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Stuff Mexicans Like #9: La Responsabilidad Personal (Personal Responsability)

20 May

Despite the apparent lack of personal responsability noted in the Spanish universal accident phrases: Se me cayó; Se te olvidaron; Se me hizo tarde; etc. It fell by itself (on me); They were forgotten by themselves (on you); It was made late (on me), Mexicans truly are all about Personal Responsability. For those who live in Mexico, when was the last time a Mexican police officer told you to put on a seatbelt, to produce proof of insurance, or to strap the small child into a car seat? How many times has an officer stopped by your home late at night to ask you to keep the noise down or to remind you of the forbidden firework statute? Has an animal control representative ever rebuked your barking dog or suggested you offer more water to your small roof poodle? It just doesn’t happen. These are personal decisions that one is offered the Dignity and Personal Responsability to choose in México.

Huecos (ooh-AY-koes: holes)
Shortly after arriving to live in Querétaro (kay-RAY-ta-row), I was strolling with a friend in my posh neighborhood in Juriquilla, home of one of the best golf courses in the republic. Just as I negotiated to avoid a large sink hole in the sidewalk, I said to Beto, “Ok. I love the country. Love the people. The food. The culture. The music. The architecture… But what the bleep bleep is this??” (gesturing to the deep uncovered pit in the cement.) “How about if I fall in one day? Huh?”
Beto looked amused, with a duh expression in his twinkling eyes, as if I were proposing some kind of trick question. “Evítalo,” he answered. (Walk around it/avoid it!)
How simple. So simple that I began to laugh. I told him that I liked his no-nonsense approach and would need to meditate on it a bit before commenting.
“Ok, so I’ll evitarlo,” I said. “Now how ’bout if my 2 year-old is playing outside and she falls in the hole by accident? Huh? How bout that, Beto?”
Again, the same amused, perplexed look in his face. “Cuida a tu niña,” he says, with a shoulder shrug. (Watch your kid.) 
Beto stared at me hard as I was shaken to the core with his simple genius. “¿Que harías tú en tu país?”  (What would you do in your country?) he asked, as if he could think of no other option.
“¡Demandar!” (Sue!) I informed him without hesitation.
“¿Pero no es tu responsabilidad ver donde caminas?” he asked. “¿Y cuidar a tu propia hija?”  (But isn’t it your responsability to look where you walk? And to take care of your own child?)
Beto did not understand on what grounds I would or could even consider suing the city, even after I explained that the city is responsible for the sidewalks. When I told him I would call the city to report the hole, he said, “Por qué no lo tapas tú?”  (Why don’t you just cover it up yourself?)
Topes (TOE-pays: speedbumps)
When I moved to Colonia Mexiquito here in SMA, my neighbor, the cock-fighting taxista (taxi-driver), proudly informed me, “People used to drive too fast on our street; then I built the topes.” He was concerned about the speed on our child-friendly cobble-stone street, so he personally installed two large speed bumps! As far as sweeping the sidewalk in front of my home, I, in my Gringa mind, consider the sidewalk to be property of a larger element… the city of San Miguel, for example, the state of Guanajuato. My neighbors, however, feel the Personal Responsability to go outside and clean it every morning. Chin. Damnit.
Mas Ejemplos (more examples)
When my girlfriend, Stephanie, came from Seattle to live in San Luís Potosí, one day she asked the bus driver, “Is it ok to bring my large basket of dirty laundry on the bus? …That lady has a goat.”
One day I pulled into the Oxxo (Mexican AM/PM) to get a Nescafé (instant flavored coffee beverage) but all the parking spaces were taken by vaqueros (cowboys) on horseback. You better believe I snapped a photo. (And you will enjoy it just as soon as I find it and update this post!)
On another occasion I struggled to pass the truck carrying 16 standing people in the truck bed. On the freeway.
 
