November 05, 2009

Viva Mexico! Never mind the H1N1 or La Familia Michoacana. There’s more to Mexico than swine flu and drug trafficking, though I never realized it until I traveled to Mexico City for my cousin’s wedding last weekend. Obviously it is hard to ignore the poverty and corruption, especially when cops jack your wallet on the way down to Baja.  On the other hand, people have been raving about Tulum for years, but I never much wanted to get Montezuma’s revenge twice. The first time was bad enough. Nor did I wish to end up naked on a stage in front of a thousand people like I did on spring break in 1994. Even though I won a free trip back. I guess they have a lot of wet T-shirt contests south of the border. Ten years later, I found myself skinny-dipping on a beach in Acapulco, only this time I was at another wedding, and the groom had confiscated my dress.

For one reason or another, Mexican culture has long been in my psyche. Like any good American, I”€™ve eaten a taco and have a story to tell about the time I drank too much tequila. Actually, I have more than one story. I love tequila. It turns me into a loud mouth vandal. But my previous experiences in Cancun, Acapulco, and Tijuana only confirmed my image of a half-baked nation of paupers without enough salt in their baby food. After 10 years in California, I can say many Mexicans are gentle, humble, and hardworking.  But hell, what’s wrong with their country? So many of them are risking their lives to cross the border. Could it have something to do with the fact that every time you brush your teeth you”€™re glued to the can for 48 hours?  Whatever is wrong with Mexico, and there is a lot wrong with Mexico, I never understood the draw. Ever since the Spanish conquered the warrior tribes that previously inhabited the region, Mexico always seemed like the runner-up.

But therein lies the irony. They were once warriors. Now, for the most part, they are passive, head-to-the-ground laborers. These are not terribly bad qualities to have. They are generally good Catholics, and what I admire most in Mexicans is their passivity. Not one of the Mexicans I hired to drive me around or that served me ever got uppity”€”even when I gave them cause to. And believe me, I was a demanding gringa at times.  You see, despite the fact that I live in England, where patience is paramount if one is to get anything done, I am not used to life in the Third World. We forget just how lucky we are here in the U.S of A where life is relatively easy. Sure, people are struggling, and unemployment is up, but compared to those who live on the streets of the Distrito Federal, Americans are a bunch of pansies. Furthermore, corruption is bad on both side of the Rio Grande”€”much worse in the States when you take Wall St. into account.

What impressed me most about Mexico is the architecture.  For a country with more hovels than sombreros, they have a long and magnificent architectural history. Mexicans take their building seriously. And in Mexico City, it really shows. The Museum of Anthropology is a spectacular structure. Benito Juarez airport is, too. Dozens of modern skyscrapers in the commercial district are just as spectacular as any American skyline. The historic center is quite a sight, and buildings from almost every era dot the city. Famous architects like Luis Barragan have left an indelible mark on Mexico, and almost every house I visited had a pink wall, homage to the great Barragan. Many contemporary architects are either inspired by him, or blatantly rip him off. The sense of color and variety of styles makes Mexico a visually dynamic place and a good source of inspiration for any aesthete. Mexican textiles and crafts are among the finest in the world, the food is top quality, and so are the drugs.  What’s not to love?


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