There are lots of reasons to love Mexico, and if there was one thing I could tell all Americans it would be to stop watching news/media. They only tell the bad parts about Mexico.
Oh, and believe me the bad parts about the US are told here as well. (Like every mass shooting or any debacle of a presidential candidate).
But we've been smitten with this country. And so I thought I'd share with you some of the reasons we love it here.
I'm currently writing this while sitting at an automotive electronics mechanic shop. It's 8pm on a Saturday and they're still working on our van.
I could choose to be upset. That is a valid choice. Originally he said 4:30, then 6pm, then 7pm.
But I choose to love it.
Well I didn't know my alternator was bad. I knew something was wrong and so I pulled into this shop around 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday.
Name me one shop in the USA that would take an alternator rebuild at 2pm on a Saturday!
Oh. and not only did he need to rebuild my alternator but he had to use a non standard alternator because mine was not repairable. Again, I could have chosen to go to Autozone and buy a new Honda approved alternator for $300 usd.
But instead, I choose to live more like a local and turn our van into a hodgepodge of parts that are not oem (original equipment manufacture) for this minivan.
Sure we're taking a risk.
Yes bad things could happen.
However, I choose to trust a guy who day in and day out fixes alternators and wiring and other electronic issues in cars.
Another reason I choose to be happy about this situation is that these guys won't quit just because it's quitting time. They quit when all they can do is done. Working by flashlights and working past when other shops are closed. This is how they earn their living...do the work, when it's there no matter the time.
So sure it's late. But he's saving us a ton of money, getting us fixed after hours/same day.
So that's why I choose to be happy.
Not every day am I so positive. I still have the American impatience and the Puritan work ethic demanding I work at least from 8-5 Monday through Friday. But I'm trying to choose to live a different story for my kids. Trying to show them how to be positive in the face of adversity.
Food & Price
Another reason I'm in love with Mexico is that I can feed our crew for cheap. Sure every now and then I make bad choices in restaurants like this morning's brunch for $30 USD. But in general if we don't want to make lunch or dinner we can get enough chicken and tortillas to feed our crew of six for about $9 USD. Even eating at a terrible fast food joint in the states we cannot feed our crew for less than $30... and while the chickens aren't organic or hormone free, it is significantly more healthy than american fast food.
The other night I ordered too much food for all of us at a street food vendor, I paid around $18 USD, and we left there VERY full. And no we don't get sick from street food vendors. They tend to occupy the same spot every day/night and so they have regulars and clientele who would get sick too if the vendor mishandled the food or the water. So yeah, I love the street food. Food trucks are close, but it's not quite the same as ordering a burger, watching it cooked and handed to you for a total of $30 pesos (or ~$2USD). No lines, no semblance of order, just walk up tell him what you want... eat it and then pay at the end of your meal. So simple.
Okay, so we've been spoiled living here in San Miguel de Allende for the last 5+ months. They call this the land of eternal spring. Now that it's autumn and almost winter we drink hot tea each morning while wearing pants, socks and hoodies. By noon we're in shorts and t-shirts sweating if we do something like play futball (aka soccer for those north of the border). It's just awesome to have the sun most days and to just need a hoodie/light jacket or an umbrella (for rain OR sun). The humidity here is nothing. We're at 6,500 feet and while the sun can burn you quicker up here, it's refreshing to be away from the humidity.
Yet if you want the beach life and the heat and humidity it's there, just head for the playa (which we're doing for the winter!)
Since entering Mexico we've only had difficulties with gringos (white foreigners) and a couple brushes with the police. But for the hundreds of other people we have worked with, spoke with, purchased from, and in general made conversation with it has been awesome. The Mexican people are amazing. While I cannot make a generalization saying they're all this way or all that way, I can say on the whole the majority of people we have interacted with have been really kind, loving, full of laughter and intrigue. We haven't immersed ourselves into the culture as much as we'd like to , we've made a bunch of friends along the way, but not as deep as the friends we have in the states, or other traveling (gringo) families. Yet each time we try, we're met with love and grace.
The Mexican people are as different and unique as the people living in the US... from a Boston elite, to a Midwest farmer, to an LA celeb, to a San Francisco developer, to a Lousiana shrimper.. Just look at the political rallies of the US and you'll see that we cannot make generalizations like that. However we can say that most Americans have pride, are dreamers, hard workers, and value rules/laws/systems. Some of the differences we've found here: Near any of the tourist destinations (Cabo San Lucas, Puerta Viallarta, Mazatlan) you have a two class system, those who try to get money from the foreigners/tourists, and those who are living well off because of the revenue from tourism. however both of those classes enjoy fun, laughter, and stories.