Only in México goes the dicho, referring to anything and everything crazy you see in day-to-day life, all related to Mexican Liberties and Personal Responsability.  
You don’t like the neighbors barking dog? You go speak to your neighbor with extreme Mexican Manners (see Stuff Mexicans Like #4: Manners). The dog continues to make noise all night long? You climb onto your roof and throw apples and limes at it until the barking ceases. Personal Responsability. (Note: This example is taken from my own life, as a 9 month pregnant woman in Colonia Allende, who was awoken like clockwork at 3am each madrugada by the ferocious Rottweilers next door.) Note 2: The hardened fruit works. Mature fruit only makes a sticky mess and the dogs will mock you in Spanish as they make agua de sabor (fresh fruit water) in their water bowl.
Pinches Gringos Idiotas (and I say that in the nicest way.)
On my friends’ first visit to San Miguel from the Pacific Northwest, they decided to take their two young children to the circus here in San Miguel. Rob, we’ll call him, the husband/father, noticed that the lions’ and tigers’ cages were right out in the open to enjoy as closely as you wanted. Naturally, he got as close as possible and began waving his arm inside the cage dangerously near the tiger’s face, growling and provoking the captive beast. His wife pulled out the camcorder to preserve the memory. On his 4th or 5th aggression toward the animal, it suddenly leaped at his white limb, bearing its teeth and roaring ferociously. Rob, the Doctor, pulled his hand out just in time and nervously laughed on camera at his bravery and his good fortune for having got it all saved on tape to one day show the grandkids.
Back at their rented home, they hooked up the camcorder to enjoy the show over and over again with popcorn and refresco (soda pop). Laughing hysterically as his fingers are narrowly salvaged from harm, it suddenly dawns on Rob. “Look at all those people watching the ‘show.’ Why are none of them sticking their arms in the cages or even getting close? Even the grown men are keeping their distance. …How very odd.” 
Rob’s wife put herself in the shoes of the Mexican circus-goers and arrived at a profound realization: “Mexicans don’t need large signs and fences telling them that it is dangerous to stick your arm in the lion and tiger cages. Somewhere along the line in life, they learned that lions and tigers can be aggressive. That they can attack or even eat other mammals. Like humans, for instance. Perhaps they saw it on Animal Planet or maybe they deduced as much in the circus show. One way or another, these Mexicans became privvy to the danger of certain wild carnivores and made the decision to become responsible for protecting themselves against them… With or without a sign.”
Read the Signs!
In the United States, we are bombarded with instructions and warnings everywhere we go. Seattle: 10 Miles. Seattle: 5 Miles. Seattle: 1 Mile. Do not Step on the Grass. The Conair 695 Hairdryer can cause electrocution and even death if submerged in water. Suffocation Risk. Keep away from Children. Deep water beyond the Buoeys. Hot coffee can cause severe burns. Speed Bump Ahead. Line Forms Here. Take a Number. Thank you for choosing Bartell Drugs. Come back soon. Open 10am- 6pm Monday through Friday. Never strap a carseat in the front seat.  Careful: wet floor. Return Policy. Do not use the  while bathing or in the shower. No U-Turns Allowed. Falling Rocks. Deer Crossing. Smoking Prohibited. Don’t Drink and Drive. Just Say No. Never use the Remington CI-95 Series Curling Iron while sleeping.  (I am not making that last one up. WHILE SLEEPING.)
When these signs are not present, often we feel lost. Confused. Insecure. Defensive. “Well, how was I supposed to know you close from 2 to 4pm? There was no sign!”  “Had I known the scalding coffee would cause 3rd degree burns on my body, do you think I would have cradled it between my thighs while driving?” “Officer, there is no sign for 10 miles specifying a speed limit. How was I supposed to know?” We not only appreciate and crave more instructions from Big Brother, we expect them and demand that someone else be responsible for our errors that could’ve been avoided using common sense when there is no sign present.
 
