Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

Glass Botto(n) Boats

February 17, 2010 5 comments

I spent 2 years in Mexico from Dec 1990 thru Oct 1992. I loved it. If you had asked me back then, I would have guessed that I would have been back many times since. Odd thing is I never went back. Until now. Twenty years later (actually 17 1/2) I went back to Mexico for the first time. And guess what? I still love Mexico. Why? The regular-Jose’s (Joe), the regular-Juan’s (John) and regular-Maria’s (Mary) in Mexico are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Oh sure the Canadians are nice, as Rick Reilly points out here ( I have been to Vancouver and the surrounding areas (Abbotsford, Victoria, Surrey) many times – even Kelowna. I lived in Montreal for four months, and have visited Toronto, Mississauga, Windsor, etc. Sure the people of Canada are nice. But they aren’t Mexican nice.

I lived in Brussels for a few months too – and I’ve visited (multiple times) many European countries. Spain is wonderful. Friendly too. There was a different level of friendliness on the subways in Spain than I experienced in, say, Austria, or Germany, or Switzerland. Even French people are surprisingly nice if you try to speak a little French…don’t boisterously walk around like you own the place…and show a little respect for their wonderful country. The same could be said for Great Britain, the Czech Republic, BeNeLux, etc. But there’s something a little more open and warm about Mexicans: Kindness.

I went to a store in Mexico named “Soriana” (think of an enormous Fred Meyer or Dominicks or Wallmart.) After I purchased my  mangos, an older man approached me. He started asking me how to say certain things in English. Things like “I am a carpenter” and “I will fix your doors, your windows, tables”, etc. Where he lives, near Los Cabos, work has dried up, and lots of English-speaking people have built homes. He hopes to go door to door letting them know that he can do repairs or build them whatever they may need. He was having particular trouble with the word “fix.” The -cks sound at the end wouldn’t come off for him. But he kept at it. I wrote down some phrases for him on a piece of cardboard he was carrying. After we finished, and he had shaken my hand umpteen times, and invoked blessings from Heaven upon me, I tried to give him his pen back. He wouldn’t take it. He wanted me to have it. He said that I had given him help, and he wanted to give me his pen in return. Not in so many words, but the meaning was understood. A small gesture, to be sure, but one not lost on me.

Another time we took a taxi way out from the city. Past the pavement. Not only did the taxi driver come back for us on time; on our way back downtown, we realized we were out of baby wipes for our 10-month old. He took us way out of our way to get some more. He parked and went into the store and did some minor shopping while we did ours. Then he took us up and down a few streets to show us some interesting sites. And in the end he charged us the same fare as the first trip out of town. His reason? He said he wanted us to feel welcome in Mexico.

There was someone else in our group that needed to drive to a gated resort for a party, but didn’t have directions. She stopped and asked a Mexican guy on the street. He and his friends started talking – but realized there was no good way to tell her without getting her lost. So – he jumped in his own car and said, “follow me.” He drove her to the front gates. No pay.

I know Mexican people don’t have a corner on the kindness market. But how many of you can imagine these types of experiences in Germany, England, or France? It might happen. But it happened so often in Mexico that it appeared to be the rule rather than the exception.

I know we have major problems with Mexicans and the US Border. It drives me crazy and needs to be fixed. I also know there are little things that make us laugh a bit at Mexico. The many peso devaulations over the years. The crazy border crossing stories. The dusty roads and corrupt government officials. One snorkeling boat we were on was misspelled with “Glass Botton Boat” painted on the side. We saw “looby” for “lobby”, any many other funny signs.

These kinds of things make us laugh, and maybe cause us to look down on them a bit. It might even make us feel superior at times. But that would be a big miscalculation.

The people I lived among 20 years ago and for the last 2 weeks have one thing in common: they are helpful, cheerful and kind beyond measure — even in less than brilliant circumstances. I think having this kind of attitude toward our fellow human beings is one big lesson we can learn from them. Hopefully the lesson will not be lost on me.

Categories: Travel Tags: ,

New Border Concerns with Mexico

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A friend sent me this link today. It talks about how criminal organizations are helping terrorists reach their goals…for profit. This one talks about how one organized crime group named the “D Company” helped organize the terrorist slayings in Mumbai, India, in order to make some much needed cash. His point is that soon this same thing may be happening in the US as crime groups branch out the services they offer — for money, of course.