In the mountains (mostly in the south, like Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas etc) you'll see more mayan/azetec/indigenous people who are hard workers, in love with life, and are more apt to smile and wonder at us. We've found it more difficult to have conversations because spanish is the second language for both of us.
No matter what part of the country we're in the locals, the people are incredible.
I mentioned this before with the alternator, but in general the mechanics are an amazing bunch of hard working, ingenious people. If there was something that stopped car manufacturing or part manufacturing, I'd rather be in Mexico than in the US because they'll be able to keep these cars running seemingly forever.
Also, they have no problems coming to you. I've had 6 repairmen come to Gracie (our RV) while she's been parked in different campgrounds. It's pretty great service and the prices are the same as if I were to have brought Gracie to them.
Festivals & Parties
This may be a bit tainted by the fact that we're living in SMA right now, and they love to celebrate anything and everything. It's rare to go 24 hours without fireworks or some parade or some party going on. The parties (while loud) are infectious, and fun to witness. I often think of how Africans love to sing/dance for anything, from a wedding to a funeral, from a protest to a celebration. Mexicans on the other hand do a festival for anything, from celebrating your dead ancestors, to the birthday of the name sake of their city, to the anniversary of a historical speech.
Funny thing, a lot of gringos complain about the fireworks, and the congestion in town. But I choose to be thankful. It's amazing to see the ornaments and the efforts put into their celebrations. We have a lot to learn from the Mexican approach to life.
When driving I see a lot of locals just sitting around watching the traffic go by, or just chilling. And for me a guy who feels like he has to be moving, doing something, or I go stir crazy I appreciate their approach to life. How they can just be 'tranquilo'. Sometimes when I want something done quickly like having my groceries checked out at the store, or when I'm waiting for a group of people to cross the road I can get fed up with the 'tranquilo'. However when I stop to think about it, I love the chill attitude, and I'm thankful for it. It takes a lot to get the ire of a typical Mexican stirred up (as far as we have learned only being disrespectful of someone they care about will do it!). Not so with me... all you have to do is cut me off while driving and I'm ready to explode (yes I'm becoming less and less upset since living here, but I have a long way to go!).
Willingness to stop and help
Pretend to get a flat tire (or get a flat tire for real) in the US versus in Mexico on the side of a road. You will have a very different response. In Mexico if no one is stopped with you (and even if someone is) about every sixth car or so might stop to help. Doesn't matter your skin color either. We've done the same for a local and witnessed it happening to plenty of locals. It's just part of the culture here. You help others, no matter what. Perhaps it has to do with the chill attitude and not being in a rush to get somewhere. Perhaps it's because they know how harsh it can be on the side of the road. Perhaps it's because they are closer to having the values of Jesus instilled in their culture.
Whatever it is, whatever the cause of the kindness, I'm thankful for it. It's hard to not be thankful for people who want to help. However it's in my identity to be independent and it's difficult for me to accept help. So I can choose to get upset and have the attitude of "just leave me alone." But that will not help anything. Instead I choose to be thankful that we're not stuck on the side of the road where no one will stop to help.
Just the other night a friend and I were able to pay it forward. A truck stalled in an intersection as our families were walking past on the sidewalk... we asked and he said yes, so we pushed him out of the intersection into a parking spot. No tow truck needed. It's just how life is done here in Mexico and I love it!
And many more!
Here are some quick bullet points of other things I choose to be thankful for. Things that I could find a way to (or naturally would) be upset about but instead I choose thankfulness.
- Appreciativeness when attempting to speak language -- any vendor, person, or stranger is happy to explain and help us learn Spanish.
- The lower cost of family activities (non-touristy) - Family is core to the mexican people. Therefore familiy activities are plentiful and inexpensive.
- Personal and kids safety - Crimes here are crimes of opportunity, petty theft and the like. Child abduction, murder (of non drug cartel folks), and rape or other terrible acts of violence are really rare. Our kids are safer here than in the US... I'm VERY thankful for that!
- Dogs are allowed most places - while it's officially against the law (and enforced in the larger cities) most restaurants are very welcoming to dogs. With a little furbaby ourselves we've had a blast keeping Moo Moo with us in many restaurants.
Remember that 6 hour long, after business hours, weekend rebuild of our alternator?? It cost about $40 USD and has been working without a glitch!
Yup, blessed and choosing to be thankful!
I love it here!