THE WHOLE WORLD IS MEXICO

It’s a cliché to say nothing works in Mexico.  Streets are piled with rocky rubble for months, as workers stand around scratching their heads about how to solve a problem.  Buses run on a schedule as whimsical as spring winds, and the driver may stop in the middle of the desert to have lunch at his lady friend’s house, while passengers fry on scratchy, sweaty, plastic seats wondering when or if he will return.  The populous who can afford phones wait years for lines to reach a “new” neighborhood.  Plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers show up when convenient.

When met with complaints, questions or requests to predict timelines, Mexicans smile and agree to accommodate whatever a hapless gringo thinks is necessary.  But nothing changes.  It is this very manana attitude, this South of the Border slow and easy style that captivates tourists and expats – until they’re faced with a room reserved months ahead that’s been given to someone else, or a flooding toilet, electricity failures in the midst of a report snatched from the computer.  Suddenly, “Isn’t this charming?” metamorphoses into “Mexicans can’t do anything right” and the despairing lament, “This really is a third world country or, ”These people really need a dose of American know-how.”

Why can’t these Mexicans preserve their charming lackadaisical ways, their desire to say whatever will please, and just add efficiency?

I have traveled back and forth between the US and Mexico twice a year for seven years, and found myself alternately charmed and frustrated by changing cultures.  Each time I crossed the border, having schooled myself to adapt, I was dismayed at my failure to adjust right away.

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