Gringo Gulch

Mexicos Ugly Americans

Life feels freer in Mexico, but not always in ways that would make American advocates of freedom feel comfortable. The absence of well-funded local governments combined with corruption frequently accounts for poor drinking water, hodgepodge neighborhoods unfettered by zoning laws or strict construction standards, few public restrooms or trash receptacles, dicey sanitation standards at restaurants and hard-to-follow traffic signs. The minimum wage is about $7 per day.

What does feel free in a very good way is the accessibility that Mexico offers its visitors—and its welcoming tolerance. You can roll across the border in your car and get a six-month tourist card, no sweat. You can drop in by plane or cruise ship. And you don't have to worry that anybody is going to give you any shit for not knowing a word of Spanish. People will be nice to you, invite you to their houses, into their lives. But be careful about offering to return the favor. U.S. immigration laws preclude the chance that most of them could ever come visit you. And if they did come, well, you'd always have to be worried that somebody was going to insult them in the supermarket.

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