Evolution
My concern is that this blind faith in signs is damaging the human gene pool. We are no longer the alert, quick response, intuitive people we once were. It is like the difference between my daughter, María’s, fat, long-haired hamster, Pelusa (Fuzz), and the tiny grey wild mice in my new home. The mice are extremely fast, jump excessively high, and sense danger from 2 rooms away. Pelusa, on the other hand, is slow and confused when a threat enters his glass homefront. He is unaware of a large hand getting closer until it actually touches him, in which case he rolls quickly onto his back in surrender and waits, frozen in terror.  The mice are a far superior specimen. So who are we? Wild mice or caged hamsters?
Rescue 911
This kind of absolute faith in systems, the responsibility of others to warn me or tell me what to do, creates a false sense of security that Mexicans simply do not ever rely on. Once I asked my group of savvy, wealthy 4th grade students in Querétaro, “What is the phone number you call in Mexico in case of an emergency?” Crickets. “You know, if someone breaks in your house and you are there all alone, what is that number you would call?”
“¿Mi Papá?” they answered. “La abuela?” “El Tio Toño?”
It took several minutes and hand gestures to get the correct answer: 066. They recognized 911 immediately from television and movies but didn’t know what number to dial in their own country. There is a lack of faith and trust in the government here that runs deep and strong through the blood of all Mexicans. “Why would we call a stranger in a moment of danger? ¡Y mucho menos a alguién del gobierno!” (and much less someone from the government!) My 10 and 11 year-old students explained.
Where to go for Help
In a class for parents in a private school here in San Miguel about child sexual predators, I once suggested that when taking children to a crowded place like the feria (fair) or el jardín (town square) during días festivas (holidays), they should instruct their children that if lost, to first look for a Police Officer to help, and if none were available, to always approach a woman.
The parents burst into laughter and were unable to compose themselves or lower the murmurs going around the room for several minutes.
“What? What’s so funny?” I asked them, hand on hips.
One mother wiped the tears from her eyes and cleared her throat to explain to me slowly, “Maybe that is what children should do in your country,” she said. “Here the Police Officers are often the most dangerous characters in a crowded public place. If I want to avoid a ransom call, I’ll just tell my daughter to find a woman to help her if lost, and skip the police bit altogether.” 
 
After 5 years in the republic, I am slowly but surely becoming more mouse-like in my decision-making. When 066 did not respond to several of my neighborhood violence emergency calls years ago, I created a back-up safety plan.  When I asked a respected neighbor what to do about the problematic gang-related neighbors beside me… whether or not I should go speak to the mother, the matriarch, she looked at me sideways and said, “Move.”  Just 15 months later, I moved. 🙂
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Stuff Mexicans Like #8: Poco a Poco (Everything a little at a time/Little by little)

20 May
 
One of my favorite scenes as I drive or stroll through any Mexican town are the varillas (metal rods/rebar) that extend from the roofs of casas. These homes seem to be shouting, “You may think I look shabby now; but just imagine my potential!” House upon “finshed” house have these stakes protruding from concrete ceilings like cold shafts of HopeUn día… they whisper. Some of these rods go on to form the stable structural base for a second, third, or fourth level on the house. Others remain untouched, uncovered, until the day the homeowner dies and passes the house on to parientes (relatives) or sells the place. The great poet, playwright, author: Hughes, speaks of the latter situation as a Dream Deferred and holds bleak expectations for its outcome. Mexicans (as all Spanish speakers), however, believe to Hope to be synonymous for to Wait (esperar) and often seem unfazed by long delays and promised rewards. 
 
La Esperanza (Hope)
Poco a Poco is the expression used to plant Hope in dismal circumstances that appear to remain steadily unpromising. So you live in a concrete square with no furniture, appliances, or bedding? Poco a poco. You say your partner left you for another and now you are trying to repair the damaged relationship or move on? Poco a poco. You’ve dreamed of writing a book, getting published, and travelling the world doing book tours, changing lives along the way, but no one want to read your manuscript? Poco a poco. Poco a poco embodies an attitude of unwavering Faith that all things will get better en su momento (in their time). It is a relief, a respite from the need to control, to worry, to expect, to be impatient. It is a promise for a better mañana.  
 
El Apatia (apathy)
On the flip side, one may become so comfortable in his or her poco a poco mentality that (s)he no longer battles, no longer strives, no longer works toward the dream. Driven is perhaps one of the top adjectives I would use to describe my paisanos (fellow countrymen), the United Statesians. Mexicans are also driven, but they are driven to different motives: driven to maintain peace, to keep the family united, and to maintain status quo as another means of being united with all other Mexicans. Putting another floor on the house takes a back seat when money gets tight and is often forgotten altogether, like the silenced rebar on the techo. Other times it is more serious; a woman’s decision to leave her abusive partner by getting work, maybe returning to the family of origin for a season, becomes poco a poco instead of today it is too much. Today I will leave.   
 
While effort mixed with intention always produces change, sometimes it is slow or invisible to the naked eye. These are opportnuities to beef up your fe (faith) and to remain steady. Next time you find yourself in despair, RESIST alongside your Mexican hermanos by repeating your new mantra, Poco a Poco.           