His International Criminal Organizations professor said that US Federal law enforcement officials are worried about these types of groups in Mexico helping Al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorist groups plan and execute terrorist activities in the USA. The “simple fix”? Close the borders with Mexico.

I agree with the sentiment “close the borders with mexico”, but I admit to having mixed feelings about it. From a US perspective, I wholeheartedly agree that we need to protect that border now more than ever. We have laws, and they need to be enforced. I don’t know how “simple” it would be (as claimed), but it is a simple thing to say.

On the other hand, from a more compassionate point of view, or perhaps empathetic point of view, I can’t blame the guys for trying to get across the border to find a better way of life. Sure I wish they would do it legally, absolutely. And I am not against prosecuting repeat offenders or human traffickers. But I lived in Mexico for 2 years, and I met many people down there that can’t feed their families on mexican wages.  Often when they do have jobs they get treated like animals. One guy I met, named Juan, worked at a natural gas container facility 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He got paid about the same in a month as I was making in a few days when I got home and started a part time job at a dental laboratory making dental devices. I wish I remember the exact wages he earned – but I can’t. Maybe I wanted to forget.

One of his compadres had two fingers cut off during the machining process one day. He wrapped the hand in a towel and kept on working. If he went and complained or spoke to the foreman, they would just kick him out and he’d lose his job…so he kept on plugging away. By the way Juan was a middle-aged man with a wife and three children, and he couldn’t read. He was forced to work at a young age in order to help support the family he grew up in. The Mexican government is raping the land of its natural resources and pocketing the profits, with the big telecom, gas, and other industries “nationalized” by the Gov’t. I have a friend, Carlos, that did an internship with Vicente Fox’s government in Mexico City a few years back. It’s such a pork party down there — just get in with the right guys and you are taken care of. But if you are not in…you’re out. I met people that have been paying taxes for YEARS and yet they have no running water, no sewage lines, no paved roads…and let’s not even talk about the rigged elections. Or the cops that get paid so little they take bribes in order to survive. I ask you: if you lived in a country like this, what would you do?

My point is this: Yes, I believe we need to fix the border problem. For sure. But if I were a Mexican citizen, trying to fight City Hall, and they kept laughing in my face, would I rebel? Start an insurrection? The government swiftly puts down even hints of talk of unrest with their active military, so you’d better be as well armed as the drug cartels if you are going to survive that. It’s not like the American Colonials that had their Mother Country thousands of miles away and the seeds of liberty were sown for decades before England noticed and permanent troops arrived. Mexico has M-16 toting soldiers all over its state capitals — at least four that I have been in — in the North. So what would I do? I would try to get across the border in order to support my family — no doubt about it. And, if I would do that in order to taste a little bit of freedom and justice, have a decent job where I could provide for my wife and children, I can’t really blame them for trying to do the same no matter what the cost…because I know I would do it too.

The solution is for Mexico’s government to change. They need to adopt and live more principles of freedom and liberty for their nation and people. Trust me, if the Mexicans that are pouring over our border knew that they could live and thrive in Mexico — even slightly better than current standards — they would choose to live in Mexico hands down. Since returning from Mexico I have made it a point of talking to Mexicans (and Central Americans from Nicaragua and El Salvador) as much as I can all over the western United States — California, Oregon, Washington, Utah — and they all have one story in common: They are just here to make some money and help provide for their families, and “one day” they are going to return to the “happy life” in Mexico. The “happy life” they are all hoping to return to is not the scenario I just painted of corrupt government, horrible jobs, and poor education. That is why they are here. The thing that they want to return for is the culture of community, of brotherhood that they don’t find here (obviously, as they are foreigners), but also one of non-Consumerism, slower paced, and sunny.

I wish there was something we could do in order to change their laws and government…cuz if you ever wanted to see a mass stampede heading South of the Border…that’s all it would take. Gee, I wonder if our CIA is busy tomorrow night…it’s not like they haven’t toppled regimes that are detrimental to the health of the US in the past…. Or, a simpler suggestion: Close the border. Let anyone into the USA that can pass an electronic thumbprint/electronic ID. If you have a felony or bad record, you don’t come in. If you don’t have a record, we get your thumbprint, issue an ID, and you can enter if legal.