Not many know this, but there is a school of higher learning in Mahahual. It is called the Univerisidad para Cabezas Dura, or as it might be called in the US, the school of hard knocks. Having been here a while, I am what you might call a PHD candidate at this point, having had just about every hard knock you can imagine over the years. For my doctoral dissertation, I decided to do a study on the sociological sub-classes of US Americans we have here in Mahahual. The study, which is the result of years of gathering empirical evidence, produced some interesting results. Please pardon the very high brow tone of this blog and remember, they don’t let you put Dr in front of your name unless you can write like this.
My starting premise was that US Americans are a clannish bunch by nature and given a fresh opportunity to dispute this in a new environment, remote Mexico, US Americans will remain true to their nature no matter where they go. They’ll hate each other! The results of my study seem to support my thesis. The US Americans here have clanned up in little groups, and in typical US fashion, hate each other and hurl insults, barbs and nasty gossip about one another. In the new environment, away from the US, the phenomenon seems to be even worse, as they have so few influence variables to occupy their time. They have nothing else to do except fight and argue. Social influences that often can help bind US Americans, like churches, schools, little league or dance school; influence variables that can help most Americans overlook their differences, do not exist here. The result is the small sub-groups that have formed here, and the interaction between them is interesting, to say the least. Very similar to the “Lord of the Flies” phenomena, except with tequila!
My favorite group, the one I am in, is also one of the smallest, which is the “Resident Group”. These are real ex-pats who live here year around, and are invested in the community in some form, giving them an anchor to the community the others do not have. Most run small hotels, restaurants or tour businesses. Some are retired. They live quiet lives, running their businesses by day, and trying to do many of the same things you do back home in the evenings, like yard work, hobbies or relaxing with a ball game or movie. Pretty normal lives. Most learn early on that you can’t live all the time like our vacation ambiance will want you to. Live like a tourist, which means you eat unhealthy, drink too much and stay out late every night, and you won’t last long. If you live in Vegas and go out to the strip every night, you’ll be broke in no time. Do the Tropical party thing every night, and watch how fast the wheels come off. After a year or so of that, most Resident US ex-pats settle into quiet lives here and integrate into the community. Because we are not out at all the cool night spots and hanging with tourists, we are sometimes perceived by some of the other groups as distant or even arrogant. Not true, were just tired! We either have worked hard all day, or are retired, and both get you tired early! But if you really want to know about Mahahual, ask a Resident ex-pat. We know how the taxis and buses work because we use them every day. Same for doctors, mechanics, plumbers and so forth. We know a con man when he walks in the room and can smell a scam before the first words leave the scammer’s mouth. We provide jobs with our businesses, pay taxes and spend our money locally. We don’t help every charity, because there are just too many, but we help the ones we can. We know the good guys, the bad guys and all the in-between guys. We really do know our host country very well and know we live here as guests and behave ourselves accordingly.
I think my least favorite group is the “Spit Out” group. These are the rejects the US spit out who live here year round, but really have no invested interest in the town. They just live here because it is cheap, and nobody will bother them. The reason I don’t like them is they are job stealers. They work at jobs like property caretakers, bartenders or divers, always jobs that Mexicans can do, and jobs that are very needed too by those same Mexicans. Usually these are people running from something, bill collectors, IRS, alimony payments, responsibility, you name it. Most have such unreliable past in the US, their opportunities are limited, and with the high cost of living in the US these days, they just can’t live even a lower class life, so they come to Mexico. That is the spitting out I am referring to. The US system, which works for most, doesn’t for these losers, and they move on. Unfortunately for us, they move here. They pay cheap rent, make cheap wages, hustle tourists for tips, and generally make all the real Resident ex-pats look bad. They often live here for years, but because they are not rooted in the community, they can leave anytime and most do after a year or so.
The largest group of US Americans we have here are easily the “Bubble Babies”. Okay, if there is a group I like less than the “spit out” group, I guess it is the Bubble Babies! Avoid them like the plague! You’ll know them when you see them. They typically have on the nicest tropical clothes, drive large rent cars and are always the loudest person in the place. These people usually own the large villas we have in the area and they drop in for a few weeks here and there throughout the year, usually when the pressure of being rich and snotty begins to get to be too much for their poor souls. They fly in and climb into their little bubbles and only come out to go to their one or two favorite places that fit into their little comfort zone and chat with only the other Bubble Babies, or poor unsuspecting tourist. They drink, gossip, drink some more and then really gossip. They love to spend hours at their favorite hangout and tell all the tourist all they need to know, because they are “locals”. The fact is they are the last people most should talk to for advice about anything, except how to get rich in the US. Their only local knowledge is what they know from their bubbles and that one hang out. They will send you to their friends dive shop, usually the drunk guy sitting next to them, even though they don’t dive. They send them there because it is their friend from the Spit Out Group, and is probably an illegal worker at the same time. Same for their Realtor friend, or their restaurant friend or whatever. They actually think that by drinking in that one bar, eating at 2 restaurants, buying groceries at one store and gas at the only gas station in town, is integrating themselves into the community. Locals hate them more than I do because they consider them cheap, arrogant and having nothing to do with the community, unless they can do some “halo shining”.