Stuff Mexicans Like #6: La Fiesta

19 May
There are few activities Mexicans enjoy more than la fiesta. La fiesta incorporates the most important aspects of a Mexicans’s existence: la convivencia; la familia; la amistad; la risa; la comida; la música; el baile; la pasión; los modales; la celebración; la tradición; la fe; el gozo; and la formalidad. (getting together; family; friendship; laughter; food; music; dance; passion; manners; celebration; tradition; faith; joy; and getting dressed up!) A party is all the best things in life wrapped in a brief 6 hour package. Why not celebrate more? 
 
Therapy
On the flip side, la fiesta is also a way of releasing suppressed emotions of la tristeza, la ira, la frustración, la impotencia, and la desesperación. (sadness, rage, frustration, powerlessness, and desperation). These emotions are generated when la corrupción wins in one’s life, when one works hard day in and day out, but still cannot get ahead, and when one is menos preciado in society for his or her lower socio-economic status (under valued). There is an almost drunken mania (and ofen accompanying violence) that occurs in the public during certain Mexican holidays/parades/bull fights that seems to reflect a long overdue release of powerful sentiment and/or resentment for the inability to produce change and/or have power or control over one’s own life circumstances.
 
Financial Effect
Some poor pueblos save all year long for fireworks, cohetes (rockets), street decorations, and food and beverage to accommodate the masses for their colonia’s or city’s Santo. (In my case, San Miguel Arcángel: 29 septiembre.)  But what about the more important needs of the village? you say. Paved streets? Running water? for example. Do not underestimate the power of the therapeutic role of la fiesta to a people who often feel so downtrodden that they wonder how to go on. Just one or two well-done fiestas can produce the morale needed to make it til the next one (or a change of government… or a change of heart… or an end to corruption…or…)
 
It’s a good thing there is never a shortage of reasons to celebrate:
Date English name Spanish name Remarks
January 1 New Year’s Day Año Nuevo First day of the year.
February 5 Constitution Day Día de la Constitución Celebrates the Promulgation of the 1857 and 1917 Constitutions (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
Observance: First Monday of February.
March 21 Benito Juárez‘s birthday Natalicio de Benito Juárez Commemorates President Benito Juárez’s birthday on March 21, 1806 (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
Observance: Third Monday of March
May 1 Labor Day Día del Trabajo Commemorates the Mexican workers’ union movements (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
September 16 Independence Day Día de la Independencia Commemorates the start of the Independence War by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810 (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
November 20 Revolution Day Día de la Revolución Commemorates the start of the Mexican Revolution by Francisco I. Madero in 1910 (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
Observance: Third Monday of November.
December 1 Change of Federal Government Transmisión del Poder Ejecutivo Federal Every six years, when a new President is sworn in office.
Next observance: December 1, 2012.
December 25 Christmas Navidad Christmas celebration; secular and religious holiday.

In addition to these dates, election days designated by federal and local electoral laws are also statutory holidays.


 This is me at my first Christmas Posada in Queretaro: Posadas are celebrated the ten days, hence ten fiestas, before Christ’s birth, when Jose & Maria looked for lodging, but found none. The pinata originates from posadas, not children’s birthday parties. A true posada pinata is star shaped, made out of clay, and should have 7 points, representing the seven deadly sins.

