The world today is divided politically into 196 countries. Sixty-one other areas are variously defined as Territories, Colonies, and Dependencies. An additional six major areas are disputed territories (the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, Western Sahara, and Antarctica). A total of 263 politically defined places to visit.
I’ve been to only 12½% of the political world, 18% of the countries as an over 50 traveler. Kim and I are not fond of two of these countries. We want to live in three of them. One we want to live in is Mexico.
What You Think About Mexico May Be Wrong
When we say that we are going to Mexico, or how much we love Mexico, or that we’d like to live in Mexico someone unfailingly mentions how dangerous it is, or how poor it is, or how backward it is. With few exceptions (one to be exact) these people have never traveled to Mexico or have not crossed the border in years – years measured in decades.
These people are dead wrong. They are victims of misinformation. Mexico is great.
Why The Negative View Of Mexico?
Why has the American government consistently pushed negative propaganda about Mexico? It is bewildering given the proximity of the two countries., their friendly political relations, and mutual economic dependency.
Actually, negative propaganda should come from Mexico. The U.S. seized Mexican territory and then declared war on Mexico. America snatched from Mexico what is now
- New Mexico
- western Colorado
To add insult to injury the U.S. later forced the “purchase” of an additional 78,000 square km (30,000 square miles) of land from Mexico.
Today, the U.S. President takes the position that the Mexican people are criminals. The U.S. is building a wall on the border with Mexico sending a clear message – stay out.
You’d think the Mexican government and people would be less than thrilled about America and Americans. But they are not, they continually forgive us.
The Cultural Divide Between Mexico And The United States
The Americas can be divided culturally between High-context and Low-context cultures. This dividing line is the Mexican-American border. North of the border are the Low-context cultures. Cultures transplanted from Northern Europe. South of the border are High-context cultures. Cultures transplanted from Southern Europe.
The United States is a Low-context culture and Mexico is a High-context culture. This difference creates many misunderstandings. These misunderstandings feed the negative view the U.S. government paints of Mexico.
High-context Mexico, Low-context America
This chart from Rob Segers blog does a nice job of illustrating the differences between High-context and Low-context cultures.
As an example, you can see that Americans are more competitive, task-oriented, and individualistic. Mexicans are more cooperative, relationship-oriented, and team-oriented. This leads to different ways of doing business which can lead to conflict.
In America, if your mother is sick you go to work and call her during lunch. In contrast, Mexicans would stay home to take care of their mother and call into work. Americans view the Mexican way as a poor work ethic, the wrong priorities, or just lazy. Mexicans view the American way as selfish, cold-hearted, or abandoning their families.
The High-context Low-context difference helps to explain the differences in how each group behaves.
“Not Where You Are, Where You Are Going”
Long ago in another former life, I was the Director of Education at a juvenile detention center. One of the best pieces of advice I received during this time was to focus on and communicate to the students that
“what is important is not where you are but where you are going”
I use this same outlook for countries.
Twenty years ago the U.S. was ahead of Mexico in many areas. But in that time Mexico has advanced and the U.S. has stagnated.
Safety, Poverty, And Modernization In Mexico And America
Twenty years ago I recall well constructed and maintained roads in the U.S. and questionable ‘roads’ in Mexico. While I’d say the U.S. still has better overall roads, Mexico’s infrastructure is improving while America’s is worsening.
In Mexico City, Vera Cruz, Playa del Carmen, and Puerto Vallarta we have encountered some homeless people. In the U.S., regardless of the city size (small Flagstaff or metropolitan sized Phoenix), we have encountered the homeless everywhere. Mexico has homeless people, American has homeless populations.
Not long ago I was teaching International Business at various universities. I taught in two universities in the U.S., one in China, and one in Thailand. I’ve applied to several Mexican universities. I did not receive a position – I’m not qualified to teach in Mexico. I don’t meet their standards, I don’t have a Ph.D. or enough real-world experience (really?).
Mexico and the United States are both well known for high homicide rates. But which country is really safer? The raw numbers show that Mexico is more dangerous. But there’s more to the numbers.
In Mexico, homicides are largely among gang and cartel members. In America, those getting murdered are largely random people. Since neither Kim nor I are gang members or involved in the drug trade, our chances of being involved in violent crime in Mexico is extremely low. In the U.S. those chances are random. To be murdered in America it does not matter who you are. You could be a concert goer, an elementary schooler, a person crossing the street.
In the era of COVID-19 Mexico does better than the U.S. We left Arizona, U.S.A for Jalisco, Mexico. Each state has a similar population but a vastly different infection and death rate.
|Total COVID-19 Cases||206,000||21,049|
|Total COVID-19 Deaths||5,221||2,542|
Why such a difference? Jalisco has a comprehensive, long term, science-based strategy to defeat COVID-19. Arizona does not.
I went to LA Fitness, a gym, in Tucson, Arizona. The staff wore masks. During my tour, I saw about 30 people. Only two wore masks. I left.
In Puerto Vallarta I have to schedule a time to enter the gym, my time is limited to one hour, the number of people allowed in is strictly limited, everyone must wear a mask.
A Lot To Love About Mexico
There are many more examples of the difference between the two countries. I think the biggest difference is that Mexicans have an air of happiness and friendliness about them.
Kim and I come to Mexico often because we like the less stressful High-context culture that is Mexico. Specifically, we like:
- the relationship-oriented outlook
- not being a slave to time
- a focus on life’s enjoyments rather than work and money
Many people call Mexico “The fun side of the wall”, I think they are right.
Investigate Before Forming An Opinion
Governments influence their citizen’s views of the 263 global political divisions. Countries have allies and enemies. Every country paints a positive or negative picture of the other political divisions. But painting is often how the painter sees the subject not as the subject is.
My free friendly advice is to travel to a country to experience the culture. Make an effort to learn from objective sources before passing judgement on a country, culture, and people