Bottom rung of the First World
Siempre, the wisest words that appear in this column come from ustedes, y the following two cartas prove this maxim. The first one addresses my year-end column, in which a working-class gabacho insisted his people apapachan a Mexicans mucho:
Half-Mexican here. I have a comment in regards to [the gabacho who wrote the letter] Sick of All of You. He said, “No other country baby-sits Americans the way American baby-sit Mexicans.” I would have to disagree. I’ve been living in Spain for the past seven months as an English teacher, and he is greatly mistaken. All of Europe and practically the entire world caters to Americans. The international business language is English. Almost all signs are posted in the native language of the country and English. I’m ashamed that our country sees it as a burden to learn or tolerate another language. A majority of the world speaks English as their second language in order to cater to the American tourists and business industry. The world caters to us, the United States; I think we can spare a few bus-stop translations.
—Life in the Afternoon
The following letter is a bit more critical, concerning a Best of Mexican I reran for the January 7 edición of my column concerning a white woman trying to calm down her wab paramour:
I couldn’t believe the advice you gave Enamormada Gabacha: “Nothing says I love you, nothing says ‘Welcome to America’ like an old-school blow job.” Maybe so, but “an old-school blow job” is also an excellent way of spreading STDs. To be sure, transmitting HIV through oral sex is rather rare—but it has been known to happen. However, syphilis and gonorrhea are different stories. Gonorrhea, I might add, is particularly worrisome because certain strains of this bacteria are becoming increasingly immune to all known antibiotics. It’s extremely irresponsible to advise an “old-school blow job” without also advising “old school” protection, like condoms.
Well, duh. But Enamorada Gabacha was already seriously involved with her hombre—this wasn’t a one-night stand, or a midnight run to the border. I’d assume and hope anyone who gets intimately involved with someone will first have a discussion about each other’s sex life before doing the deed, up to and including sharing STD test results—but if I put in a public-service announcement like that, I’d be treading the terrain of Savage Love. And I don’t want that mariposa messing with my pesos …
And now, a question:
I was under the impression that Mexico actually had a larger middle class than most Latin American nations, consisting of doctors and lawyers, among all sorts of other professions. Mexico may have a far greater problem with poverty than the United States, but compared to its southern neighbors, it’s relatively bourgeois. Do you know if there is any truth to my supposition?
No, you’re correcto—in a way. The World Bank’s 2008 country rankings on gross national income per capita lists Mexico as tops in Latin America, but an IMD International survey puts Mexico as the país with the largest percentage of its population (22.1 percent) below the median income line, which suggest rampant social stratification (número three on that list? Los Estados Unidos, with 17 percent of nosotros making less than the middle class—so much for our superiority!). A 2006 BusinessWeek article estimated 40 percent of Mexicans were in the middle class, and that really isn’t surprising. “All sorts of other professions”? Raza, repeat after me: Mexico is a normal country. Too many narco killings, for sure, and too little social mobility, but it’s firmly in the bottom rungs of the First World—and definitely no Guatemala.
REMEMBER READERS: Start asking me questions on my YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/askamexican. The bigger the sombrero, the better!