Since moving to Mexico, I have been struggling with something I never, in my wildest imaginings, thought would be an issue in living in Mexico. No, it was not the language, the culture, the food, the people, or all things Mexican. Don’t get me wrong. I have had to adjust to Mexico. Everybody does. But, what gave me, gives me, and will probably continue to give me fits is something that might surprise you:
In my first book, The Plain Truth About Living in Mexico, I touched on this subject. I have written about this subject in various print and online publications. I write about it from time to time in my column with The American Chronicle. I feel bringing it up again is the proverbial “beating a dead horse” since I’ve written about it so often.
But, good God Miss Molly, I just cannot believe my eyes and ears when I have to deal with the American expat community at large as well as with the one in Guanajuato where my wife and I live. Furthermore, I can scarcely hold back what has happened in the city of Guanajuato proper. I’ve been predicting this for the past four years in my writing.
A little background: When we moved to the central Mexican town of Guanajuato, in the state of Guanajuato, there were maybe 150-200 gringos living in the city we chose as our expatriation home. This was lovely. In the midst of about 175,000 Mexicans, the gringos would be swallowed up and would make what happened in San Miguel de Allende impossible.
San Miguel de Allende is an artsy-fartsy town about an hour away from us. Gringos, mostly rich American ones, have bought the town. They are now the owners of a central Mexican town. You go there as a tourist and think, “Oh my God, what wonderful architecture and quaint little streets.” Then the light of day shines on you when you see American gringos, in their full profanity-laden Texan drawl, cursing out some Mexican vendor or chasing a beggar (I witnessed this) for daring to ask her for a peso.
How a genuine central Mexican town changed hands from the Mexican’s into the gringo’s is another story. Frankly, it is a long and tragic one. I outline the history in an up-and-coming manuscript entitled, An American Expat in Mexico’s Heartland: Essays The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Watch for it in a bookstore near you.
Anyway, if you don’t want to wait for my book to see what happened to San Miguel de Allende to change it, you can find outright by coming to the city in which I live. Right now, as my trembling fingers type these words, and as I wipe the tears from my eyes (and I mean this…this is no joke), my adopted Mexican town of Guanajuato is transforming into an Americanized and Gentrified Gringo Enclave. The plans are set. The wheels have been set into motion. The gringos have some cultural officials in the town in the palms of their hands, and the next San Miguel de Allende is here. Meet Guanajuato–the New San Miguel!
In case you are not in the “Oh, let’s all move to Mexico Expatriation Movement” loop, here is what it is all about:
For one reason or another, Americans are leaving the old Red, White, and Blue to the tune of about 300,000 people a year. Most end up moving to Mexico. Some move here because they see the handwriting on the wall that they will not be able to afford to retire in the States. I get that. Point granted. The modern 21st century American is moving to Mexico for financial reasons. Life has become too hard in America, financially. And, it is cheaper to live here if you try to live as much as possible as a Mexican and not an American. Want to live like a rich American in Mexico? It will cost you through the nose.
But, when Americans move here, for the most part they never cut the strings to America. They come here wanting to live as they did in America. When they find there’s this funny-sounding language called Spanish being spoken, they flip their ever-loving expatriate wigs. In addition, they suddenly find that Mexico is indeed a strange, and sometimes unforgiving, place with all manner of things one has to adjust to. There are not American brands available everywhere (unfortunately that’s changing). There is not always phone service or home Internet service available. And, you have to order your drinking water from some kid in the alley screaming “Water!” at eight in the morning.
Life in Mexico, it turns out, is not like moving to south Florida.
So, the American expat sets about making it like south Florida or any other American retirement community. They want a Disneyland of make-believe America and they will get it with their money.
What you have are thousands of American expats who try, with their money and their lawyers, to set about changing the little Mexican towns, into which Mexico has graciously allowed them to come, into Little Americas. I actually had a woman tell me that “she and her lawyers always win” when she tries to get something here in Mexico changed into something more American.
And, this is phraseology the American expats use: They’ve told me, to my face and via e-mail, they don’t like such-and-such in Mexico so they will change it to conform more to their American tastes.
