Mexican life

The Legal Mexican and bad cultural habits

WHEN I SWITCHED WordPress themes almost a month ago, some things were lost in the transition. One was the Legal Mexican logo that you may see now to the right, depending on where you’re reading this.

It’s been reinstated because I take pride in being a Legal Mexican. The term is even part of my primary email address, which is visible on the “Felipe” page. You’ll find a link in the header. Say hi.

I believe the term is disturbing to the political left because of its proximity to “illegal alien,” which is usually associated with Mexicans in the United States who have not bothered with the inconvenient detail of obeying the law.

Yes, the Legal Mexican is a hot-button term, which is why I use it.

There are two Yahoo forums that focus on our neck of the Mexican woods. On my bookmarks, I have them labeled Commie Forum and Capitalist Forum. Given the sort of Gringos and Canucks who move to Mexico, you can likely guess which forum is the most lively. Hint: It ain’t the Capitalist Forum.

I’m a member of both, but I’ve been banned a time or two from the Commie Forum, not because of any trouble I’ve caused but because of my politics, which are obvious on the Moon though I never mention politics on the forum.

You might wonder: Why even bother with them? Because I occasionally see some useful information there.

The forum focuses on helping old people and orphans, the occasional movie schedule and announcements of hikes through forests. I do not help old people and orphans. I don’t go to local movies (exception: Coco, which I wrote about here), and I don’t hike through forests.

Nor do I attend their monthly cocktail parties at a restaurant downtown. I don’t drink. I don’t need to polish my English. And I don’t want to lament Hillary’s (or Bernie’s) loss in last year’s election. I rejoice in it.

My posts on that forum are very rare. I’m mostly a lurker. When I do write something, it stays in limbo for a day while, I imagine, it’s examined for any hint of “wrong thinking.” Sometimes I get published, sometimes not.

(In contrast, when I post something on the Capitalist Forum, it is immediately visible to one and all across the globe.)

* * * *

Bad Mexican habit

A few days ago, I ventured a post on the Commie side, and it never appeared. I think I know why, and it had nothing to do with the topic.

I signed off with the term “the Legal Mexican.” Oh, dear!

The post I left should have been of interest. It wasn’t about feeding old people and orphans, movie schedules, or hiking in forests. It was about a bad Mexican habit. Of course, the post might have been rejected due to its negative aspect about us Mexicans who are all absolutely lovely people.

Here’s what I pointed out: Mexicans often hide prices on things they’re trying to sell. This habit is completely counterproductive as countless marketing studies have pointed out above the Rio Bravo. But it applies equally here.

I was responding to a forum post by a Mexican woman advertising a house for sale. She, of course, mentioned no price, which is one of the first things anyone would want to know. Email her, she said instead.

A for-sale ad with no price is silly.

Why do Mexicans do this? Because there is no set price. A Mexican wants to get a look at you or at least get a feel for you, particularly a feel for your economic status. The better off you seem, the higher the price you’ll be quoted.

(This is often misunderstood as the Gringo Effect, but it applies equally to well-off Mexicans. It does, however, usually apply to Gringos due to their being perceived as universally wealthy and foolish with money.*)

This practice means things are not sold as quickly as they might have been had a price been attached to the initial advertisement. When there is no visible price, a percentage of potential buyers move immediately to other matters.

Listen up, paisanos! No price = reduced buyer pool.

It’s part of the Alice-in-Wonderland aspect of living in Mexico, which I mentioned in the previous post about Magic Dirt.

On further thought, maybe my entry’s disappearance did have to do with the topic, not the signature line of Legal Mexican. Or both.

Only the Goddess knows.

* * * *

* If you’d quit colossally overpaying for everything and stop leaving massive tips, maybe Mexicans would stop seeing you as easy pickings. By the way, don’t ever buy a house that’s priced in dollars. I mean, really!

18 thoughts on “The Legal Mexican and bad cultural habits

  1. That’s funny, but I do think you hit the nail on the head. Mexicans really do size us up and each other to figure out how much they can squeeze us for. I always enjoyed the exercise as I tend to be a penny-pincher myself, so the negotiations were actually kind of fun.

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    1. Mark: Hitting the nail on the head is Standard Operating Procedure here, but thanks for noticing. As for negotiations being fun, I guess they can be for some folks. I prefer a stated price myself. And as marketing studies have concluded decisively, a stated price gets the goods sold quicker.

      Saludos to Arizona.

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  2. Felipe: I’ll never ban you from my blog, though I reserve the right to ignore you when you go off the rails, particularly regarding your illogical love affair with Trump.

    Now, about your previous post and your insistence in claiming you’re Mexican, which you do often as if trying to convince yourself.

