The Ugly Americans

I’m not sure how to go about writing this one, just something I wanted to get of my chest, I guess.

During my time here in Mexico, I’ve heard many comments about Americans. (Turns out we don’t have a very good reputation… sorry to break it to you guys haha)

I can deal with most of these comments. People saying we’re loud, all we do is party, we’re all rich, we all go on vacations several times a year, etc etc. I understand that I live in Cancun, so obviously this is the side of Americans that my friends see. It’s not close to being true (except that we are very loud!), but again, this is what they see here, so I think only we’re to blame for that one.

Last night I was at a friends house for drinks, and the men started making lots of comments about Americans. Here are some interesting ones:

1. Mexicans are more pure-blooded than Americans. I will agree with this one to an extent. Mexicans in general are decended from 1 or 2 indigenous groups plus Spanish heritage. As a white American, I know of at least 5 different countries/races that I come from. Still, I have had people bring this up with me more than once, and I have yet to receive an explanation as to why it’s relevant. (When one gentleman brought that point up last night, it was met with cries ofΒ  “WHO CARES?” from the rest of the table.)

2. Americans don’t have a clear descent. I can trace my family tree back to the 1500s (thanks Grandma!). I know exactly where I come from.

3. Americans are the most racist country in the world (referring to white people vs black people). I disagree. I think you could have made a point of this 40 or 50 years ago. At least where I grew up, white people in my generation or my parents generation don’t seem to have many feelings of superiority over African Americans. I can’t speak for every state, but in Virginia that was very much the case. I did mention to the table that there are strong racial divisions in the country (neighborhoods, schools, etc etc) but that in general I don’t think we have more interracial hatred than many other countries. I also found it interesting when I moved here that in Mexico there are many feelings of superiority between certain races. For example, when I started dating Jorge, some of my friends from other parts of Mexico told me to dump him because “he’s dark and Mayan, and you can do better.” I didn’t think it would be fair to bring this up last night, however, because I have never seen any comments of that kind from the people present at the table.

4. All Americans vacation at least once or twice a year. Mmmm definitely not all of them. I would guess that many of us vacation that often, but certainly not out of the country. My family would vacation several times a year at my grandparents’ lake house, for example, so we never had much need to go elsewhere. I read recently on a CNN article that only 30% of Americans have passports.

5. Americans are crazy. I think Grandma Laura responded best to this comment by yelling, “What, and Mexicans aren’t even crazier?!”

6. White Americans are the worst serial killers. I would say we have the most individuals who kill for no reason apart from craziness, at least from what I see on the news. Yeah, I can’t argue with that one.

7. Americans have no culture. This one. This is the one that really pisses me off and that I have to bite my tongue on. Here’s how I see it: Mexicans have a culture that focuses strongly on their past, which is a very beautiful thing. Mayan architecture, Aztec traditions, regional dances, traditional clothing… all very cool and one of my favorite things about this country. America has a culture that focuses on its present, which might be interpreted as having no culture by other countries. However, when the man of the house said “Americans have no culture” last night, we were listening to American music on his computer, his DVD holder was filled with dozens of American movies and there were 3 bottles of Coca Cola on the table. Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as American Culture when your house is filled with it.

Sorry to rant. I just had to say some of the things I held back last night.

Reading American news sites, I’m often angered by the comments sections. Americans seem to be equally guilty of misjudging other countries and cultures. I can’t believe some of the things said on news sites about Mexicans, and it’s truly sad.

Honestly, I feel like both sides are being somewhat trained and conditioned to hate eachother. Each side has been bombarded with imagery depicting the absolute worst of the other country, and made to assume that’s normal. It’s not.

Both America and Mexico are filled with loving, hospitable, generous and open-minded people. I’m honored to be from one, and honored to live in the other.

I guess my point is: Don’t believe everything you’re told. Get to know somebody before making snap judgements. Just because you hear something from a friend or on the news or in a movie, that doesn’t make it true.

*rant over*

21 thoughts on “The Ugly Americans

  1. Wow, I love, love, love this post! I think you made some really great points and I’ve had the same conversations a number of times with different people. I think if it comes up again I’ll just start referring people to your post. πŸ™‚

  2. Great post! I also have had to listen to the same comments and the culture thing really pisses me off too! Bonito fin de semana!

  3. I wanted to ask…Where do these men call home and what were their nationalities? Just to add to my own thoughts about your post. I really like it BTW and rant on Girl!

  4. Great Laura! you tell them girl! I’m really surprised about this. Specially the whole “Mexicans are more pure-blood”. Whaaaat? Seriouslyyyy? C’mon! Argh. There were many races amongst the original tribes… Mayan is not the same as a Nahuan or a Zapotecan. πŸ˜›

    Also, if someone said “Americans don’t have a clear descent” then they really don’t know the culture of the family trees on US! I tried to make one for myself, but I can’t go back beyond my great-great-grand parents from ONE side of the family. This wouldn’t have been the case on US. πŸ™

    And finally, Americans have no culture? Well, they haven’t heard about Canadians! πŸ˜‰ I was discussing that with Carrie the other day. She’s sad because she can’t name one national dish or a tradition exclusive of Canada, except for maple syrup and Beaver Tails. lol

  5. I love the way you laid this out. I can definitely see where it would be obnoxious to live somewhere like Cancun and see SO MANY tourists come through. However, you have to take it with a grain of salt as well.

