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Mexico notes…

Posted by keelynet on February 29, 2008

mexico-01.gifSome weirdness here lately or at least it was news to me. The police used to come by my house as much as twice a day, either honk the horn in the daytime or flash their lights at night. I’d go out and chat with them. They are SO BORED since they work 24 hour shifts and several of them live in Guadalajara and are assigned here. I feel sorry for them as they are not only low paid but have often rough jobs so sometimes I buy them lunch or give them cokes and chips for snacks.

After letting three of them borrow movies, some SVCDs, other DVDs, which they didn’t return, now they don’t stop by (I think out of guilt) but maybe twice a week and of course none of my movies have been returned. It’s one of the weird things about mexican culture…the word for loan/borrow is presta and for gift is regalo….but here presta MEANS regalo and your chances of getting something back that you loan are super slim to none. I can’t count the number of items that I’ve had to go after or never got back.

Something I just have to mention. I’m in my 7th year here and have noted how many more cars and how many more ‘things’ mexicans have than they did before. Bear in mind the minimum wage here is less than $6 and most people make from $10 to $15 a DAY. Though I know a few who make $20-$30 a day, most are very poorly paid.  A mexican friend worked at an electronics factory in Guadalajara and made $7 a day, but he is a talented baker so now has a new job making $20 a day.

I setup a bank account with an international bank and they included a ‘free’ Visa card. I charged about $100 on it to build some credit here and noticed they charged 30% interest! So I paid it off really quick.

In a recent issue of the Guadalajara Reporter, an english weekly newspaper, there is an article entitled, “Economic growth breaks forecasts as credit card woes break dreams” (February 23-29, 2008 page 12).

Yep, many people are going crazy with all this easy credit (at super high unregulated interest rates)  and ending up with ruined credit, debt and repossession. I have noted how so many people are buying cellphones, all kinds of new electronics, new or even used vehicles, motorcycles, clothes, toys and anything else they can ‘buy’ with plastic.

And how do they hope to pay for this when they barely survive on $10-$20 a day?  Most of course have families but many adults live with their families to save money until they have enough to get married and move out on their own.

Plus the culture includes a host of fiestas, building a house for each kid, the 15 year old girl coming of age celebration and a host of other costs that make extra money very difficult to come by. So now they have all this free credit and many are going nuts to their inevitable ruination. I’ve seen this ‘plastic prosperity growth’ over the past few years and wonder when the bomb will drop on them.

In addition, Mexico is so economically intertwined with the US that the economy is hurting badly here as well. The word for volkswagon is ‘Bocho’, the word for a mexican who is native born but lived in the states and RETURNED to mexico, is a POCHO.  I see many pochos these days. Easy to spot by their dress, jewelry and attitude but broke as everyone else.

The immigration crackdown as well as depressed construction is causing many illegal mexicans in the states to decide its better to sell everything and come back to Mexico, rather than be deported and lose it all. One newspaper article here said many were coming to visit for Christmas but not going back for fear they would be sent back to Mexico and not on their own terms.

Anyway, the other day a couple of mexican friends stopped by and we drank soda, chatted and watched a movie. They told me some people noticed an old man sitting in the plaza. He was a known drunk who often passed out on one of the benches and slept so most people just walked by and didn’t pay any attention.

So about a 3-4 weeks ago, someone noticed the old man had been sitting there for about 8 hours so one guy walked over and called to the old man who didn’t answer. He touched the mans arm and he was stone cold. The doctor said his liver exploded from too much liquor and the man’s corpse, remained there for 8 hours, dead as a doornail and unnoticed.

A couple of weeks before this I was waiting for burritas at Marco’s and Estelle’s tacqueria, so we were chatting. I don’t recall how we got on the subject but Estelle said a man who lived about half a block from the plaza was found dead in his house a year ago when neighbors noticed a smell and hadn’t seen him. The guy was about 45, well known, didn’t drink or do drugs and had no enemies but lived alone.

eyesauron.jpgShe said when the police entered the house, they found the man lying on his back on the floor with a knife cut from his stomach to his chest, all his intestines pulled out and strewn across the floor and both of his eyes were removed from his head. They never found the eyes and the police suspect it was satanists??? They always warn me not to open my door at night and worry that someone might do something to me.

I think they are paranoid as my neighbors all watch out for me and I watch out for them. They often ask me to watch their house when they go out of town or on vacation and we have a very quiet U type of street with little traffic from people who don’t live on this street. Plus I know a lot of local people, police and people from other pueblos who stop by at random, even a few gringos drop by to visit if we’ve not seen each other in awhile. So to date, I’ve not had any reason to become paranoid or fearful.

It struck me as odd, this fear because one night about 10:30PM I accidentally locked myself out of my house so rode my motorcycle over to Rene the locksmith. I saw lights in the windows and heard his TV but no one would answer the door. I noted they turned off the TV and turned out the lights so I left thinking I had the wrong house, but no it was right so I came back and the lights and TV were on again.

THIS TIME, I called por favor Rene, Jerry necesito ayuda…and the door opened. He told me if I hadn’t called his name and he didn’t recognize me, he would NEVER have opened the door to a stranger at night. He said it could be a dangerous thing.

Peculiar, he must know something I don’t but we rode on my motorcycle over to my house where he picked the locks to let me in and only charged me 50 pesos. Good guy. I have a custom made iron screen door as well as my house steel door so that I can open the inside door and let air blow through the house. Several neighbors asked where I bought the door and they now have them on their doors at $100 custom made, painted and installed, what a deal!

A few months ago, I had mentioned here about an old gringo named Grady who died last year after a lengthy hospital stay. To my surprise, this week I received an email from a guy saying he had noticed my comment and that he had a cousin named Grady who live at Lake Chapala. Yep, same guy. He said the family wasn’t aware Grady had died so they were curious as to the disposition of his body and estate. I gave him all the info I could and will let them take it from there.

