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 of  “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*

The American Tourist vs The Mexican Fisherman

I found this story on Senor Senior Citizen the other day. Great new blog about a retired couple living on Social Security on Isla Mujeres! Talk about living the dream, right? I love the name, too 🙂

Here goes:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didnt you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well my friend, thats when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“After that youll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

And the moral of this story is: ……… Know where youre going in life… you may already be there.

Author Unknown

Jorge's cousins' grandfather, Don Nacho, asleep after a late lunch in the fishing village of Chabihau

Here’s my question for my readers:

What do you want to do when you retire?