México lindo y querido.

 

buscondesa

 

I love you at your best and at your worst.

 

You are beautiful even in your decay. You are beautiful because you are your own. You are who you are and you’re not afraid to show it. Your strengths and your weaknesses are side by side. You hide nothing. And that is rare. That is beautiful that blatant honesty. And when you finally reveal those truly beautiful parts of you—those hidden gems, they are even more beautiful because you me made work for it; to adventure beyond the decrepit streets and ramshackle walls.

 

Yet, you don’t show your beauty to everyone; you are selective. And I respect you beyond words for that. Not everyone can understand who you are, so why waste time making them understand. You don’t need them. You have survived through some of the worst times and came out shining. And you always will.

 

With each day that passes, I fall more and more in love with you, DF. Never change.

It’s all semantics: Wouldn’t you rather “win” money than earn it?

Image

It’s all in how you say it. It’s been two years here and I’m still fascinated by the differences language here…how the words used speak volumes about the culture.

Specifically that in English you “earn” money, as opposed to Spanish, in which you “win” money, translated as ganar dinero

This opens up an entire book of worms on how Mexicans view money. In many ways, money is viewed not as something earned in this country, but as something is something given, by whomever, God, luck, family, good connections, etc. It’s a lottery and one day your number will be called. Almost as if hard work isn’t valued, or at least in a different way than my gringo counterparts do.

Yet the system cannot be compared to that of it’s American neighbors. Hard labor does not yield the opportunities that it does in the United States. There isn’t much room for advancement within the social classes.

In turn, Mexicans resort to a common practice, best summed up with the phrase, “El que no tranza, no avanza,” meaning that if you don’t swindle, you won’t get ahead. Sadly, even if you worked hard for all the money that you have earned in Mexico, the consensus is that in some way, shape or form, you had help. Daddy asked for a favor, a friend got you that job, you look the part, you cheated someone, etc. The point being, it was not of your own doing and there is no way it could be.

Yet, in the same way that Mexicans feel money is given, they spend it as if it was, as well. Never have I seen more extravagant parties or purely ridiculous spending, as if money is of no importance. And of course, if it is merely won, why should it be? Money then comes and goes in a vicious cycle, to have, to have not, to be spent, but never to be saved.

I still laugh to myself at a man I saw in the metro a few days back, raggedy clothes and all, carrying a freshly purchased chocolate fountain in hand. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said to myself. “Where are his priorities?”

But then again, I get it. I’m a fan of parties, too. And an even bigger one of chocolate.

photo from http://www.radioplay.com.mx

Heidi: My alter Mexican ego

book_heidi

Meet Heidi. She’s 24, dirty blonde, about 5’3 and in a perpetual state of motion.

Oh ya. One more thing. That’s not her real name. The country renamed her.

Back in Texas, she was Katie…just a normal little gringa. But somehow she became a German supermodel down here or children’s fictional Swiss goat herder–take your pick. I pick supermodel. The point is, who knew such a transformation could happen overnight?

But what’s in a name? I used to invest so much in this idea that your name defined you. It was the core of your existence. And then when no one could get my name right down here, it caused this mini-identity crisis…Cathy, Kerry, Sarah, Kelly, etc. WHO AM I? Was the million-dollar question that tormented my first few months in a new country.

But did it really matter. No one was ever gonna get it right. The phonemes needed to pronounce my name don’t even exist in Spanish. So I learned to accept it. I could re-invent myself daily. Call me whatever you want, baby. I can be them all. And all of them are me.

So tell me, how much do you value your name? How much do you let it define you?

Why Mexico? Because I’m an overprivileged bitch.

20140223-084707.jpg

The question always gets posed to me. “Why?” “Why are you here?”

And it’s a damn good one. The most important question you can ask is “why?” (esp according to Simon Sinek )

But you, know. I couldn’t give you a straight answer. It just feels right, damnit.

Yet let’s climb up on this soapbox, anyways, once and for all.

We have too much and we know too little in the States.

My (lost) generation especially. I might be the most guilty of this. Sure we are the products of our baby booming parents, but is that a valid excuse?