   January
  • January 1: A�o Nuevo(New Year’s Day), is an official Mexican holiday.
  • January 6: D�a de Los Santos Reyesis the day when Mexicans exchange Christmas presents in accordance with the arrival of the three gift-bearing wisemen to Jesus Christ. This day culminates the Christmastime festivities.
  • January 17: Feast Day of de San Antonio de Abad is a religious holiday during which the Catholic Church allows animals to enter the church for blessing.
    February
  • February 2: D�a de la Candelaria or Candlemas, is a religious holiday that is celebrated with processions, dancing, bullfights in certain cities, and the blessing of the seeds and candles. The festivities are best seen in: San Juan de los Lagos, Jalapa; Talpa de Allende, Jalisco; and Santa Maria del Tuxla, Oaxaca.
  • February 5: D�a de la Constituci�n, an official holiday that commemorates Mexico’s Constitution. Observed Monday, February 7, 2011.
  • February 24: Flag Day, This Mexican national holiday honors the Mexican flag. Observed February 24, 2010.
    March
  • March 3 – March 8 (2011): Carnaval is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration of the libido before the Catholic lent. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnaval is celebrated exhubrantly with parades, floats and dancing in the streets. Port towns such as Ensenada, La Paz, Mazatlán and Veracruz are excellent places to watch Carnaval festivities.
  • March 18: La Expropiaci�n Petrolera, Oil Expropriation of March 18, 1938. Civic holiday.
  • March 19: St. Joseph’s Day, D�a de San Jos�, a religious holiday best seen in Tamulin, San Luis Potosi.
  • March 21: The Birthday of Benito Juárez, a famous Mexican president and national hero, this is an official Mexican holiday. Celebrated Monday, March 21, 2011.
    April
  • Semana Santa: Semana Santa is the holy week that ends the 40-day Lent period. This week includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is Mexican custom to break confetti-filled eggs over the heads of friends and family.
    May
  • May 1: Primero de Mayo is the Mexican national holiday that is equivalent to the U.S. Labor Day.
  • May 3: Holy Cross Day D�a de la Santa Cruz, when construction workers decorate and mount crosses on unfinished buildings, followed by fireworks and picnics at the construction site.
  • May 5: Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican national holiday that honors the Mexican victory over the French army at Puebla de los Angeles in 1862.
  • May 10: Mother’s Day, Due to the importance of the mother in Mexican culture, Mother’s Day is an especially significant holiday.
    June
  • June 1: Navy Day is an official Mexican holiday.
  • June 13: Día de los Locos Día de San Antonio de Padua (the closest Sunday to the date)
  • June 24: Saint John the Baptist Day is celebrated with religious festivities, fairs, and popular jokes connected to getting dunked in water.
  • June 29: Fiesta of Saint Peter and Saint Paul notable celebrations in Mexcaltit�n, Nayarit and Zaachila, Oaxaca.

 

