South of the Border

Mexico, as It Is and Wasn’t: Some Stuff Worth Knowing

November 18, 2017


Anyone who actually lives here can see that the country continues to change at a high rate. The middle class grows. Internet speeds keep going up. Despite the ardent hopes of many web sites of the Loon Right, you do not come down with exotic diseases, or any diseases, by eating in restaurants. Schooling increases. Common is a mother, age 40 with ten siblings, who has two children, both in university or tech schools. None of this is universal, but increasingly common. This in not up there with, say, a manned landing on Mars, but it is hardly consistent with stone-age hellholedom.

What Mexicans are not—yet, anyway—is driven in the sense that Americans often are. Young Mexican engineers are more so, but not the general population. A Mexican girl, to use an example I know, will go to dental school and then stay in her hometown, however small, marry, fix teeth, and raise children. Mexicans seem less entrepreneurial than Americans. They tend to regard a job as a way of supporting a family instead of the other way around.

There is considerable social mobility, at least around the cities. Women start businesses here, often restaurants, stores, bars, or maybe assisted-care homes in regions favored by retired Americans (e.g., Lakeside Care, down the street), but seem content with enough. “Enough” means something to them that it often does not to Americans. Whether this is good or bad can be debated, but it makes for contentedness but not commercial empires.

How will the new Mexican-American population adapt to the United States? I don’t know. Neither does anyone else, though many who know nothing about it have firm opinions. Will the government turn them into a sprawling class of welfare dependents? Doubtless if it can. Will furiously hostile anti-immigrant lobbies make them into internal enemies? They want to, and it would be the end of the U.S.

Or will they clamber, rapidly or otherwise, into the middle class and cease to be of much interest? The latter, I think. An intelligent policy would be to encourage them, but we can do it anyway. They are pretty good people, not given to terrorism or mutilating their daughters or the knockout game, and they burn a minimum of cities. Everywhere I have been—L.A., San Fran, D.C., Houston, San Antonio, Pilsen and Berwyn in Chicago—they have seemed to be settling peacefully in. They have the potential to make it. We had better hope they get there.

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