Many criticisms have been written of the millenials, calling us lazy, over-privileged, over-encouraged. And I can’t say that I completely disagree. There were awards for everything growing up–attendace, participation, hell, the SAT even gave us 600 points for bubbling our names in correctly (This needs citation–correct me if I’m wrong).

Yet this mentality is no less a product of one that has been growing in the United States since Andrew Jackson and his Manifest Destiny. We Americans believe we own the world. We believe we can take whatever we want, without consequences. And up until recently, we haven’t had any. My generation just happened to be the lucky one that it caught up with.

Yet no matter who you want to blame, it cannot be denied that our quality of life is far superior than most. Over 42% of Mexicans live below the national poverty line, compared to our meager 16% that live at the poverty line in the United States. Most of us just don’t get it. The thought of living on less than a couple bucks a day, not having access to running water or a warm meal. These things would never cross our minds. They never crossed mine.

Even I, as fresa as it sounds, was shocked that in over over-priced apartment, we run out of water–ALL THE TIME. There just isn’t any. How does that happen? It doesn’t; it can’t–or that’s what I thought til I moved here.

And then you realize that this is nothing after you’ve seen the literal cardboard boxes that hundreds of people are living out of near Metro Tacubaya. No, this is not the drunk, homeless guy on the corner that you roll your car window up at every time he comes near begging for money. These are families. These are people with no other options.

Words take on new meanings–more important ones. Home no longer is the house you live in. Home is who you are with. Home is what you make of it.

Sure, I have been economically privileged enough to travel, to be well-educated, to up and leave whenever I please, much thanks to my elders’ hard work. So what could I possibly know about any of those situations? And let’s be honest, I don’t. I couldn’t fathom it and I don’t want to. But I think some little part of Mexico resonated with me…that thirst for a new perspective, something that would prove my stubborn-ass wrong and show I wasn’t some just hippie, but that I could also be this entitled-stuck up bitch–simply for the sake of irony. Simply to keep myself entertained.

Of course the lawless-ness of Mexico helps a whole bunch.

Nouveau Riche without the Riche

gucci

Elitism is a funny thing in this country. Everyone seems to have it. Especially when they don’t deserve to.

There’s not much of a middle class here, but people sure like to think that the very least they are upper middle class, sporting their only pair of Gucci sunglasses that they’ve been paying off for the last 3 years. Sporting around on the weekends like they live in Polanco only to return to some shittier area of town. Spending their entire paycheck on one night out, to show their friends “they can.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if half of their “designer” merchandise isn’t even real. The market for piracy is enormous here. And the hunger for status even bigger. Someone explain to me why. Really, why?

Someone answered me that Mexicans are “aspirational,” but in a sense, it seems that with a style of thinking like this, “aspirational” is all they will ever be. You can aspire all you want, but picking sunglasses over a house payment will keep you in the same split-level for years to come. It’s a nouveau riche attitude without the riche.

So why is it that so many Mexicans don’t seem comfortable in their own skin?

Mexicans are the best drivers in the world.

Traffic on Reforma, Mexico City

Traffic on Reforma, Mexico City

Chilangos are the best drivers in the world.

You’re probably like, “What the *** is she thinking?”

But think about it. Sure by American standards, they are horrible. They run red lights. Stop signs are more of a suggestion, and in reality more of a small decrease in speed; they drive at least 15 miles over the speed limit at all times. Lanes are non-existent. Motorcycles come from anywhere and everywhere, and even the direction of traffic is subject to change, one-way street or not. But considering all of the factors that Chilangos are prepared to deal with on the morning commute, I argue they can handle anything that comes at them.

It’s been over a year and a half that I’ve been here and I’ve seen a total of three accidents. THREE.

Either that says something, or I’m clearly not out enough.

Several friends have posed the theory to me that the lack of accidents can be attributed to the lack of car insurance, as a result of the extreme poverty in the country. Mexicans literally cannot afford to have an accident. But think about it: if your car was the highest form of capital that you owned and your means of increasing your capital,  wouldn’t you take care of it as if your life depended on it?

We have so many traffic laws in the States, yet so many accidents. How many times have you been late to work because of some accident on the highway? Sure, maybe the rules are an issue, too restrictive, too many, whichever…but maybe we have too much as well. We don’t value what we have.