Skip to content

Anti-Americanism… it ain’t that bad

6 October 2004

“Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to the United States”
Porfirio Diaz

Despite interruptions (family emergencies, financial obligations… life), I’m finishing up my “Gringo’s Guide to Mexican History”. There was an interesting post on “anti-Americanism” a few weeks ago, which disappeared before I had thought about the issue. The tourists concerned about possible anti-Americanism should relax. There is some, but it’s normal and isn’t a major problem here.

Once or twice, I’ve met people who had a bad experience in the U.S., and wanted to tell me about it – followed by a request for money. It’s probably the closest most tourists will ever get to anti-Americanism, but it doesn’t really signify anything.

Personal experiences aside, Mexicans have a keen sense of history. In Oaxaca, I once heard anti-French muttering from a postcard vendor. It took me a while to realize she wasn’t talking about the passing tour group, but about the 1863 French occupation.

Going back to the first United States Ambassador, Joel Roberts Poinsett, there have been numerous attempts by the United States government to gain control of Mexican resources and property (and, in what Ulysses S. Grant called “the worst injustice one nation has ever done to another”, we did take half the country). The Mexican Revolution was spurred, in large part, by reaction against the mostly U.S. control of economic resources. Henry Lane Wilson, Taft’s ambassador, organized a military coup against the democratic Revolutionary government of Franciso I. Madero. He is still a very real villain in Mexico. Woodrow Wilson, given his comments about Venustiano Carrenza (“We will teach them to elect good me”) his invasion of Veracruz and Pershing’s “Punitive Expedition” ranks a close second in Mexican villain-hood. Poinsett, the 1848 invaders, the Wilsons and a host of lesser villains, are still real presences here.

Given our government’s history of meddling in Mexican internal affairs, even somewhat helpful suggestions are resented. Right now, there are discussions of changes in Mexican oil and utility laws. Official, and semi-official statements from the United States have been received with great suspicion, and even public anger. The United States’ invasion of a major oil producing country with a second rate army was despised, if not feared … in this oil-producing, second-rate military power next-door. There was – and is — some rancor here over the war, but not nearly as ugly as the way French tourists were treated in the U.S. during the Bush and Chirac government’s public disagreements.

There are a few on-going differences between the Mexican and U.S. governments — over agricultural policy, the death penalty, the seeming tolerance for neo-fascist groups on the border, the 100-dollar visa fee, and on and on. People complain when they think they’ve been screwed. Mexican friends of mine heard an earful from Texans over Mexico’s water policies. Those Mexicans no more had Vincente Fox’s ear than the gringo tourist has George W. Bush’s. None of which stops people from taking out their very real frustrations on an inadequate stand-in.

History aside, Envy is the favorite of the 7 deadly sins here (I’d say pride is the gringo’s). People always make snide comments about the (supposedly ill-got) gains of others. Gringos come (willingly) to Mexico to play. Mexicans go (reluctantly) to the United States to work. A guy working a 14-hour day who depends on remittances from his brother in Atlanta to help support his diabetic grandmother sometimes gets a little testy talking to someone with the money and leisure to just hang out.

Finally, our knowledge of Mexico tends to be superficial. At home, some people get downright rude to foreign visitors who don’t speak the language well, or think Hollywood movies reflect our culture. And some visitors to Mexico say — or do — some pretty bone-headed things. And people react.

Mexicans are human. The way I nod, or roll my head, probably tips people off that I’m not a supporter of the Bush administration and its policies (basically, my feelings about the war against Iraq are the same as General Grant’s regarding the war against Mexico). So I’m more likely to hear anti-Bush (and, by extension, anti-U.S.) comments than most. People are not stupid, nor do they normally look for arguments (and, regarding Iraq, I’m not – I’m merely illustrating a point). Certainly, anti-gringo feelings exist, and are real. But it’s rare a tourist will be confronted. With visitors, Mexicans are, as Spaniards used to describe people with exquisite manners, “polite as a Mexican”.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 28 January 2007 2:01 am

    hasta la vista baby!

Leave a reply, but please stick to the topic

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: