. And yes, I am writing from a resort town, but these are the people of Mexico I have encountered in forty years of traveling the country from border to border.
The hundreds of Mexican nationals I have met personally are outgoing, friendly, thoughtful, considerate and bright, quick to respond and eager to help. They come in all colors and sizes; some extraordinarily rich; some quite the opposite. They giggle when my limited Spanish skills turn cojines (cushions) into cojones (you know what) but the laughter is not disparaging.
To describe a population of hard working, intensively spiritual, family-oriented people with the racist labels common to Trump rallies and Limbaugh/Coulter screeds of bigotry, is outrageous. Mexico is more than tequila shots and maquiladoras producing textiles and assembling cars in American factories put in place by NAFTA. The rich culture is colorful and civilized. Persuasive is a harmony with life that survives and surpasses the struggle to make ends meet that persists in pockets of the country.
Yes, the drug cartels exist. Murders attributed to these violent gangs are frequent headline stories and many municipalities are stunted by endemic corruption. But overall that is not the major portion of the stew pot. Compared to the United States the figures reporting rape and violent gun crimes tell a different story than the untruths coming from the white house:
Rape rate per million
Mexico: 13.2 (ranked 18th) America: 27.3 (ranked 9th)
Mexico: 14,993 (ranked 4th) America: 84,767 (ranked 1st, 6 times more)
Mexico: 15 (ranked 40th) America: 88.8 (ranked 1st 6 times more)
Mexico: 1.520,000 (12th) America:11.880,000 (1st, 8 times more)
The modernization of the country is happening at a rapid pace, yet the old, Hollywood portrayals of Mexicans persists, as if the Frito Bandido exists. He doesn’t! Consensus as to what distinguishes the average Mexican from the average American suggests an emotive language that is animated and vibrant; a more relaxed notion of what constitutes a ‘deadline;’ a much greater emphasis on the importance of family and a continuing devotion to Catholicism. Where is the impending ‘danger’ in that comparison?
I’ll all for liberal immigration policy that reflects the Emma Lazarus epic poem, but this is not a piece arguing the case for immigration reform. This is about refuting the hate-filled depictions of our Mexican neighbors.
Yes, there are Mexicans who belong to the M-15 gang. Just as there are Americans who sell opioids to kids. Does that make all Mexicans vicious gang members? Does that make all Americans despicable drug dealers? Of course not. It’s asinine to view everyone who fits into a certain group as being "all the same."
The depictions of Mexicans made by our fatuous president have nothing to do with reality. They are more than ‘arbitrary,’ they are repulsive and repellent; they are not the truth.