Why Don't Mexicans Believe in Personal Space?

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And what's the pecking order among day laborers?

DEAR MEXICAN: Is there a pecking order at the places where you see day laborers waiting to be hired? What's the hierarchy? Are all those dudes Mexican, or are some Central and South American? If so, who has priority when the random contractor comes by to pick up a worker for the day? Also, after they make a bunch of loot, do they go back to Mexico and live in the lap of luxury or what? Gracias!

Spangless Chicano

DEAR POCHO: The ethnic makeup of day laborers really depends on what part of los Estados Unidos you're in. In Los Angeles, for instance, research done by the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education and my old boss, Abel Valenzuela, has found that about 15 percent of day laborers in the region are not Mexican. In New York, on the other hand, you have big percentages of Eastern Europeans and South Americans (especially Ecuadorians) in the jornaleros equation. As for a pecking order: Whoever came first gets the prime jobs, while the later arrivals get the hard stuff. It's an American tale as old as time: my zacatecano dad, for instance, works for people from Jalisco. Papi hires michoacano-run firms for any construction jobs at his house; those Michoacán natives, in turn, get poblanos to do the sawing and shoveling. And those workers in turn always hire a Oaxacan or guerrerense as a chalán to do the dirtiest work imaginable. All these guys used to go back to Mexico to live the good life after making their pennies here, but the drug cartels put an end to that quick—no joke!

Mark Dancey

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DEAR MEXICAN: Do you believe there is a cultural difference that causes Mexicans to have less sensitivity about personal and shared space? I grew up all over the South and lived for six years in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The town I lived in was less than 10 miles from the Texas-Mexico border. Immediately after moving to the valley, I noticed that the Mexican people at the grocery store, mall, doctor's office, school and most every other place had less respect for their surroundings. Whether shopping for clothes or groceries, I found Mexican people had little restraint when it came to bumping your cart out of the way, shoving you if you are in the way of their purchase, or hovering at a disturbing proximity. I also noticed a complete disregard for respecting the products on the shelves of stores. Mexicans would grab a shirt or pants off a table, take a look, then throw them on the floor or on top of a pile. This same behavior was true at restaurants, bookstores and all manner of shops. Is there a different attitude toward public boundaries in the Mexican culture? I would like to understand the behavior so I can keep it from breeding untrue stereotypes!

Feeling Violated 

DEAR GABACHA: You know a Mexican's sense of personal space is fucked up when our term for standing in line is hacer cola—make ass. Kind of explains our hatred of immigration policy, ¿qué no?

 
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30 comments
naguero
naguero

Correction:  When referring to "Hacer Cola"  - to stand in line, the word cola is referring to the spanish word for an animal's tail, e.g. La cola del perro.  Which at times can be long similar to a line of people can be.

sxirs
sxirs

I'm from the Rio Grande Valley lived there most of my life and worked in retail. I used to kick out any Mexicans that came in to the store and thought they could Shit all over the place. I physically pushed a MF out of the store I worked at because he came in opened up a candy wrapper and flicked it onto the floor. So I flicked that fat F*** out the door. Me vale madre. I disliked their blatant disregard for trashing up the parking lots after they made their purchase and leaving the boxes in the lot or letting the wind carry the trash all over my beloved city. But then when I would visit Mexico, it all made sense as that country was littered with basura everywhere. They didn't care for my home and they don't care for theirs. I worked in a Sam's same thing, they would bump your carts out of the way or interrupt a conversation. To them there was no one there that you were talking to. I had to break up a few fights of locals on Mexicans when they did that. I applauded the locals for standing up for these pompous Mexicans MF. 

mmorante1
mmorante1

Cola does not mean ASS. It means tail. Like a long line looks like a tail.

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

It's a well-known fact that different cultures' social spaces are different. Nothing new here. You're comfortable with what you grew up with.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

If one wants to see a lack of respect for "personal space" try driving in SoCal. There are drivers of all stripes who think it's perfectly appropriate to ride right on the bumper of the car in front of them...or change lanes at the last moment and expect all the cars in the lane they're moving into to slow down or even stop to accommodate them...

