All you need to know about Iberian America

The Ignorance Regarding Foreigners in Latin America

Published August 20, 2020 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

One of the things that sometimes gets under my skin with living in Latin America…

Or sometimes turns into a humorous situation…

Is coming across the ignorance that some of the local folks have about Americans when living in Latin America.

Granted, plenty of Americans in the US who have never been to Latin America…

Or anywhere outside the US….

Assume that “everyone hates us!!”

It’s something you hear about occasionally in the US when people comment about being too scared to travel outside the US.

It’s something I remember hearing as far back as the George Bush years.

The second, not the dad…

I’m not that old to remember his dad as president, obviously.

Either way, it’s a common assumption that there is some immnse anger against Americans abroad in any country you can imagine.

Now if you are walking into an ISIS camp in Iraq or Syria…

Or going into a meeting that involves Kim Jong-Un of North Korea…

Yeah…

You might have a bad time.

However, we are not talking about walking into such scenarios.

Simply walking into Latin America.

And, in my experience…

Though there are some folks who do have a hatred of anything American…

Particular with the Americans who come by and fuck all of their local women before going back home…

It’s more common for people to treat me nicely for being a white American.

Even more nicely than back home.

And it’s even more common for people to just straight up not give a shit where I am from.

However…

There does come a time where you encounter straight up ignorance about Americans and what the US is like…

It doesn’t happen too much but it comes with living down here long enough.

So below we will break down the usual stereotypes that I have noticed.

But before we do, let’s throw in a disclaimer…

Geographic Differences

Before talking about ignorance of the US and Americans…

It is necessary to be said that it largely depends on what area of Latin America that you are dealing with.

Where, in my experience, more urban areas like Mexico City have less of an issue with this.

Where more rural areas have more folks who are more ignorant of outsiders from what I have seen.

Though this is not always the case…

As also areas that are less urban than Mexico City like Cancun also have plenty of tourism.

And that tourism comes with more folks who have more experience dealing with foreigners and are not as ignorant.

Though, to be fair…

Those areas that are more urban do have more folks who are very “higher than thou” type of folks.

Not in a religious sense.

In a religious sense, that is more common in rural areas where people are more religious.

But in a classist type of way.

I was talking with a guy from Guadalajara a while ago about how, in his words, people from Guadalajara can be very classist in that sense.

Maybe it’s true – never been there as of this writing.

But also in those touristy areas, you have more folks who make a living off of scamming tourists and foreigners.

So it’s not like people in more rural and less touristy areas are oh so much worse than those folks in the urban and touristy areas of Latin America.

Though folks in rural and less touristy areas tend to be much nicer and down to earth in my experience..

They carry with them a more religious “higher than thou” attitude on average and also more xenophobia and ignorance about outsiders.

Where people in bigger cities tend to carry with them more classism in a way but also less ignorance.

But, regardless of where you are, you can find any of these folks…

The xenophobic ones…

To the “higher than thou” religious ones…

To the classist ones..

In any area of Latin America – rural or urban.

It’s all just a generalization, of course.

Either way, in regards to the ignorance sometimes seen in Latin America from my experience..

Some of what I have noticed to be most common is down below…

So let’s get into it briefly.

Where Do White People Come From?

Sitting in a hostel in Potosi, Bolivia…

I was stuck and unable to leave the city as you can read about here

Either way, I met this young German guy about my age at the time…

Somewhere in his 20s…

And he explained how he had been stuck there for a week longer than I had been by this point.

He was studying in Chile at the time and took a break to Bolivia to see some other nearby country.

Either way, we got talking about our experiences in Latin America..

And he got talking about his time in Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America…

And how he hated being assumed to be an American or speak English.

Just because he was white.

This wasn’t unusual.

I have met other foreigners who were not from the US who get really fucking annoyed at being assumed to be American or to be able to speak English..

When they are not American or don’t speak English.

As you can read here about this Australian couple I met who had a hard time explaining to some Guatemalan guide about how Australia “is not near Miami, NYC, Chicago, etc…”

You learn quick enough down here..

Or at least I have…

That some of the locals only understand that the US consists of “Miami, LA, NYC, Chicago, etc…”

And that no other part of the US exists..

Which is also why I tend to tell people I’m from Chicago and not Iowa as I get tired of explaining it to people down here.

And that all White people in every part of the world come from there…

That Germany does not exist in that one guy’s case above in Bolivia…

Or Australia…

Or wherever you exist…

Again, this is a bigger issue among more rural folks…

But this type of ignorance is similar to how in the US…

Someone sees a brown dude and thinks “Mexican!”

Or an Asian dude and thinks “Chinese!”

Same thing happened in Guatemala when the daughter of a homestay family wanted to show me more about life in Guatemala

And was showing me pictures of all these Chinese businessmen coming to Guatemala…

In a photo of a bunch of Asian dudes leaving an airplane that had the word “Japan” on it…

Right….

They were Chinese, she said….

