17 March 2009

Time Warp

The more that I delve into old books about Mexico the more I feel like we are caught in some kind of time warp where things never change. The people change by living and dying, of course, but the culture either doesn't change or it changes ever so slowly. Today I was reading an interesting but literally disintegrating old book called “Exciting Experiences in our War with Mexico” by Marshall Everett published in 1914. It documented the U.S. Intervention during the time of the Mexican Revolution and the landing of U.S. Troops at Veracruz. There is one chapter that sounds so familiar that it almost could have been written by an expatriate American blogger in recent times. Here are some excerpts:

Chapter XVII – Why Mexicans Dislike Americans

“There is no disguising the fact that Mexicans do not like Americans. This is particularly true of the educated class which has most to lose from possible outside interference with the tenure of their land. The Latin is by nature ceremonious. The Anglo-Saxon is by nature abrupt. The two manners do not assimilate and the natures of the two peoples are as different as their manners.”

“A good many Americans who have gone into Mexico with the avowed object of showing the Mexicans how to run a country, how to develop the resources of Mexico, and how to establish a stable government, are not of the type most flattering to the nation they represent, and many of them fail in their private enterprises, a matter of no heartfelt sorrow on the part of the Mexican.”

“The only successes made by Americans in Mexico have been made as a result of consideration for Mexican habits and customs which are as fixed and immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. At least it is certain that they cannot be changed in a day or a year or even a century."

(Bob's note: The Medes and Persians who were the ancestors of the present day Iranians had some of the earliest laws know to exist and they were strict and unchangeable. The Biblical Daniel's respectful defiance of a law of the Medes and Persians is what that got him thrown into the lions' den).

“The American's effort to reform everything he comes in contact with is a constant source of complaint against the inhabitants of the Northern republic.”

“The American as well as the Englishman and German are considered by Mexicans to be lacking in the ordinary observances of polite society. The Mexicans delight in metaphor. The American believes in going straight to the point. The Mexicans delight in composing graceful sentences. The American is blunt.”

"The loss of Texas was a hard blow to Mexico and the United States is blamed for that without a possibility of any change in this conviction of American guilt."

“The Mexican say that we took advantage of the difficulties of Mexico in the war of 1847 and conquered her because at the time she was divided against herself.”

“Throughout the republic it is believed that America covets Lower California and is only deterred from a campaign of invasion through fear of foreign complications. Throughout the length and breadth of the Mexican Republic belief is rampant that Americans are exploiting them and their country. They do not take kindly to the ownership of so many of their sources of wealth by American capitalists."

Now I must admit, when I first came to Mexico in January of 1999 I thought, “Well this isn't so bad. It wouldn't take long to put this place in good shape”. I am now embarrassed that I ever thought that way. I am now almost perfectly content with Mexico just the way it is...I say “almost”. There a still just a few little itches that I would like to scratch. I can't help it. I'm an American.


Tancho said...

Sadly I see Gringos trying to change what is unchangeable. Then they get upset of the "slow" society and think that they have all the answers.
My question is then, why do they leave the land up North if they want to make their new land like the place they left?
A riddle that will go unanswered.
I like it the way it is, and pray that it doesn't change too fast, but it appears that change is happening, sadly.

Calypso said...

Frankly I think you shine a bad light on North Americans that is mostly undeserved.

Other than some zealous religious folks, most North Americans have tried to be a positive addition to Mexico I think.

I too like Mexico for the most part the way it is. But, where I was born or came from is of little consequence to the fact that I live here now and see people polluting the air and water that we share (they also do it in the United States btw).

A lot of Mexicans have a terrible diet (as do more than the majority of United States folks).

There is a great deal of alcoholism here in Mexico. These are issues that don't have land boundaries.

It is hard to dismiss these facts; to stand by and watch these things occur and not care enough about the earth and others that inhabit it regardless of your country of origin.

We have responsibilities and perhaps may even have knowledge that should be shared.

I think the more important issue is how people go about trying to impart what they think they know better.

It truly bothers me when people suggest we gringos are guests here and should conduct ourselves that way.

I live here. My life is affected by the people with whom I live and theirs is affected by mine by nature of the fact we have chosen to live together (or not).

It is not a bad thing to care or to even impart something you know. How you go about it is important.

There can be a fine line between what you know and what you think you know. That said if my neighbor's house is burning down and he is asleep in it - I am going to wake him up.

I guess what I am saying is this is a far more complex issue than to suggest a desire for change or having a perception or belief that there is a better way is butting in to others lives. That is an over simplification I think.

As you suggest, "There a[re] still just a few little itches that I would like to scratch."

Bob Mrotek said...


Well, what can I say? Thanks for being frank :)

Babs said...

Aah and therein lies why I spend so much time in my own little world cause I'm so tired of hearing newly arrived gringoes trying to change what they came here to love. It frankly drives me nuts! I have no desire to change one darn thing........

Anonymous said...

Living in Mazatlan, we see too often the NOBers who arrive and want to immediately start changing things. If they don't whine about their CFE bill (because of excessive use of A/A), then they complain about the drivers because they don't always follow the rules. We spend almost no time around other gringos and wouldn't have it any other way.

We chose to live in a Mexican neighborhood, the only gringos in sight. It's been a wonderful life, but not without its ups and downs. Will we ever be fully accepted? No. Do people look out for us? Many times. Do we have a few itches? For sure.

We see changes happening, but they are small steps. Perhaps that's the way it should be so people don't change their nature. That nature is, after all, why I live here.

As I say many times, "go with the flow" and "it is what it is."


Unknown said...