If American Tastes is what they wanted, why didn’t they stay in America where they could taste America all day and night? Why did they come here?
I’m not only beating the dead horse, I’ve resurrected it.
The bee in my bonnet all these years we’ve lived here is just why do they move here if they are:
1. Never going to learn Spanish.
2. Never going to assimilate the culture.
3. Going to force the city into having American holiday celebrations.
4. Going to force the Mexican locals into accepting American ethics of sexual, philosophical ideology (Think this strange? Check out Puerto Vallarta or San Miguel de Allende’s “Gay Pride Parades.”)
5. Never going to cut the apron strings to America by having free international calling, American holidays celebrated, the importation of American’s pathological ideologies.
What is happening (has happened) in Guanajuato, right underneath our American noses, is that Americans (and mind you it is mostly Americans about whom I am talking) have set about creating:
1. An American Enclave or Sector of residential housing.
2. An American (note I do not say English-speaking) library.
3. Now, they have the full support of the local cultural director to create a little America complete with the celebration of American holidays and concerts for Americans. I am sure Gay Pride Parades are just around the corner once the word gets out.
Essentially, they come with those American dollars and get what they want. Americans are getting what they want in Guanajuato and my poor Mexican friends do not know what a Pandora’s Box is being opened. Soon the culture will become English-speaking and one will be hard-pressed, as in San Miguel de Allende, to find someone speaking Spanish—American Colonization here we come!
Naively, stupidly, innocently, ignorantly, and whatever other “ly” word you can imagine, I believed Americans would not hypocritically come into another country and not practice what they preached about immigration in America.
You know exactly what I mean. Americans scream from the highest rooftops and politicians win or lose elections on the issue that Mexicans who come to America should become bilingual and assimilate into the culture. Surely, you’ve heard that battle cry of the anti-Mexican movement in America.
Yet, when Americans move to Mexico, and I am talking about the MAJORITY, they never learn the language. Language acquisition is the first step to assimilating into the culture.
I am telling you the God’s honest truth—Mexicans in Guanajuato have an anti-gringo sentiment against those who move here and do not learn Spanish. They are not expecting perfect Spanish. They are not expecting Spanish scholarship. They are expecting the attempt. When you make the attempt, the Mexicans do help you and you end up winning their hearts.
But, amazingly, there are gringos here in Guanajuato who cannot, and I am not exaggerating, string enough words of Spanish together to successfully complete the most basic of life tasks in this town. They have to hire someone to speak the language for them.
What gringos in Guanajuato are doing will irrevocably, irreparably, and indescribably alter the town. They will, by instituting American holidays, American cultural centers, American this and American that, change the culture as surely as the Americans have changed San Miguel de Allende forever.
I’ve read so many times on one of the most infamous American conservative news shows that shall remain unnamed (it shared the same name as Mexico’s former President Fox), when Mexicans move to America, they should, at the minimum:
1. Learn English
2. Assimilate into the American culture by learning some of America’s history and adopt her customs.
3. Fly the American and not the Mexican flag and pledge allegiance to the United States of America.
Well folks, when Americans move to Mexico, the vast, vast majority moves into or create American enclaves. These are bubble existences. They are sheltered from the trenches. They would not be able to hold a conversation with the “average Joe Mexican” if their life depended on it.
The other day, I got into a tiff with one of these fake expats who told me “All my friends are Mexican…” All her friends are bilingual, rich Mexicans who live the lifestyle of the upper class Mexican—one in which this woman shares. This woman denied vehemently there is any anti-gringo sentiment in this town.
How could she possibly know when she cannot ask, in Spanish, those who hold that sentiment?
She runs in circles that no common Mexican man or woman in real Mexico would ever travel. And, if she ever lowered herself to get out of that gas-guzzling American car she drives to the Mega Superstore, and if she bothered to mix with real people, she would soon discover another Guanajuato.
But, oh I forgot, she wouldn’t be able to find out a thing even if she came to the trenches since she cannot speak a word of Spanish.
There you have the conundrum.
There you have what keeps me up at night.
There you have what is sending my wife and I searching for another town in which to live—one in which no gringo would dare tread.
Is there such a place?