Sunday, November 21, 2010

Land o' Smiles


I feel so at home here in Mexico, despite my inability to communicate with anyone very well. Up north, the media keeps filling the airwaves with reports on narco violence, scaring everyone with scenes from the "growing tidal wave of crime." Here on the coast, though, it is muy tranquilo.

"You need to go back and tell everyone not to believe all those fearmongers," pleaded D., our resident gringo friend. "So many people here now depend on the touristas but we're seeing fewer of them than ever before!"
"We could talk ourselves blue in the face, but I doubt people who've never come to Mexico before will do so now."

Which is a shame because this country is one of the most welcoming countries in the whole world. Everyone talks about Southeast Asia being a "land of smiles" but while they smile, they also have an eye on your tourist dollars. What I absolutely love about Mexico and what I think makes it unique is that capitalism just doesn't have that big of a grip on the place. At least not yet.

Yes, in the bigger picture, the country is as capitalist as the north. And with fewer restrictions, corporations can probably get away with a whole lot more. It absolutely disheartens me to travel around the country and see Big Ag's fingers everywhere: Corn, cane, avocado and mango plantations surrounded with picket signs advertising (or warning of!) seed and plant brands. GMO? Highly likely.

But the average person seems to value many other things over making a buck.

Family is one, for sure. Faith is another. And most of all, FUN! Those with money tend to share with those who don't have much, even as they complain how having to help out so-and-so strains their finances and they'll never get too far ahead. There is an air of contentment here. (Which is strange because in North America people have so much and yet there is a huge cloud of discontentment over everybody. Or so it seems.)

(Japanese people are pretty content people, as well, though in any survey, they always score as the "least happy/satisfied people." I think it's just Japanese humility, making us put down our own lives in front of strangers.)

You would think that with all the drug trafficking activities, there would be a huge drug problem, too, but there just isn't. Oh, sure, there are people with drug problems -- they are everywhere -- but it's not the kind of epidemic that will destroy the fabric of Mexican society. My theory for it is, once again, the Holy Trinity of Family-Faith-Fun.

So come on down and see for yourself. You may never want to leave.

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