A sub-catagory of the Bubble Babies are the Halo Shiners. These are the Bubble Babies who crawl out of their little bubbles to “help” the locals. Now don’t get me wrong, not all who try to help locals are Halo Shiners. Usually the organizers of the charities are very well intended people, only trying to help. They work hard and long hours to do what they do. The Halo Shiners are the ones who attend, and even help out, but only to do a little halo shining in process. They usually show up and help out for a few hours, a few days each year, and then they pat each other on the back, shine their halos a bit, take each others picture for Facebook and crawl back into their bubbles. So much for integrating themselves with local community! We really laugh at this sort of US American and so do the locals. Some of course take advantage of the generosity and take the free stuff that generally flows from these sort of Halo Shinning events, but some also very much resent it. Many are way too proud to take any handout from a gringo and would prefer they not do much of the charity work that is actually done here. Many Mexicans, like many US Americans, feel charity creates dependency and a sense of entitlement that does more harm than good. Not sure I agree but many feel that way, on both sides of the border. No matter which Mexican you are though, you see the Halo Shiner gringo as in-genuine and condescending.
The last group is the Rolling Stones. No, not those Rolling Stones, but the kind that roll through for short stays and are usually known by the whole town before the leave. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, and sometimes for lots of laughs. For me, Rolling Stones are like strange dogs; keep them at a distance at first until you know if they are friendly or not. Let one get to close, to quick, and you might just get bit. They are a mixed bag, these rolling Stones, and you never know what you will get. We’ve had sailors, working their way around the world, motorcycle riders trying to do the “Motorcycle Diaries” ride to South America, university professors on sabbatical, drug addicts, drunks, perverts, crackpots, psycho wacked out weirdos and many other very interesting people. I have to admit, I often get a kick out of some of the Rolling stones, but as I said, I’m real careful. I’ve had them do everything from die on me, (that’s a real pain in the ass!)to get thrown in jail and want me to break them out, to had them become internet terrorist who attacked me on Trip Advisor. But I have also shared incredible stories and conversations with many and sometimes enjoy them as much as any I meet here. I just stay away from the wackos … and the Cowboys!
Yes, we have Cowboys here and there are two kinds; Viagra and Cocaine. Both are a pain in the ass but are everywhere. You can’t hurl a pack of condoms and not hit one. Viagra Cowboys are typically older dudes, always with a pocket full of condoms and bottle of little pills, both of which you can buy over the counter here everywhere. They come down and are looking for a good time in a place where that sort of behavior is not really frowned upon. The line between prostitution and a woman having the freedom to use her own body in any way she chooses, is a very blurred one and one accepted by most. It tends to be a very live and let live world here, so sexual services are looked at socially as just a woman’s type of work, not that great most of the time, but it pays good. The Viagra Cowboys love Mexico for that reason … until they get to Mahahual! Our services in that area are still a bit lacking from what I’ve seen, so we usually send them back up to Cancun or Playa Del Carmen for that sort of tourism.
Cocaine Cowboys always find what they want anywhere along the Mexico Coast, thanks to Columbia to our south and the cocaine starved junkies in the US to our north. Not much carrying capacity for that expensive product in a country full of poor people otherwise. Some does fall off in the shipment process and finds its way to the more affluent tourist areas, and that is where you find the Cocaine Cowboys. In some ways, these guys don’t bother me as much anymore. Not sure, but I think I’m beginning to take a more “local perspective” on the matter, for better or worse. Locals find it on the beach and sell it to tourists, who get what they want, just like the fake silver and cuban cigars they buy here. Drugs aren’t harmless, I know that, but I don’t think people die anymore from dime bags of cocaine than die on zip lines, scuba diving or bad tacos. And at the end of the day, the money the locals make from that stuff, provided by the South Americans, goes into the local grocery stores, electric company, landlords or business economy in general. The tourist had their fun and nobody got hurt, except the tourist or Cocaine Cowboy’s bank account, so “what the hell” is what I say about the Cocaine Cowboys. If we have to deal with all the other problems we have to because of all that poison coming through here to get to the US, I guess I can live with a few locals selling it like jewelry or anything else.
So the conclusion of my study is that US Americans in Mahahual are a mixed and weird bunch, just like in the US. The community is one separated by several variables, the most notable is that there are those who work, and those who play. Workers are typically hidden in the Resident group, and when they do come out, they live quietly and respectfully with the locals. They can be a bit grouchy at times but my theory is that is the result of too much work and not enough play. Those who play too much are easy to see and, well, you’ll know them when you see them. The other main variable that separates the community is that there are those who understand Mexico, its people and their place here, and those who simply don’t. The “don’ts” treat Mexico as if it were their own little hedonistic cantina, forgetting it is also people’s homes, proud people, and where they live, work and raise their families. They are thoughtless, self-centered and too often forget they are guests in another country, telling locals how “things ought to be”, and far too self-centered to ask themselves what they would think if a Mexican went to them in the US and told them how it ought to be.
Can the separation be repaired and can US Americans actually live in Mahahual as one united group? Well of course not, is the conclusion. They don’t do it in the US, so why would they be able to do it here. Americans have found amazing ways to hate one another. We hate each other because of the skin color, what church you go to, who you sleep with, what jeans you wear, what music you listen to, what team you root for, or even who you vote for. Here they hate you for all that too, as well if you don’t hang out at the right places, or even worse, if you don’t hang out with the right people. Personal lives are not private, but gossip folly, no matter how hurtful or wrong it is. And don’t get me started about their “unsocial networks” like Facebook. Again, Lord of the Flies, on tequila!
So in the end, my conclusion is this; US Americans can be some of the nicest, kindest and progressive people on the planet. We have some here. And some can be the dumbest, most self-absorbed, arrogant idiots ever to stand upright on two feet. We have both here. If you know what to look for, you can visit here and avoid the bad ones and enjoy the good ones. How? Just pay attention and look for the “locals” wearing the Tommy Bahama shirts and telling everyone where to go and what to do. Then do the opposite!
In conclusion, all I can say is God bless America … please, because we’re gonna need it!