I’ve been trying, of late, to put into words just what I’ve learned about living in Mexico for the past four years that is significant enough to share with my readers. There is so much. Some things I’ve grown to love: the fine restaurants and the slower pace of life here. Some things I’ve come to bemoan: caring for the environment doesn’t seem to be high on the list of things to worry about in this country.
Some things have been city specific. We moved to Guanajuato four years ago and have not lived anywhere else. Just recently, we’ve seen the handwriting on the wall and have decided it is time to seek out other pastures to expand our expatriation experience. So, I guess it comes down to “what have we learned about Mexico by living in Guanajuato?” That sums it up in a nutshell.
Guanajuato has two worlds or two realities coursing through its existence. Maybe it has always been this way. I do not know. There are two classes of people here and rarely do the two meet.
There is the class with money, education, and world experience. Those in this group seem to have a keen sense of there being more to life than just Mexico. They have traveled, studied abroad, obtained university degrees, and are far more sophisticated than the other group’s members.
The second group consists of those who may or may not have graduated from what we in the States would call high school. They are laborers. They work hard or not at all. You see a lot of unemployed men in the cantinas and on the streets with bottles of liquor in their hands. It seems their women are the workers who bring home the bacon, take care of the kids, and try to keep their men out of trouble. They don’t always succeed.
These two groups, or classes, do not mix. You would not see someone of education and means shopping at the small Mom-and-Pop shops in Guanajuato. Those with the means drive their very expensive American-made SUV’s to the Mega Superstore. You would never, or at least rarely, see the other class shopping at Mega. Never would you see the two classes at the same social function.
American expats tend to forget this fact of Mexican life—class structure.
We were at a dinner in the country given by some Americans. The Americans invited people from both classes. Their handyman’s family attended as did their maid’s family. There were also men and women with state government jobs who were obviously of means. The two groups never talked, they sat in separate corners of the patio to eat, and didn’t say hello or good-bye to one another. There was no social interaction at all. This is a perfect example of the two worlds that exist here in Mexico’s heartland and, I suspect, all over Mexico.
American expats also comprise two separate worlds in Guanajuato. You have the American expats who tend to congregate in enclaves. They socialize with others of means, they shop only at the places where Mexicans of means shop, and you would rarely, if ever, see them walking the barrios of Guanajuato as my wife and I do daily. They live a bubbled existence. Two barrios in which these bubbles exist are San Javier and Marfil.
Then, there are the American expats who live in Mexican neighborhoods. They’ve bothered to undertake the monumental struggle to learn Spanish. They shop in the small neighborhood stores. They have mostly Mexican friends, mainly from the working class. These Mexicans have to struggle to get by, but what they lack financially, they more than make up with lots of soul and heart. These American expats have assimilated into the Mexican culture.
The expats living in the enclaves also claim to have “Mexican friends. ” However, upon careful examination, you learn their “lots and lots of Mexican friends” are those of the educated class who are bilingual. These American expats rarely learn enough Spanish to put together a cogent sentence. Their Mexican friends are those who do not, even if they wanted to, associate with the guy who sells bags of dirt from the backs of his burros.
We stop the guy with the burros when we see him and ask how the wife and kids are. Those are the people we’ve grown to love in Guanajuato.
No pretension. No make-believe expatriatism.
We chose to live in the real world of expatriation.
Now it’s time to see what other regions of Mexico are all about.
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