A million gringos?
I’ve been hearing for years that there are supposedly a million gringos living in Mexico — a number was pulled out of somebody’s butt (the somebody being a highly unreliable source that used to be running around this country… and cyberspace… spouting all kinds of nonsense) back in 2002, and taken as semi-gospel ever since.
While it’s difficult to count U.S. citizens who are dual nationals, and there may be a million FOREIGNERS in Mexico at any time (this is a big country, and one of the 10 largest tourist destinations on the planet after all), the Centro de Estudios Migratoria of the Instituto Nacional de Migración, pegs the number of total foreign RESIDENTS at a mere 262 thousand plus. That was in 2009, and of course, there are “undocumented aliens” (including, and maybe especially) North Americans, but even if the number of foreign residents doubled or tripled in the last couple of years, or was vastly undercounted, it’s still nowhere near a million anybodys… and certainly not a million gringos.
AMERICANS… meaning those who hail from somewhere between Point Barrow to Tierra del Fuego account for 2/3rds of foreigners, but U.S. and Canadian citizens only account for a about a quarter of foreign residents. And, of those 70,000+ “North Americans,” an undetermined number are people who already had cultural or familial ties to Mexico when they came here.
There are far more Argentines and Colombians than Canadians… followed closely behind by Cubans, Venezuelans and… Chinese. Spaniards still come to Mexico in some numbers, as they have since 1521. The second largest single cohort of foreign nationals in Mexico are the los gachupines.
Other than simply accepting an unreliable source, how did we get such “funny numbers?” I tend to think that a lot of it was wishful thinking on the part of realtors, the “leisure industry” and those catering to the “gringo ghettos” (which includes myself, at least partially). That is, by presuming one has a market of a million, it’s a lot easier to find investors (and to continue investing one’s one time and effort and money) in a Mexican business, than when faced with a market (scattered over a huge country) that’s actually much smaller and more localized than one wants to think.
There’s also the tendency to assume that those with which you share one trait share all the same traits. I get semi-annoyed at the English language “ex-pat” websites and message boards, which are full of information (and misinformation) and discussion of new immigration and visa procedures. Most commentators, even the knowledgeable ones, go on and on and on about requirements for a pensioner’s visa, as if pensioners were the only sort of foreign resident of any significance. While slightly less than half of U.S. and Canadian resident foreigners are on pensioners’ visas, overall, only about 20 percent of foreigners are pensioners. Over half of us gringos, and most of the other immigrant… ex-pats… refugees… “mojados reversos”… creatively (or otherwise) self-exiled… are not.
And, because the North American pensioners are so concentrated in a few communities, there’s again, that sense that all foreigners are living in such places. A third of foreigners live in Mexico City, and none of the ten largest municipalities we think of as “gringo” has a foreign population of more than 2 percent.
A million is a nice, round number, and sounds good. But perhaps those that claim a million of US guys just plain overlooked their neighbors, or just can’t count.