  6. haha I like this one. I think it’s funny that they are saying Americans are racist while they were sitting there stereotyping Americans πŸ˜‰ Em tells me the thing he’s worried about the most in going to the US is people being racist towards him. I told him people are racists towards me all the time here because it’s true. As you pointed out in your post Mexicans have strong opinions towards Americans and they aren’t afraid to hide them. I’m treated differently than a Mexican and it’s only because I’m American!
    But I give you credit for biting your tongue.. I would not have done so well lol

  7. You make excellent points. I’m not 100% in agreement with you regarding the racism part, and we come from the same area. I think it is just a lot more hidden here, but still just as rampant. We have just built a higher tolerance and devoted more of our time trying to make things seem equal. We don’t have the KKK here, of course, but there’s still a lot of racism in the area. I think its more of a fear of their differences than anything else.

  8. I think that people in general feel better about themselves when they can tear others down. You know, I look better if I can make you look worse. Americans do it. Mexicans do it. The French do it. Canadians do it. The Brazilians and the Germans probably do it. The Japanese,Koreans and the Chinese do it. We all just have a tendency to think that our culture or country is better than everyone else’s. The reality is that all of us can be absolutely terrible and wonderful at the same time.

  9. Hey girl…I loved how Americans are attacked, but I deal with the tourist everyday and 50% are Canadian, 40% American and 10% other. The Canadians whom on average make alot more for the same job as Americans, are here on average 5 days longer. And the rest of the world since most travel over 9 hrs to get here stay for 2-3 weeks. I to, have gotten into many arguments about the American way of life with Mexicans, and it’s pretty pointless. Before moving here, I had 4 weeks vacation, but most of it was spent in my hometown, minus one week on a plane worthy trip. And 99% of the ppl I know spent theirs the same way. It’s a battle we will never win trying to get ppl to understand.

  10. Seeing as how I’m not “American” (USA) or Mexican I still figure I can add to this!!!

    I truly feel that Mexicans have an inferiority complex to Americans.

    I have also always been taught to use the term caucasion over white. However, living here I rarely hear it but mostly from my American friends. I hear racist comments from both sides of the border, but the ones I hear from Mexicans are usually softer… Don’t know if thats’ the same for you??

    I’m always told, and not just by Mexicans, ohhh you’re Canadian? You don’t look Canadian?? You look like your from LA?? Okay…. Or. Do you live in an igloo? Do you have buildings in Canada, like big buildings?? What’s your dollar called?

    All of these are just what you said…A lack of all of us taking the time to learn about the others!!

    Really good post!!

    • “I truly feel that Mexicans have an inferiority complex to Americans.”

      That’s what you call an overstatement or just generalizing on a topic based on your own experience, I’m not disregarding your opinion but that part didn’t seem appropiate.

      Other than that I agree with taking the time to learn from others and propitiate cultural enrichment so we can grow as a whole, the term americans or mexicans isn’t important, we all live in the same continent.

  11. Thank you for saying it. You are so, SO right.

    And yea, I don’t go on vacations every year either. It’d be nice, but not every American can afford it.

  12. Hey Laura! thanks for putting it all out on the table. It was definitely a great read.

    A couple things that jumped in my mind as I read it. The serial killer thing; I look at some of the religious extremist groups out there who blow themselves and others up on a daily basis and have to question if we really are the most violent out there. I think the media does a great job of making us look worse than we really are (solely my opinion of course).

    America needs a bit of a pass on their whole culture issue. Heck, we’re only a couple hundred years old. Most countries are 10 times that old. Not to mention we’re a smathering of all different cultures put together. I love how you talking about it as present culture instead of past.

  13. About the “culture” in the United States:

    I’m not sure that this idea of the culture being “in the present” is the same as culture that comes from the past, and I think it is one of the reasons that there is so much anger and political partisanship in the United States right now.

    Culture brings people together – are you really saying that Coca Cola brings people together? The music and film, well, now that is closer to what real culture does, but then again, as with my problem with Coke, it is all based on commercial enterprise, which is not at all the same as traditions that rise up organically from a group of people living in a community and celebrating life together with certain kinds of clothing or eating the foods that sustain them, and these celebrations are passed from generation to generation… I’m pretty sure that’s what the Mexicans mean by “culture.” Popular culture is just not in the same league.

    I think it is correct to say that there are pockets of regional culture all over the United States and in Canada, and just like in Mexico, you have to go there – but not as a tourist – to experience them.

    This is an excellent discussion to have, and thanks for the opportunity to participate. I am in complete agreement that getting to know each other helps to make this a better world.

  14. Good post,Laura! I’m very impressed that you’ve met the annoyance with a bit of understanding and compassion. It’s a challenge to rise above such slander, when you’re in the middle of it & it’s coming from “friends”.

    I encountered something grating on my recent vaca that I’ll post about eventually. It’s truly sad how there’s such a world competition at large, giving way to bad stereotypes which aim to diminish other countries’ strengths in order to feel superior.

    Mexicans think we travel a lot? Europeans would bash us on the opposite! Suppose that’s bc Europeans prefer to compete w/ us & not Mexicans!

    BTW- love that comment how Mexicans being pure-blooded followed up later by how Americans are racist.

  15. I can’t say I’ve really run into too many generalized statements about Americans except one in Mexico City who thought we ate hamburgers every day. About the serial murderers, I’d say the body parts being strewn across the country along with headless corpses hanging from bridges counts as serial killings. Or is it mass murder?

  16. Pingback: You Ugly American: Is America, a country people love to hate? | GRRRL TRAVELER

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