We’ve previously touched on the subject of the interaction and sometimes friction between residents of Baja and the sometimes overwhelming number of North American visitors. (See November 1, 2009 entry). We’ve recently revisited the issue.
There’s a weekly “newspaper” called the Gringo Gazette out of Cabo San Lucas, and the publisher and editor is a gringa. She writes a publisher’s column in each issue. We’ve only read the GG half a dozen times over the past 12 months, but each time we’re struck by the hostile tone she conveys in her column toward Mexico’s people and culture. She’s lived for 15-20 years, as best we can tell, full-time in Cabo San Lucas. We picked up last week’s GG at the grocery store in Los Barriles and were struck more powerfully than usual by the very nasty tone of her column, describing all Mexicans as corrupt and manipulative, condemning their culture that allows bribes to continue in official places, and generally describing everything about Mexico as bad. Beyond wondering why on earth she lives here if she feels that way, we also were embarrassed. Surely Mexican people read the GG, at least occasionally, out of curiosity about what we think and say, and how horrid to think that those Mexicans might think all gringos think and feel that way! Yes, we dislike the corruption here, just as we dislike corruption in the American government or business world – or anywhere else in the world -- but we know it is particularly common in poor countries with less well-developed government and judicial systems. People living in poverty will do things that people with plenty of resources would not, if just to ensure they have food, clothing and shelter.
We spoke about the column several times and discussed how disturbed we were by its’ contents. This week the next GG came out, and with misgivings, we again picked it up. In the Letters to the Editor section was one from a Canadian gringo excoriating the GG publisher for her racist and bigoted comments and stating that not all gringos agree with her. He provided his name and email address, so that night Cathryn sent him an email thanking him for taking the time and having the courage to write his letter. She received a response from him the following day saying he’d heard from 3 gringos including her – one other who agreed with our opinions, and one telling him they too were Canadian and his letter had embarrassed them (!) and that he was now the laughing-stock of the gringo community for his naiveté.
We theorize that many gringo residents of Cabo San Lucas (differentiated from shorter-term visitors to Cabo San Lucas) may think somewhat differently from gringos who live or travel in other parts of Baja, because Cabo San Lucas is so different from the rest of Baja. Cabo San Lucas is essentially two distinct and very separate cities: a gringo city that happens to be in Mexico where everything is in English, and people pay for things using U.S. dollars; and a Mexican city populated by people who provide support services for the gringo city. At least a segment of the gringos who live there, perhaps a big segment, seem to want the lower cost of Mexico, and the fabulous weather, but not its’ culture, or even its’ people, except to clean their houses and yards, and serve them in restaurants and shops. We’ve not run across that same attitude among gringos in other parts of Baja. And except for the one cop in La Paz winter a year ago who extorted $28 from Cathryn in a false traffic charge, we’ve not once felt we were being taken advantage of by Mexicans. We do, occasionally, run into people working in the service sector, mostly at cash registers, who are unfriendly toward us – just as we sometime do at home at Safeway or Target. But the vast majority of Mexicans with whom we interact are friendly, happy to help Cathryn with Spanish words, and helpful in whatever regard we need at the moment. If they feel resentment toward us, we don’t discern it. Mostly they seem to appreciate the financial improvement the presence of gringos brings to their lives. They openly lament the fact there are fewer gringos here than there were two years ago.
So we continue our struggle with our love of Baja and our fear that we somehow contribute, or are tarnished by, the “ugly (north) American” attitude this newspaper contributes to. We hope that on balance we do more to mitigate it then to perpetrate it.