You would not think that mentioning Other Gringos in an Expat Survival Guide would be necessary but after I am through you will write to thank me. It is necessary and we struggle with this on a daily basis.
This Survival Tip will more or less apply depending on what region of Mexico you might want to live. If you end up in an area like San Miguel de Allende or Puerto Vallarta, then you can skip this Survival Tip if you want. If you really have as your heart’s desire to settle in the city of Guanajuato, or any other Colonial Town in Central Mexico, then you need to read this Survival Tip.
It is my observation that there are two categories into which expatriate or tourist Gringos fall.
One is the Gringo who is used to getting his way all his life. He regards all those outside his socioeconomic class as people meant by God to serve him. He must have those who share his worldview of how life itself should work in his presence at all times. He parties with those within his class and would not think of stepping outside his circle. He will not tolerate anything outside his mindset of how something should be done.
Either learning Spanish would seem absolutely ridiculous or he would think himself fluent because he knows a repertoire of exactly 4 Spanish words. This Gringo, however, would call it speaking “Mexican” instead of Spanish.
The other Gringo is the one who expatriates to (or tours) Mexico with the idea that this is someone else’s country and by God, he will show the respect these people deserve. He doesn’t regard America as the perfect culture that all countries of the earth should emulate.
He isn’t shocked that few Mexicans speak English. He makes every effort, sometimes a Herculean one, to try and learn some S-P-A-N-I-S-H. He actually understands it is not called “speaking some of dat der Mexican…” He loves and respect the language. He understands that Spanish, and not English, is the language spoken in this country and that Mexicans are very happy with their choice of Spanish.
He does not seek to act out his pathologies in public and probably has very few to begin with. He is in this country to learn a new language, to absorb this culture, assimilate into it, and to become a part of the community.
He also totally understands that to do this he not only could not, but would not, live in an “American Sector” if there was one. He rejoices ecstatically that there are none in the city he loves-Guanajuato. He eschews Gringo Gulches and Gringo Landias and would never live in an area that had such a thing.
This Gringo lives to fit into the Mexican landscape and would never think of making typical American demands on the people he now calls his own.
”Where’s the damned taco!”
”You call this a taco?”
”I wanted change and not pesos.”
These thoughts would never fill his head. Never!
I write a lot each tourist season about tourists. I write about Americans who come to Mexico and demand that this be nothing but an American-style foreign country where all the locals speak some funny lingo they think is called “Messican”.
I am not exaggerating. They really do this.
The Gringos who act like the stereotypical Americans, you know, the stereotype that the rest of the world holds of us, also fall into two categories.
One is the Gringo who has moved to a Gringo Gulch (Puerto Vallarta) or San Miguel de Allende (Gringo Landia). These people have effectively, like an invading army of barbarians, gone into these cities, bought every piece of real estate in sight, and now call it their own. They think the city is theirs. They believe they run it. They regard the “messicans” as those meant to serve them-those who invaded and conquered.
And, they would be absolutely right.
I was having this conversation with a professional Mexican here in Guanajuato. He is a professor at one of the city universities. He told me that there are two problems with San Miguel de Allende. One is that the young people went to American and learned thuggery there and then returned to implement American-style gangs in San Miguel de Allende. The second problem, far worse than the first, is that:
”The Americans own San Miguel de Allende, they know they do, and Mexico is doing nothing about it.”
And, my professional university Mexican friend would be absolutely right.
I always tell Americans to whom I tell this story, most of whom vehemently doubt me, to come here and see for themselves. One lady did this. She stayed for a couple of days then reported back that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
She could not speak the language, so how would she know if she could not talk to the locals about this issue!
Americans! Aren’t they a riot?
Americans have bought much more than all the choice real estate in San Miguel de Allende. They have bought the Mexican people too.
I make a habit of stopping Gringos on the streets where I live for one reason. I want to garner more writing material. I am rarely disappointed.
The observant touring Gringos, when asked if they have been to San Miguel de Allende, will usually say something like,
”I have. What’s wrong with that town?”
”I tried speaking Spanish there but the locals all responded in English.”
”It seems so sad over there.”
The unobservant touring Gringos always say that they loved it. I am never surprised at that.
The second type of Gringo that would fall into this group are those Americans, and some Canadians, who come here for vacation expecting the following: