If you are of a mind to complain about Mexico, there is plenty for you to work with. There is too much shabbiness; too many beggars. Too much hardness. As if the people and the earth had been beaten down by the sun. There is endemic corruption. And for myself, there are too many people I suspect I wouldn’t like if I got to know them better.
The better homes look inward to cool gardens and shaded verandas and show to the public bare outer walls and iron doors and top their walls with broken glass set in cement. American culture is made by the middle class. Here, the middle class is marginal.
Here, personal relationships are important. If someone is in a relationship with you, they are important, and if not, they don’t count. “My home is your home, my friend” and “Go away, beggar.”
But my companion, a long time resident, sees it differently. She has traveled a great deal and says that the poverty in Mexico is not like poverty in other countries. In Mexico you will see no one starving in the street, as you might in Lagos or Calcutta or even Bogotá, for here there are extended families that will take care of poor relatives, some of whom may spend their days begging in the street so that they may contribute to the families who care for them.
She told me how once when she was living in Mexico City a European friend who was making a film about world poverty asked her to take him to the poorest parts of the city. And so for several days she took him to the poorest barrios, but he found nothing that he could use, for poor as Mexicans might be their poverty did not compare with that he had found in other countries, and he left Mexico disappointed.
Like many little stories you hear when you travel, my friend’s story does not mean much, but after you hear enough little stories like this you may eventually know a little more than you once did, even if you can’t say exactly what. Or maybe you will discover that you now know less than you did before you came. That has often been my experience.