Lynn Maners
Lynn Maners

AaM: take a look at the Image/Idea of Limited Good, promulgated by anthropologist George Foster, after his research in Mexico in the 1940s. You'll recognize some of the behaviors that you are discussing. They, of course, are not limited to Mexico, but instead are common to peasant, and formerly peasant cultures, in which good things are seen as limited in availability, sort of a zero sum game. Related to the "hacer cola", I've seen this all the time all over Eastern Europe-like trying to buy a train ticket in Greece...

Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown

The one who knows the most English and not afraid to use it is the top guy. That's how my husband became boss of a drywall crew at 17.

Eduardo Rizo
Eduardo Rizo

Funny...I always thought invading personal space was a Caucasian "thing". Who was it that brought diseases from Europe decimating the indigenous people of the America's? Does it get any more invasive of "personal space" than that?

Eddie Hernandez
Eddie Hernandez

There are 3 families living in one house at any given place and time here in LA, personal space is not an issue for us.

esoj1211
esoj1211

The above was probably dealing with profesional "McAllears" from Monterrey and other northen states who basically search for whatever bargain on a name brand they can find in the limited space of their trip to resell down there.  Since the help in the Valley is probably seen as lower then them, they dont act as classy as they have to in the malls up by me (north chicago suburbs) with Jews, Asians and rival professional shoppers from a wider range of locations (pushy Hindus, eastern Europeans). 

Rafael O. Murillo
Rafael O. Murillo

-And those workers in turn always hire a Oaxacan or guerrerense as a " chalán " to do the dirtiest work imaginable-

Charlie Wilson
Charlie Wilson

Because "Personal Space" an all-too- Gabacho-Gringo concept! Duh!

Fernando Herrera
Fernando Herrera

That lady is an idiot, has she not noticed that ALL kinds of people across the board do exactly the same things she was bitching about?, like at (gasp!) Walmart? she's just describing other kinds of idiots, race notwithstanding.

Lisa Mendoza
Lisa Mendoza

I like Mexican's response to the letter which describes people, who are minding their own business, as "hovering in disturbing proximity".

Ana Rosa Meza
Ana Rosa Meza

Those people described by la Gabacha are termed "Nacos" "Gente Naca", usually gente maleducada or under educated in social skills and civility..."Naco" is a Mexican term...

Elda Rubi
Elda Rubi

My thoughts exactly Michael! Hacer cola does not mean "make ass" it means "make a tail" which makes much more sense. As American we are big on personal space other cultures not so much especially if they live/d with a large family in small space. In those conditions "personal space" is unheard of.

Michael Tooke
Michael Tooke

That was a weak response on the personal space question. Space, the frontera final.

triptrumpet
triptrumpet

@mmorante1 I was surprised to see that as well, always having heard the tail=line analogy in my Spanish classes over the years. Meanwhile, up here in Washington State's Wenatchee Valley - which is about 35% latino/chicano, almost all of whom hail from Michoacan State in Mexico directly or by heritage - I have observed about zero such pushiness as described by the letter writer.

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

Thusly displaying a deep ignorance of physics, specifically the E = V sq law.

sxirs
sxirs

True! I always say April showers bring May flowers. Mayflowers bring smallpox.

sxirs
sxirs

@esoj1211 It is true the Norteños like those of Monterrey that can actually spend money like that in McAllen are filthy rich and just like they treat their servants in Mex. they treat Valleyites the same way. That's why I didn't hesitate to throw them out on their butts. Never got fired for it so kept doing it. They thought they were dealing with Valluco that didn't know Spanish the funny thing I speak English and Spanish very very well and that surprised them when I could defend myself  in both languages. 

sxirs
sxirs

and I thought cola was glue!


sxirs
sxirs

I always wondered what Naca or Naco meant...thank you for that!


 
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