    You obviously have a lovely wife (a patient one too, to put up with you LOL). A very nice home, decorated Mexican-style in a small town that I think is one of the loveliest in Mexico. You’re apparently healthy for an old coot.

    But you’re not Mexican, and neither am I, not by a long shot.

    Being Mexican is not having a passport, marrying a Mexican woman or proclaiming you love Mexico. If you read Octavio Paz’ “The Labyrinth of Solitude”, or Alan Riding’s “Distant Neighbors” (both of them kind of a slog to read), you discover folks which are deeply not-American, in the sense of their values, religiosity, superstitions and cosmology. It’s more than being chronically late for everything, or lying when they find themselves in a jam. It’s a different way of thinking.

    I’m pretty close to Félix’ family, speak good Cuban Spanish, I like them and they like us. But we are tuned to different radio stations. I would never consider us members of their tribe. I find Félix a totally decent guy, one of the most decent I’ve ever met, but also a person who is deeply superstitious, fatalistic, and distrustful of anyone more than ten feet outside the gate of their little ranch where he lives with his family. And resentful. No one can hold and nurture a grudge like Mexicans.

    If someone were to parachute you and me into some backwater town or in a Mexico City barrio away from the tourist haunts, we’d probably die. It’d be like landing on the moon. With my Spanish I could find us a crapper and directions for the nearest bus out, but that’s about it.

    There’s an AA bumper sticker that says “No matter where you go there you are”, meaning that you shouldn’t pretend or hope to be a different person by moving to a different place.

    So, about your prattling on about how Mexican you are—or distant from the U.S.—stop it. America is in your genes.

    Now go to the main square and have a coffee, Americano, of course. Ever taste Mexican “café de olla”? It’s gross and you’ll never get used to it.

    alfredo

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    1. Señor Lanier: It’s good to know that you’ll never eject me from your blog. I am, of course, a welcome addition to any fiesta or should be.

      Something interesting: Back in the days of my previous, far less political, more lyrical website, The Zapata Tales, before your time, almost everyone in the Gringo blogosphere here in Mexico had a link to me on their blogrolls. No more, however. Most do not. It’s a form of shunning, and it demonstrates that the majority of Gringos living in Mexico who write blogs are left-wingers. Ni modo. We on the sensible side of politics have to put up with it. Perhaps ironically, a few bloggers who are no less conservative than I am, but who are far less out front about it, continue their spots on said blogrolls.

      Now about this being-a-Mexican thing, I do not, have not, and never would claim to be any sort of Mexican aside from a legal one, which I certainly am. In my heart and soul, I am no Mexican and, as you note, like you, never will be. The worlds are too far apart. (By the way, this is precisely why I know that intentionally promoting multiculturalism within a nation is a spectacularly bad idea.)

      But I am far more Mexican than you, amigo, for better or worse. I got the papers. You got a visa.

      And if we were parachuted into, say, a Godforsaken barrio of Mexico City, I too could find us a crapper and directions to a bus out. ¿Me entiendes? Creo que sí. Maybe me better than you. When we were in Havana back in 2012, I had lots of trouble understanding Cubans and vice versa. Even my wife occasionally struggled with understanding what passes for Spanish on the Commie Isle.

      As for The Labyrinth of Solitude and Distant Neighbors, I vaguely recall reading or trying to read Distant Neighbors in the late 1990s. As for Solitude, calling it a slog is being kind. I’ve never been able to get more than 20 pages into it. Perhaps it’s more manageable in Spanish, but I never read books in Spanish. There are too many English ones I’ve yet to open.

      As for no one being as good at grudges as Mexicans, I know one person … me. So perhaps that elevates me a tad on the True Mexican scale. Pissing me off is pretty much a permanent thing. I’m not into forgiveness, not even a little bit. While I’m confessing, I also have a nasty temper.

      Who knew?

      Your grasp of the Mexican personality is impressive. I mean it. So few Gringos down here have that grasp. Their notions are usually stupendously incorrect and naive. Laughable even.

      As for America being in my genes, it is, but I think the Magic Dirt (mentioned in the previous post) is soiling me more every day. The fact that I have not been in the United States in a very long time also takes its toll, as I’ve noted. I’m drifting away.

      And yes, I’ve tasted café de olla. I like it!

      Yes, I am a sort of Mexican, and you’re not. I think you’re jealous.

      And who are you calling an old coot? I’m as fresh as a newborn child.

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    2. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a food fight in the afternoon.

