People from the US, because we live right next door, think they really know their Mexican neighbors. I know I thought so and I lived in Texas, a state with more than a few Mexicans and Mexican Americans. But I have really been surprised with all the things I did not know but learned once I moved here. Here are my top 10 things most do not know about Mexico and Mexicans.
First, Mexicans do not drink margaritas. I know, I said the same thing, huh? Very odd too, because they love lime and tequila. They put lime on everything; sweet fruit, sour fruit, seafood, soups, you name it. They use it as fly repellant, bug bite cleaner and even cook their ceviche in it. I think they would bath in it if they could squeeze enough of it. But they won’t drink a margarita??? That is a Gringo thing. I guess they share my belief, that tequila should never be mixed with anything! That is alcohol abuse in my book.
Which leads right into another little known fact, which is that Mexicans seldom shoot their tequila, preferring to sip it instead. They just drink better tequila. That whole salt, lime and shoot thing is something from the old movies. Nobody really drinks it like that … except the gringos. They buy the cheap rot-gut tequila and away they go, salt, lime and shoot. Oh, and then puke! Americans don’t walk into bars like John Wayne did in the old westerns and ask for a “whiskey”. Why do they think Mexicans drink tequila like in the old westerns too??? They don’t. They do however drink better quality tequilas down here and like any good spirit, they should be sipped and enjoyed.
Mexicans generally do not all celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Mexicans frequently ask me, “why do people in the US celebrate what we here consider a somewhat minor holiday in Mexico”. I tell them, we aren’t Irish but that doesn’t stop us from celebrating St Patrick’s Day does it? We could care less that the holiday celebrates the Mexican Army’s victory in a single battle that took place in the state of Puebla in 1862 over the occupying French army. “Whatever” we say! No, it is strictly a drinking day for us. A Mexican St Patrick’s Day you might say. But Mexicans, except in the state of Puebla, generally do not celebrate Cinco de Maya. They just sit and scratch their heads at the loco Gringos every May 5th.
Mexico is not as catholic or as conservative as most think, and are as “native” as they are Spanish in their cultural make-up. The Spanish brought Catholicism to Mexico and it has been the country’s primary religion since. However, Mexicans also hold equally inside them their native cultures, one that is more mystical, natural and one would argue, liberal and progressive. The result is that Mexicans have very liberal behavior norms. They drink festively, are very open minded regarding sexual behavior and sexuality and often will look to their Mayan or Aztec histories for their spiritual guidance instead of the church.
Mexican waiters will not ask if you are ready for your check at the end of a meal. It is considered too forward. You will always have to ask for your check in Mexico. The universal motion to indicate to your waiter that you are ready for your check is to wave your hand, as if you are writing in the air in front of you, and they know that means you are ready. If you wait on them to ask, you’ll have to turn out the lights when you leave.
Mexico is a very non-violent country and culture. I know what they tell you on TV but guess what? I think they might be stretching the truth a bit in order to get you to watch and buy some soap or erectile dysfunction medicine. Mexicans, by their nature, are not aggressive or violent people. Quite the opposite actually. Solving problems through violence, unlike the “put up your dukes” Americans, is almost universally unacceptable here. Guns, except for the few who hunt here, are all but taboo in Mexico otherwise. The drug related violence you see on TV is limited to specific areas, usually along the US border, and is far from the norm throughout Mexico, where gun violence is all but non-existent. Children do not even play with toy guns here. One of the things I like most about living in Mexico is that I can walk the streets and feel safe, unlike in the US where going to an ATM or walking a parking lot after dark causes me to be on high alert at all times.
Cocaine, the drug that causes the small amount of violence we do have here in Mexico, is not a Mexican product and is not used here. That poison comes from South America and comes through Mexico to get to its real destination, the US, where an affluent class of druggies will buy all the South Americans can produce. Cocaine is an expensive product and Mexicans are very poor people, so that product does not have any carrying capacity here. We hate that crap here and wish the US would stop buying it and the South Americans would stop making it!
Most Mexican food is not spicy hot. There are a few dishes of course that are spicy, but that is the norm. Spice is usually found in the salsas and served on the side. These sauces are very far from not spicy though. Chiles, like jalapeño, serrano and habanero are the primary ingredients and can light you up pretty quick. Spice is usually served on the side here and seldom in the actual food.
Most alcoholic beverages here are slightly lower in alcohol than in the US. Not sure why this is, but I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with having drinkers buy more of their product. Typical spirits in the US have at least 40% alcohol, or 80 proof, while in Mexico, many are 36% or 72 proof. Beer is typically 4-4.5% alcohol while in the US, it is usually closer to 6%. You would not know this given the large number of “borachos”, or drunks, I see stumbling around here. Alcoholism here is a problem.
And finally, Mexicans do not want to live in the US. They very much love their country and those who do go to the US, usually do so to work, but not to live forever. Ask a Mexican does he want to live in the US and he will say, “si!” That is the wrong question though because he is actually wanting to live there, but only to work and then go home, which most do. Ask them do they want to live there forever and almost always they will say no. There just are no jobs in Mexico, so they go where the jobs are.
So there you go. Now you really know Mexicans. They are full of surprises and generally speaking, very wonderful people. Don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself!