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An Ugly Truth in Mexico

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The last night that I was in Mexico, I decided to bow out of the “festivities”, which could possibly have included eating paletas, which to the best of my knowledge is some form of goat meat wrapped in a tortilla. Instead I went back to the hotel to get ready for my early departure from Monterrey Mexico. I packed my suitcase, took a shower and started reading my book. A boring night indeed. At around 7:00 pm, I started getting hungry so I decided to go to Alita’s which is an American style food joint about 100 yards from the front steps of my hotel. Incidentally, due to the stench of some environmentally heated feces, 100 yards was about all I was willing to walk outside of the hotel.

So, I got into Alita’s and took a look at the menu and decided that my best option was the combo platter of buffalo wings and ribs. I ordered them (along with a Tecate beer) from the bartender, and he started asking questions in Spanish that I didn’t understand. I gathered from his waving and pointing that it was in reference to the food as opposed to the beer I had ordered. That’s when a nice gentleman sitting next to me who was obviously American asked me what temperature wing sauce I wanted. I said mild and he spouted off some sentence to the bartender in Spanish about what flavor Picante that I wanted. I thanked the man, and we started to converse.

Man: So where are you from?
Craig: I am in for the week from Cleveland. How about you?
Man: I live here. I was an expatriate but after five years, I am localized now.

For those of you who don’t know, an Expatriate is a special status for Americans working outside the US. It allows them to pay into social security and maintain a 401k, which normally wouldn’t be possible in a foreign country.

The conversation went like this for a while. He was a big burly man with hands that look like he had done plenty of work in his lifetime. The skin on his face was weathered, probably from years rotating between the dirt of a manufacturing floor and the sun. He told me about the bar he was going to open around the corner. He told me about the company he works for which is a major commercial and residential air-conditioner manufacturer. He told me all about his career all the way through to how he arrived in Mexico. Then he started telling me about Mexican culture.

Man: It’s a very different culture down here. The employees really don’t do much without being told.
Craig: I have noticed that the autonomy of the employees is really almost non-existent.
Man: That’s right. If you recruit any of the older employees you can forget about them being a positive contribution to your operations. They don’t have any idea how to think for themselves.
Craig: It makes sense really. They have a history of the boss being the king of their world and they would want to do anything they can to not defy them.
Man: That’s why human resources departments are such a joke here.
Craig: Why do you say that?
Man: If you are a manager, you end up doing all their “work.”
(as he throws his burly hands in the air with the clichéd quote signals)
Man: I mean if you are a manager you can get away with anything you want anyway.

I nod, pretending that I have some clue as to what he is referring, although I truly do not. I don’t even want to guess.

Man: It happens all the time down here. How do you think women even get promoted? It isn’t by their brains or their hard work. It’s about my “hard” work if you know what I mean.

By this point I am chuckling knowingly as my discomfort grows with every moment. This guy is relentless though. I am slowly becoming completely disgusted with this guy.

Craig: Yeah, I could see that happening down here with the relationship between managers and employees. It’s too bad that it is the most immoral thing that I can think of. I am such a guilty person that I would never be able to do it myself. (I laugh to try and cover up my criticism.)
Man: Yeah I could never do it either.

I didn’t buy it for a second. I am sure this late 40’s asshole has abused tons of women in his 5 years in Mexico. I mean he chose to LOCALIZE after being an expatriate for 4 years. Not only that, but he was looking to impart his “wisdom” to a complete stranger (me) as if I was going to be impressed or something. As if his “triumphs” in guilt-trip sex would make me respect him more as a man. Little did I know it was about to get worse.

Man: So, a young guy like yourself; what did you do down here all week?
Craig: Well, I went out to eat with some of my coworkers mostly and spent a lot of time in my hotel room reading.
Man: You didn’t get to the clubs downtown?!??
Craig: No, we’ve been working pretty hard down here all week.
Man: Well when you work hard you gotta play harder. At least that’s what I say.
Craig: (fake chuckling) You are right most of the time, but I figure there is a lot of trouble to be had down here. One of the things top on my list to not do on a business trip is get arrested in Mexico. I mean I figure US jails are bad, but Mexican jails have to be terrifying.
Man: You gotta know where you are going and who you are going with. You can’t leave Mexico without checking out the gentleman’s clubs.
Craig: (a little more forcefully) I think I can and I probably will. Plus if you have seen one strip club you have seen them all. They are naked women.
Man: Oh shoot, man, you have no idea what I am talking about. These aren’t the type of places with dance floors, stages and poles. They are real clean and stuff, but the women just sit in a room downstairs, you choose which one you like and you sit next to her. Then for 2000 pesos (about $200 American) you can go up to a room with ’em. They are real nice rooms with showers and toilets and stuff. You get an hour to do whatever you want with em. They knock after about 50 minutes to give you time to “clean up.” (he did the damn quotes in the air thing again as he laughed)

By this point, he was laughing after every sentence, probably because I wasn’t responding very much and he had to do something to fill up the air that was left vacant by my lack of speech. All the while, I was doing an Oscar-worthy acting job so that he didn’t detect just how appalled I was by him. I am no angel. I have done plenty of bad things in my life, but I suspect this man is the scummiest of all scum in the history of the world. Lots have people have done worse, but think about it. This guy comes from one of the richest cultures in the world, to a country that is getting started in its economic development.

He is supposed to be one of the people responsible for helping to advance the economy of this developing country and he is too busy raping it, quite literally. Sure companies go down there because of the cheaper labor rates and everything, but Mexico is supposed to get something out of it too. $3 per hour doesn’t sound like a lot of money for laborers to be making, but it is better than any of them were doing a little while back. Over time, as more companies move production down there and the generations of laborers become more and more skilled, they should start getting more competitive wages. Until that happens, a door is left wide open for American losers like this guy to take advantage of the disadvantages that these people were sentenced with for the crime of being born. This guy is just as bad as the Americans who travel to those Asian countries to sleep with young boys. Despicable.

To wrap up the story, I got out of there. I conversed as politely as possible for a while longer, before asking for la cuenta (the check) and leaving. I had about a million things to say to this guy, but ultimately I couldn’t think of any benefit to saying them. This guy is probably too far-gone, and I would have been risking my health, maybe my life if I had told him what I really thought.

What would you have done?

I don’t like going to Mexico. It is poor, dirty, hot and smelly, but I don’t blame the people there. They are very nice, respectful people for the most part. They have a desire to work harder and get better as a society, generally speaking, and it really saddens me to hear about people taking advantage of them.

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About Craig Lyndall

  • Dawn

    Man that was really sad and well told. The two times I have visited Mexico I really liked the people a lot. While I was certainly in a tourist zone, we did all we could to absorb the local flavor and understand more about their “real” culture. I agree with you about the Mexican desire to work hard and raise their sights.

    That guy you met is dispicable and grotesque, but Craig men try to get away with that crap in this country too. Most women are too smart to fall for it, but some aren’t.

    In this case, he was truly lazy and taking advantage of people seeking to better themselves and their families.

    He should be shot.

  • Thanks Dawn.

    This was the kind of conversation where you think for two hours about all the things you woulda/coulda/shoulda said, but ultimately, this wasn’t the kind of guy and/or circumstances I wanted to mess with.

  • Della

    I hope I don’t offend but maybe you should have titled your article “The Ugly Truth About Americans in Mexico”. Just a thought.