    September
  • September 1: Annual State of the Union, Though this date is an approximation, the President delivers the address in the autumn.
  • September 13: Los Niños Héroes, Heros of the Mexican-American War 1847. The President of Mexico commemorates their sacrifice at a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument to Los Niños Héroes in Chapultepec Park.
  • September 16: Mexican Independence Day celebrates the day that Miguel Hidalgo delivered El Grito de Dolores, and announced the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule.
  • September 29: San Miguel Arcangel Patron Saint of San Miguel de Allende
    October
  • October 12: Día de la Raza, This day celebrates Columbus’ arrival to the Americas, and the historical origins of the Mexican race.
    November
  • November 1&2: D�a de los Muertos is an important Mexican holiday that merges Pre-Columbian beliefs and modern Catholocism. Europe’s All Saints’ Day and the Aztec worship of the dead contribute to these two days that honor Mexico’s dead.
  • November 20: Mexican Revolution Day,This official Mexican holiday commemorates the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Celebrated Monday, November 21, 2011.
    December
  • December 12: D�a de Nuestra Se�ora de Guadalupe, or the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated with a feast honoring Mexico’s patron saint.
  • December 16: Las Posadas celebrates Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem with candlelight processions that end at various nativity scenes. Las Posadas continues through January 6.
  • December 25: Navidad, Mexico celebrates the Christmas holiday.
Date English Name Spanish Name Remarks
January 6 Epiphany Día de los Santos Reyes Celebrates the Biblical New Testament story of the arrival of the three wise men who each brought a gift to the Christ child. Traditionally, children receive toys, and people buy a pastry called rosca de reyes. Anyone who bites into the bread and finds a figurine of the Christ child must host a party for the Day of Candlemas (February 2). It is not a state holiday.
February 14 Valentine’s Day Día de San Valentín Celebrates amorous unions. On this day, traditionally, men give chocolates, flowers, jewelry, dinner and serenade to their special women, as well as to their female friends. It is not a state holiday.
April 30 Children’s Day Día del Niño Honors all the children. It is not a state holiday.
May 10 Mother’s Day Día de las Madres Honors all the mothers throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
May 15 Teacher’s Day Día del Maestro Honors all the teachers throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
May 23 Students’ Day Día del estudiante Honors all the students throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
Third Sunday of June Father’s Day Día del Padre Honors all the fathers throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
November 1 All Saints’ Day (Day of the Dead) Día de Todos los Santos Honors dead relatives and/or friends (who were less than 18 years of age and unmarried) with candles, food and flower offerings, altars, and pre-Hispanic and Christian rituals. It is not a state holiday.
November 2 All Souls’ Day (Day of the Dead) Día de los Fieles Difuntos Honors dead relatives and/or friends (who were more than 18 years of age or married) with candles, food and flower offerings, altars, and pre-Hispanic and Christian rituals. It is not a state holiday.
December 12 Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe Día de la Virgen de Guadalude Celebrates the day that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on Tepeyac hill to the native Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. It is not a state holiday.
December 16–24 Las Posadas Las Posadas Commemorates the Biblical New Testament story of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem. Consists of candlelight processions as well as stops at various nativity scenes.
December 24 Christmas Eve Nochebuena Celebrates the eve of the nativity of Jesus, as both a secular and religious winter holiday. The traditional treats for this holiday are buñuelos, tamales and atole or champurrado. Sometimes they eat gelatina de colores (different flavors of Jell-O and a milk based Jell-O mixed together to make a colorful treat) Las Posadas are celebrated nine days before Nochebuena, usually accompanied by a piñata party for children and dance music for adults.
December 28 Day of the Innocents Dia de los Santos Innocentes On this day, people pull practical jokes on each other. It is equivalent to the U.S. version of April Fools’ Day (April 1). People must not believe anything that other people say nor let them borrow any amount of money. If any person has fallen victim of the joke, the person pulling the joke will say ¡Inocente palomita…!, literally meaning ‘Innocent little dove’ (equivalent to saying April Fools!).
December 31 New Year’s Eve Año Nuevo Vìspera Mexicans celebrate New Year’s Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year’s, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. Another tradition is making a list of all the bad or unhappy events from the current year; before midnight, this list is thrown into a fire, symbolizing the removal of negative energy from the new year.[1] At the same time, thanks is expressed for all the good things had during the year that is coming to its end so that they will continue to be had in the new year.[2] Mexicans celebrate by having a late-night dinner with their families, the traditional meal being turkey and mole, a tradition which has now spanned worldwide. Those who want to party generally go out afterwards, to local parties or night clubs. If you’re in Mexico, you can still enjoy festivities in the street. In Mexico City there is a huge street festival on New Year’s Eve; celebrations center around the Zocalo, the city’s main square.[3] You can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: “Feliz año nuevo!” People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Will Take a Cup o’ Kidness Yet Auld Lang Syne.
 

Stuff Mexicans Like #5: Manners

18 May
  
Having and using good manners is perhaps the number one value in Mexican society. This manners business ranks higher in importance in Mexican society than logic, honesty, kindness, bravery, intelligence, or hard work. If I lie, cheat, and steal, but always say “buen provecho” when I see someone eating;“qué te vaya bien” when someone leaves; and “con permiso” when joining and/or leaving a group of people, I am on my way toward Mexican cultural fluency. This instantly puts me in good with Mexicans and assures my quick acceptance.
 
Maleducado is one of the worst things things one can be in México lindo. Being grosero is one of the seven dealy sins. Note that maleducado (poorly educated) has little to do with formal studies or education level and everything to do with your manners or lack thereof. I can be extremely bieneducado/a (well-educated) with a third grade education level. If modales (manners) is #2 on list of important assets, conocimiento (knowledge) is #43. Using the right phrase at the right time with the right people is imperative to your acceptance into Mexican culture/society. If it sounds dripping sweet with honey when your neighbor or dentist invite you in for a visit, consider yourself fortunate. This is the highest complement one can receive. Return the favor! Make “para servirle” part of your regular Spanish vocabulary if you haven’t already. “Estás en tu casa” should be your standard response when your Mexican guest asks if you mind loaning them your bathroom or regalandole a glass of aguita. To start slowly, just start using diminuitives as frequently as possible. ¿No quieres salir por un cafecito? Me regalas un vaso de aguita? ¡Provechito! Etc.
 
