Maggie Van Ostrand
There Is Another Mexico"
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.
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
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"
12, 2007 column