I’ve wondered what Mexicans in San Miguel de Allende want expats to know. I’ve lived here for quite some time now, so I did a straw poll and asked a few what they thought about expats living here.
As always, I try to picture the situation in my own culture. If you want to attain citizenship in the U.S., you have answer certain questions about the government that, frankly, those born and raised in the U.S. have a hard time answering. I mean, can any of today’s high school graduates explain how the Electoral College actually works?
In my straw poll, answers to what Mexicans wish every expat already knew about Mexico varied. Many wanted simple manners implanted into our noggins. If every expat could say “good morning” or “enjoy your meal” we would be so much better liked.
Others in my straw poll went to the other end of the knowledge scale and wanted every expat to know why there was a celebration and what, exactly, that day’s fireworks and bell clanging meant.
Meanwhile, some wanted to go even deeper and have us know who revolutionary heroes like Pipila, Aldama and others were, plus more details on major holidays, like Christmas. Revolutionary heroes would be a tough one. I doubt my adult kids would know five revolutionary heroes in the States. Plus, Christmas is way more tactile and ritualized here, lasting from December 12 through February 2.
Some were simply tired of our whiny nature. As one respondent stated: “There are so many flights daily to the U.S., expats can just hop on one and be much happier back there!”
Others waxed longingly about expats who were kind, helpful and who fit into San Miguel de Allende, like Jaime “Jim” Morris, Stirling Dickinson and a small handful of past expats.
Many were exasperated at our constant displays of wealth. Now, in case you were thinking that means wearing Rolexes or diamonds, allow to me to elaborate. It’s the everyday wealth that is tiring. For example, when I spill a drink I use a dish towel to mop it up, showing I’ve got money to burn. A Mexican would use a mop. A towel has to be washed and dried to be reused, which demonstrates that I have money to burn.
There’s a good reason an expat’s trash gets picked through here. Handy daily items are tossed without a thought, but can be reused.
Others stressed how expats fit in here. One respondent told me that “if you are a Mexican as old as I am, you, your parents and grandparents all grew up here with a small subset of foreigners. We have all learned to live together. That takes give and take on both sides, which needs to continue. No one likes a carpetbagger who comes to town and tries to stop the fiestas or bells, and that includes the virus!”
The movie “Coco” did wonders for spreading knowledge about the Day of the Dead festival, though many still wish we knew more about La Llorona or the Catrina.
Respondents who were really into food wished for an increased awareness of local cuisine with the hope that pizza and burgers don’t become the restaurant norm.
Geography buffs expect expats to know how the streets of San Miguel de Allende got their names, which, honestly, is no small feat.
Business owners mentioned how they appreciate expats who keep some locals employed, though they truly wish everyone realized the San Miguel de Allende economy is based mostly on domestic tourism.
Religion is another subject Mexicans would like expats to understand. The Inquisition lasted 300 years here and it took another century, until the 1920s, when the Church lost any real power in governing Mexico. Believe in the faith, or don’t, it doesn’t much matter. What is important is realizing Catholicism has an impact on daily life. Mexico is a Catholic country by culture, if not conviction.
Simply put, moving to Mexico with animosity toward the Church is the equivalent of being anti-semitic and thinking Israel would be a perfect new home for you.