Didn’t mean for these comments to be so death centered…jajaja…just happened to be something of interest locally that I wanted to write about.

I hate cold so don’t like to stay out at night when it’s cold. The cantinas can be fun but not with swinging half doors that let cold air blow through, meaning I stay home until it warms up again. Seems like it is warming up again and I can’t wait since I’m a night guy all my life and days are for sleeping or working.

A real popular small cafe called Jose’s is very popular with the gringos. The food is pretty good and at a decent price, plus Jose and his wife Isabel get to know everyone. But lately I’ve been burned out eating there so tried the Cucumber cafe across the way.

Man, they had this Pescado Chipotle for 55 pesos ($5.50) with salad and rice. DAMN, it was excellent and so tasty that I tipped the cook 20 pesos and the waitress 10 pesos. Chipotle is like a slightly spicy cheese that is just a touch hot. It was the best fish dish I’ve had here. Have been back two other times and am working my way through their menu to find what I like best. Great prices and very tasty food so far.

There is a kind of hidden restaurant in San Antonio called Letitia’s where they sell a tempura shrimp platter for $10 (100 pesos) that includes a mango sauce to dip the shrimp. It is excellent, the mix of salt and sugar plus anything tempura, count me in. I like to cook tempura carnitas (fried pork) at home.

Another great place to eat here sells BBQ and fish and chips. The owner is from England and they have about 9 flavors of BBQ, my favorite is ORANGE BBQ…man, its the best I’ve ever had. On cable the other night, one of the food travel shows went to South Carolina and the host sampled their native BBQ which was sweet mustard. I want to try that as it looked great.

This place has been ‘discovered’ by tourists, mostly retirees and snowbirds, who are turning it into a living hell. Prices are going up, houses are RIDICULOUS, traffic and parking is horrible and the ‘newbies’ are rude and can’t drive plus they insult the mexicans without any sense of remorse.

I’ve heard so many of them say horrible things thinking the mexicans don’t understand them, well, I’ve got news for them, many mexicans, even here in central Mexico, do know enough english (if not outright proficient at it) to understand every word. It is SO EMBARRASSING that I have apologized to them for the behavior of these people.

How RUDE! And they come here touting how they hate how things are done, and what they plan to do to CHANGE these over 500 year old towns and their cultures. WTF?

Who the hell do they think they are? If you aren’t here to at least try to get along and assimilate to some degrees, STAY IN THE USA or wherever you come from. I get so pissed off when they don’t even TRY to learn any spanish saying ‘these people’ need to learn english so they won’t be inconvenienced.

The thing to keep in mind, is we are GUESTS in this country and should respect and support their culture even if it doesn’t jibe with what we believe or how we do things.

cantina.jpgOne day, I was in one of my favorite cantinas (Gavilan) run by a great guy named Alvaro. It was maybe 5PM and there were two crotchety, very loud mouthed griping old gringos, complaining about everything here.

I got tired of hearing their loud bitching even though I was at my own table fully 12 feet away from them at the bar, so I got up and played some mexican music on the jukebox. There were only about 5 people in the bar, so one of the old gringos stood up and shouted, “who played that crap?” and I said I did, don’t you like it?

He yelled at me no, saying he didn’t want to listen to that crap and was leaving. I told him he was in Mexico and should try to get along and learn something about the place.

He said he didn’t HAVE to learn crap and was leaving. I told him good riddance and keep on going til you are back in the states as he wasn’t wanted here. Alvaro grinned at me and I hope I never see the old bastards again.

It’s like people in the states bitching about foreigners who don’t learn english. I happen to agree that you should learn the local dialect, at least TRY. So I live here and try to learn spanish, though my spanish is mostly malas palabras (bad words) but I know enough others that I can communicate with most everyone.

I did take a class for 3 months to learn proper spanish but the maestra (lady teacher) died of a heart attack and I never went back. Plus many words they use aren’t in the books. Real spanish is a very dynamic language where one word can have dozens or more meanings, depending on context.

The only way to really know spanish is to hang out with mexicans and learn from them. Sure, a formal course will get you the basics but to really speak and understand the language, immersion is the way to go in my opinion. I know so many gringos who live behind locked gates with security guards and in gated communities. Their only contact with mexicans is through housekeepers, gardeners, cooks, etc…and the rest of their time is spent with other gringos. I tell them they MISS SO MUCH by not dealing and interfacing with mexicans.

If all they want are to live in gringo compounds, why not stay in the states or whatever country they come from? What is the POINT of moving to Mexico if you don’t plan to enjoy, learn from and participate with the locals?

There used to be a lot of old gringos who would hang out in the plazas and usually flirt with then senoritas. Some of them are near pedophiles who embarrass the rest by going after very young girls.

In chatting with mexicans in the plaza they call them ‘pajaros muertos’ which means ‘dead birds’ indicating these old guys couldn’t get an erection if their life depended on it or unless they are on viagra, yet IN THEIR MINDS they think they are ladykillers.

mexjerry.jpgIt’s very funny and I so often hear mexicans making joking comments in spanish, knowing most of the gringos won’t have a clue what is being said. They often are taken aback when I use those terms when chatting with them and they tell me they APPRECIATE that I at least TRY to learn their language and customs when so many don’t care enough or respect the local culture to even try. It is sad but so true.

For some color, I have included the cartoon of my friend Mexico Jerry which he uses for his sales of Mexican knives and other collectibles. He has some interesting things and I particularly like the obsidian sacrificial knives. I have two of them mounted and hanging on the wall in my living room. Nos vemos (seeya)!

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