      Al, you’re taking your friendship with your employee and extrapolating that to the personality of all Mexicans. Come on, now. You’re a wiser man than that. But just for starters, why don’t you ask Felix what he thinks of Guadalupe Loaeza, Carlos Carlos Monsiváis and Enrique Krauze. Ask him about Jorge Castañeda. Oh, silly me. I should’ve realized he’s likely heard of none of those.

      You’re not more part of Felix’s tribe than you are part of the tribe of the Mexicans I’ve named above, although you likely have much more in common with the latter.

      Parachute me to some godforsaken barrio of CDMX and I’d survive, just as I would in some back of the beyond rancho in the Tierra Caliente –- and longer than it would take to find a toilet and ticket out of there. Obviously, I’d be much happier in Lomas Chapultepec or Polanco, but I’d find something to entertain myself with out on the rancho.

      Oh, and did I mention that I’m Mexican? (Please don’t go spouting off what you think may be in my genes, because even I don’t know that.)

      Your reasoning would seem to indicate that you don’t consider Elena Poniatowska to be a real Mexican, given that she was born in France. Or that Carlos Fuentes is, since he was born in Panama.

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        1. No problem conceding that point.
          There is a huge tendency among gringos in Mexico to say “I know my campesino employee and his family, and therefore, I understand all of Mexico.” They know that campesino and his clan, and that’s that. But they seldom have much appreciation for, much less substantial contact with, Mexicans of their own social and educational class. And that’s what creates that huge gulch of misunderstanding.

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          1. Ms. Shoes: Most Gringos’ interactions with Mexicans is limited to “the help” because Mexicans of their own social and educational class, I think, don’t have much interest in interacting with them. Their interests lie elsewhere. There are some exceptions, of course.

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            1. Most Gringos’ interactions with Mexicans is limited to the “help” because most Gringos in Mexico barely speak any Spanish at all. Of course Mr. Lanier is a notable exception, one suspects, mostly due to birth lottery. I doubt his partner speaks fluent Spanish. And that is the reason most Gringos don’t associate with Mexicans of their own social and educational class. I’d also mention that (particularly outside of CDMX) the number of university educated Mexicans remains quite small, while it appears that the expats are generally a fairly well-educated bunch.

              As for “surviving” in small Mexican towns, I spent time in a bunch of them during my 2014 road trip. Everywhere I went, people were kind, courteous, and welcoming. “Surviving” there isn’t much of a challenge. Frankly, you’d probably do far worse dumped into a large, American city than in small-town Mexico.

              Saludos,

              Kim G
              Redding, CA
              Where we don’t think you’re more than technically Mexican either. And with dual citizenship, even that is questionable.

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              1. Kim: I’d prefer being dropped into most Mexican small towns over being dropped into Detroit or Baltimore these days. Maybe even New Orleans. Those cities likely would not recognize my white privilege.

                As for my being technically Mexican, I am just that. That I’ve also got U.S. citizenship is irrelevant.

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      1. Ms. Shoes: I’m gonna have to sorta side with Al on this gene thing. It’s not really genes, of course, but that’s a convenient word for the situation. It’s actually more of a heart-and-soul thing. You are where you grew up, the attitudes, assumptions, druthers, your roots, whatever. Does anyone really change that down deep inside late in life? Doubtful. Next to impossible.

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  3. You should take an occasional walk in the woods. It would be good for you, and possibly for the woods as well.

    I always felt bad about price-haggling when I went to Honduras back in the day. That was in a time when I thought my presence might make a difference (now there’s evidence of dreamy-eyed Gringo stupidity). I felt bad about working a price down from a merchant who was so economically disadvantaged.

    I’m quite sure they has a good laugh afterwards.

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    1. Ray: Gotta keep in mind that they take a look at you and jack up the price quite considerably above what they will be happy to get. If the high price is accepted, well, so much the better from their point of view. As for your presence making a difference, it can in the short run. It won’t in the long run.

      As for taking a walk in the woods, I like walking in the woods. Just haven’t seen any convenient woods to walk in lately hereabouts. But I like woods, better than I like most people.

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  4. As the son of an immigrant, I’ve always had an affinity for foreigners regardless of where I’ve lived or visited. As a kid, I had a very large collection of National Geographic magazines and maps. I spent three years in Germany in the service and traveled all over Europe. I’ve always been treated well where ever I’ve gone. When I was off duty I spent nearly all my time socializing with Germans.

    It may sound New Agey but I’ve always attributed my good fortune to my ability to send out positive vibes and focus on what I have in common with others which I call LCD – lowest common denominator. It has helped enormously in my work as a counselor and living in Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrés: I envy you in that the military sent you to Europe. It almost did me too. Almost. When I was discharged in California the fellow who moved into my very job shortly after was shipped to England. Why not me? Dang. I almost would have reenlisted had I known.

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