Pinches Gringos Groseros
A final warning: it is easy to offend by accident or omission as a non-Mexican. Women should greet other women with a kiss on the left cheek and a hand shake/head nod for men. Men should greet women with a kiss on the left cheek only if the woman intitiates it or she is a good friend of yours. This is also true when you are leaving a group of people. It is customary to kiss every single person in the room or casa before you leave and to say “con permiso” as you walk out in case you missed anyone. Your response to someone’s “Con permiso” (with permission)should be, “propio” (you have your own permission). Be careful with your assertive, direct ways as an English-speaking foreigner in a Spanish-speaking country! This is grosero in the worst kind of way! Think oblique; always kind; sweet; and semi passive-aggressive. This is your new attitude as an extranjero, pero bien educado! 

#3: La Cleanliness

17 May
 https://i0.wp.com/images.travelpod.com/users/kupdegra/copper_canyon.1188405000.p1020554.jpg
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” had to have been originally quoted by a Mexican. Mexicans value cleanliness so much that it is the first thing one does after arising and the last thing one does before bed. During the course of the day, one needs helpers if things are to be kept adequately clean. First things first: the sidewalk in front of your house. You don’t want your neighbors seeing a surplus of fallen leaves just outside your gate or dog urine or an empty Coke bottle. This is what “not taking care of your house and family” looks like. As for before bed, well, there are dishes and teeth to be washed, faces to be scrubbed, and showers to be had by all. One person alone could never take on all the dirst that comes your way during the day. This is why my maid has a maid. And her maid has a maid. And I’m nearly certain that if I were to investigate, I would discover that my maid’s maid has a maid. Maid service in Mexico is like having a garrafón or basic cable. It is not optional.
A male Mexican friend of mine was watching my then 15 year old sweep and mop the tile floor of my bookstore one day. I felt proud and content, like Mother of the Year. Unfortunately my friend interrupted my self-satisfaction with, “Why don’t you teach your hijo to clean?” What?!? Was my son not there, sleeves rolled up, pushing a wet soapy mop around like nobody’s business? “He is cleaning,” I replied. “I mean real cleaning,” retorted the Mexican. I gave the Mexican permission to “teach” my son “real cleaning” and I stood back to take notes. A hand-held scrub brush was produced, as well as a bucket of fuming bleach water mixed with purple Fabuloso. I pulled out the camera as the two young men rolled up their jeans, hit their knees, and began to sweat profusely while manually removing any trace of dirt from the last 500 years from my antique floor. A Mexican taught me to clean a floor.
 
I never felt so dirty as when I started dating Mexican men. The same scrubbing that applies to a Mexican floor is generally applied to the entire body, including eyelids, scalp, behind the ears, between the toes, etc. (I prefer to wash the hair once every other day to avoid dry-out.) My sidewalk woud shame even the dirtiest street person. I use only a standard mop from the tiendita when doing my twice a week rounds. My maid is called in for emergencies only, and that only being once a month on avergae. I do not wash my clothes by hand with the outside patio clothes-sink. (That is already occupied by Christmas items waiting around for next December.) It is a rare occasion that I stick my hand in the toilet, the obvious best way to get it clean, according to Mexican ways. I leave the cozy seat on my toilet, to avoid unintentional drownings. (Many-most Mexicans remove this seat with tools upon purchase so as not to pose any interference with typical hand-in-the-bowl daily cleaning.
(Note: I am pretty sure that this extreme cleanliness business ties in with the national adoration of La Virgen, also! What Virgin do you know who isn’t sparkling soapy clean?)

Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia

17 May
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Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia 
In fact, “la familia” (referring to anyone and everyone even remotely related), is so important and provides such a staple source of well-being and joy that Mexicans often forego matrimonio altogether and remain at home with the papás til age 35 or 57 or “til death do us part.” Mexicans can be compared with “pack animals” in the sense that they value the inter-dependence of a team and are happiest and feel most successful in a close-knit group whereas many native English-speakers are more solitary beasts, preferring privacy, autonomy, and independence or to surround themselves with 1 significant other and 2.5 children.. or a dog who is physically unable to comment on what “is not working” for him/her in the relationship. 
 
“Success” or “éxito” for a Mexican is measured by the state of your relationships, as opposed to monetary wealth or goal-attainment. This is why Pedro, your jardinero, is considered highly successful and is well-respected in his community in Mexico, while Doctor Felipe, on the other hand, may be ill-reputed and considered a fracaso, depending on the state of his marriage, parental/sibling relationships, and amistades.