...and...did you Bob bring your United States into Mexico? Did gringos in San Miguel change it to good or bad? Depends on perspective. In my opinion, nothing stays the same, culture changes and we with it. Perhaps the quotes you took are from someone so far back that he is no longer in vogue. Past thoughts. It is a fact though, that the United States took unjustly half of Mexico. Everyone knows it as everyone knows that the United States went into war against terrorism with most countries against that decision. Do you blame gringos or gringo politics? I think politics to benefit usually, the rich. In any event, I still love Gringolandia.

Bob Mrotek said...

I seemed to have touched a nerve. That certainly wasn't my intention. I really don't know what to make of it. All I can say is that before I could do anything about changing Mexico, Mexico changed me. As for other Gringos it is hard to say. Some will never change either themselves or Mexico and others are somewhere in transition. I don't have any idea how things will eventually turn out. It is just too hard to see around corners. Like you amigo, I try to adopt the best of both cultures.

Ted said...

This article hits the nail on the head (ole gringo saying) Much to my wife's dislike, I practice the art of "mañana" or may even "pasado mañana".


YayaOrchid said...

"is a fact though, that the United States took unjustly half of Mexico".

You know, the Mexican in me has many times felt the way you do about that. But it is also a fact, that just or unjust, the Gringo created a much sought after 'haven' that peoples from many parts of the world risk life and limb to try to reach. And I do ask myself, if this (Texas) was still a part of Mexico, would I even have had the opportunities and benefits I enjoy now? In Mexico, the only people who enjoy similar or better opportunities are the wealthy elite. Everyone else just grows up dreaming of a better life in the good old USA!

I really do not mean to sound as though I think I live in an ideal utopia. This country (America) still has lots of room for improvement!

Unknown said...


I really understand that just or unjust it is the truth. You and I are not to blame of the past. It is the sons and daughters of the United States, (América is a continent by the way) who unfortunately have a heavy load for what their ancestors did. Not all of them of course, since so many new citizens are first or second generation in the US. the United States is a new nation full of great things, people and almost an utopia and yes, perhaps not anywhere in the world you would not have had the opportunities the US offers you. I don't mean to sound as if I dislike or hate the United States. This great nation has given me so much! Most of my great friends ever are from the United States but, that does not hide nor erase the truth, the United States took unjustly half of Mexico. Mexico had the right to defend itself to a provocation and for that, the "manifest destiny and the Monroe doctrine" of the United States was the excuse to do a war, remove all Indians and Mexicans and take over their land. Remember that we the Latin American people were seen as not fully humans. This nation has had many wars, it loves them, wars brings money, power and it is "una nación belicosa". They (politicians) see a benefit in doing war and do anything in their power to do it. Rome used to do that too. I guess the only time it was a good cause was in WWII, then I would have done anything to win that war. The last one, I am ashame to contribute with money for it. Do I have to do civil disobedience? Would it have an impact? Nope.

As a reminder I leave you to read the following...

" The Monroe Doctrine declared that Europe (including Great Britain) should not become entangled in Latin American affairs and that the United States was prepared to go to war to protect the Western Hemisphere from incursion by European powers. It was the first, but not the last, assertion by the U.S. that it would supervise not merely its own foreign policy but also hemispheric relations.
Freed from worries about Europe and competition in North America, the U.S. adopted the notion of "Manifest Destiny," which called for the nation to stretch to the Pacific Ocean. Mexico, which had become independent of Spain in 1821, lost its province of Texas to an independence movement in 1836. As part of its expansion efforts, the U.S. annexed Texas in 1845. In the war with Mexico that resulted, the U.S. was victorious and was awarded New Mexico, Arizona, and California by the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, negotiated by Virginian Nicholas Trist".

Recibe mi más cordial saludo,


YayaOrchid said...

Alfredo, I do know that in this area where I live (south Texas) there are many stories of Mexican and even Mexican American settlers in the old west being killed and their lands taken over by rogue 'homesteaders'. Many injustices were committed, and of course those things never made it to the history books being taught in schools. In fact, large chunks of history dealing with the takeover of Mexican land have been ommitted. And wouldn't you think we should be considered "Native Americans" like the Indian tribes since we were here first? But of course that is a discourse for another day. I am thankful Mr. Bob has allowed us to engage in friendly dialogue. :)

Bob Mrotek said...

Alfredo and Yaya,

You both are some of my favorite people and are both very talented and intelligent. I value your comments highly as I do the rest of the comments here. I thank everyone who expressed their opinion whether it coincides with mine or not. That's how we learn from each other.

Unknown said...

Bob, Yaya:

I am sorry if for any reason I had offended someone. I guess I am just repeating what I had learned at school and think is unjust. We used to celebrate September 12th. Día de los niños héroes. The US invasion into Mexico. Perhaps it is written in my mind those facts and have to tell them. I am not a hater in anyway and never see colors on people. I accept everyone regardless of who they may be. I could had been a priest...lol...just kidding. Anyway, thanks Bob for being so nice as siempre.



YayaOrchid said...

Alfredo, please don't worry, no offense taken. It is always nice and delightful to converse with people, and you did bring out some excellent points that people tend to forget or not talk about.

Bob, you know we all really enjoy your blog. Thank you for being such a gracious host!

Anonymous said...

nd while we are on the subject of injustice... YANKEES burned my great grandpappy's farm in Georgia, then carpet baggers came in and forced them to sell what was left at dirt cheap prices... so you see I've got something in common with Mexico...even more so now that I got married to a Poblana.
Damned Yankees!!!! Viva Mexico!!

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.