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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

"Yes Virginia,
There Is Another Mexico"

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
"Move to Mexico? What, are you crazy?" said friends and relatives alike, adding, "Don't you know it's full of drug pushers, kidnappers and corrupt politicians?"

This attitude, prevalent among North Americans and fostered by U.S. media, is based on biased and incompete information. Drug pushers, kidnappers, and corrupt politicians? Sure, but no more than in any other country, including the U.S.

We're missing an awful lot by shutting the Mexican people out of our lives. When we give in to the "lazy Mexican" or the "dirty Mexican" mindset ("all Mexicans spend their time sitting under two things: their big fat sombrero and a big fat cactus"), which is the opposite of the truth, we deprive our homes, our businesses, and our lives of hard-working, God-loving, family-oriented people.

In the mountains of central Mexico, in the State of Jalisco, sits a village called Ajijic (pronounced Ah-hee-heek). The church's steeple rises in the village center above patched-up, painted-over ancient buildings of sun-faded pastels. Built of adobe and stone, the church has been repainted so often over the passing centuries that endless rainy seasons and an uncooperative economy have created an exterior of flapping paint tongues. In the village, oft-mended white lace curtains blow out and succulent food smells flow out of the windows and onto the narrow cobblestone streets of this colonial village.

When I lived in Ajijic fulltime, I saw many things that caused me to realize how blithely the U.S. media twists the truth. It's even worse today than it was ten years ago with the lies growing so fast and furiously, Pinocchio's nose cannot keep up.

Lazy Mexicans? Dirty Mexicans? Quite the opposite. I've seen a bent old man with an old kitchen fork working slowly and laboriously scraping weeds from between the street cobblestones in front of his house. I've seen women with the day's supply of food in a basket on her head, a baby on one hip and another in her rebozo. Who says you can't do two things at once?

I've seen the cleverness of painting only the front of the church in honor of the Bishop's visit because the Bishop will see only the front; paint is expensive and should not be wasted on the sides and rear of the church which the Bishop will not see.

I've seen the basic honesty of a worried policeman who robbed a nearby bank to buy food for his hungry children, then went to confession, returned the money and arrested himself.

I've seen Mexicans very happy to be employed, no matter the job itself. No one scoffs at what other countries might consider "lowly" employment. In Mexico, there is no such thing as lowly employment. If you are working, you are respected.

I've seen Mexican children in clothes that are screamingly clean and white, stiff with starch. Scrubbed on corrugated boards using elbow grease and homemade lye soap, without the use of expensive, fancy trade-named products which are advertised on television and designed to appeal to those less industrious than the Mexican mother.

I've seen women work full time jobs, come home at lunch time to prepare meals for children and husbands, come home after work to prepare dinner for the family, then spend the rest of the evening cleaning house, doing laundry, and repairing the family's clothing after a hard day's wear and tear. Tell the truth: what sound is more appealing than the hissing from a spit-wet finger on an iron which has been heating on the stove. It's far more comforting than a spoiled wife whining that her husband doesn't listen to her. I have not seen any wives like that in Mexico.

I've seen a boy I tutored in English turn around and share what he learned with his fellow students after school and they in turn taught their interested parents. Can you imagine how I felt when one day a Mexican man returned my "Buenos Dias" with a "Good morning Senora?" It wasn't until later when my modest student explained just how that came to pass that I understood.

Are these people less diligent and conscientious than people in other countries? Are they "lazy?" Are they "dirty?" No, no, and again no.

If people in the U.S. of today saw people in Ajijic as an example, it might turn things around and get the citizens back to a world where people respect one another. You be the judge.


Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
September 12, 2007 column
Email: maggie@maggievanostrand.com

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