Although painfully poor in places Mexico is coming of age as a modern country and as such the society is passing through something of an identity crisis. Everyone aspires to the material dream that drifts down from the USA, yet they’ve been exploited for so long by the superpower that they’d sooner stop eating tortillas than ape the gringos.
Mexicans can seem a little reserved in public but among friends they soon become chatty and boisterous, drinking, dancing and playing like kids on their lunch break. As in much of Latin America, having a good time is what life is all about and they’re not encouraged to think too much about things. The sanctity of the church, the exploitation of the indigenous and fixed gender roles are taken for granted – only bores and weirdoes would waste their time arguing about them.
Of course, you find those with a political or social awareness as Mexico is affluent enough to have a middle class and therefore a bohemian element. There’s theatre and music with an alternative, conscious voice but it’s vastly outweighed by the mass media. The latter still propagates the image of the white, blonde Mexican woman with layers of cosmetics melting at the sight of some sharp, young white Mexican guy with a big car. The stereotypes are so crude as to be laughable but aren’t quite so apparent to a Mexican public with a less cynical perspective.
Whilst the gender dynamics are shifting a little as the economy improves, icons like the Catholic church remain firmly in place and there’s not much discussion on the matter. Some things are buried too deep within the Mexican psyche to be questioned and all things Catholic are still sacred to most. Even to the indigenous peoples whose ancestors were so ruthlessly slaughtered by the Spanish conquistadors.
The racial issue is another rotten corpse in the closet that no one wanted to pay attention to but which has crept up onto the social stage thanks to people like the Zapatistas. Predictably, the various tribes live in the poorest states and many of them still live a fairly traditional life out in the hills or jungle. Mining, government initiatives and poverty have forced many of them to migrate to the cities and they’re the majority population in Oaxaca, Chiapas and the Yucatan.
The fact that they’re barely included in modern Mexico is most apparent when you walk through their villages and you check out the media images – all the billboards feature only the white Mexicans who have nothing in common with the short, heavy, brown skinned indigenous folk. That tells them all they need to know about making a life for themselves in Mexico – Forget it.
But white and indigenous Mexicans alike all reach the age when they consider spending a season in hell by migrating to the USA to make money. They all have family or friends who have crossed the border to work on the strawberry farms or anything else they could find. See la frontera for more.