Happens down here also but with White people also where everyone White comes from the US, supposedly.

Not so much an issue with me as I am from the US.

But I can see how it can be annoying for others.

Any Non-White People in the US?

Similarly, I have met a handful of non-white people make this complaint…

Especially in areas not too touristy…

Where they get assumed to be from Africa or China or some shit…

Even though they are not obviously.

From the US and all.

Granted, I am White so I don’t have any personal experience with this.

But ignorance about non-White Americans seems to be an issue in some parts down here from what I have heard from those who have experienced it.

Where in the same way some folks assume all White people come from the US.

Also that there are no non-White people in the US apparently.

Again, this will be much less of an issue in certain areas like Mexico City or areas that deal with more tourists.

But apparently is a slightly bigger issue in places like Chichicastenango, Guatemala….

Do You Speak Spanish? No!

A few years ago…

I was talking with this Mexican chick on Tinder in Mexico City…

And she said something along the lines of “your Spanish is so good, you can’t possibly be American. You must be Mexican.”

And she wasn’t fucking with me with some humor or nothing…

She was serious about how I must be lying and all this shit.

Either way, though this might be considered a compliment saying my Spanish is so good apparently…

I ended up telling her to go fuck off a cliff.

Because I’ve had enough experiences with local Latinos assuming Americans don’t speak Spanish that it gets fucking annoying hearing it over and over again.

Despite the fact that the US is the second biggest Spanish speaking country..

And despite the fact we have people who come from all over the world to be American and who do become American..

And who speak languages from Russian to Mandarin to probably Quechua or some shit.

And in Mexico?

How many foreigners do they get from all over the world speaking different languages and wanting to be Mexican?

Exactly.

Not as much as the US.

So, suffice to say, we have people who speak a variety of languages and sometimes this ignorance is just straight up fucking stupid when it comes to locals assuming we don’t speak Spanish.

The worst of it is when you got some local trying to speak English to you…

And they stand there like a fucking idiot in front of you going “hmmm ummmm hmmm I…You….Friend?!?!”

Fucking idiot.

Seriously, half the time you don’t understand what the fuck they are trying to say because the English is so broken.

And they always try it because they assume that you don’t speak Spanish for being a foreigner.

Then you go “oh I don’t speak English” (in Spanish obviously) or you reply in Spanish anyway.

And all of a sudden they understand you perfectly and the conversation goes on in Spanish without any problem!

So why do some of these folks do this?

Sometimes it’s a matter of ignorance – assuming you would be more comfortable with English when you can’t even understand their English very well to begin with.

Other times it happens to be a dumbass fresa who comes from the upper class and wants to show the whole world how great his English is.

When it necessarily isn’t.

Not to say my Spanish is some Jorge Luis Borges level type shit…

But it does get a little bit offensive after a while when some fresa or ignorant folk assume you don’t speak Spanish.

And then they understand you perfectly when you switch the language back to Spanish.

And other times, it’s just straight up unnecessary – like motherfucker, I only asked you where the nearby bus station was. I wasn’t interested in giving an English lesson.

But both of these folks tend to be more common in urban and touristy areas. Especially the fresas.

And though I’d say maybe 1% of locals are like this in Latin America…

So it really isn’t an issue…

Some are and it sometimes annoys you when you are in a hurry and some stranger is vomiting their broken up English onto your lap.

Either way, can get annoying but I don’t want to exaggerate it – most locals won’t try to force their broken English onto you or be ignorant about it when you talk with them.

Are Gringos ATM Machines?

Finally, you have some folks who look at all us gringos like we are just walking ATM machines.

I remember a few years ago…

This dude in Mexico City ended up harassing me to sell me some chocolate bar or whatever…

Quoting me in dollars when I didn’t even ask to buy it anyway…

“5, 10, 15 dollars?!?!?”

My girlfriend at the time was squeezing my hand because she knew he was pissing me off when he started harassing us…

Like…

“ok, ok, Matt, don’t beat his face in! Cmon, now, be civil…”

Anyway, we left the guy and went on our way and all was fine from there.

But it’s not uncommon for some…

And similar to the last issue…

I emphasize some

Most of the locals won’t be this ignorant as to see you as a walking ATM machine…

But some do!

Where they will harass you for money and will do their best to try and fuck you over.

It annoys the fuck out me and I really don’t have the patience for it anymore.

I just tell them to fuck off in the rudest way I can in Spanish if they don’t get the message the first or second time I say no..

And off they go!

Mumbling into the distance “ese pinche gringo wey, no mames…”

Yeah, yeah, maricon, keep mumbling to yourself…

Anyway, this is another issue as you can understand by now – seeing all us gringos as walking ATM machines and that we just have a shit ton of money…

Endless pockets!

To dish out to the locals just because.

It gets offensive after a while and tiresome..

But it comes with the territory of living down here.

Especially, as hinted at by the start of the article, in more touristy or urban areas.

Final Verdict

In the end, it is what it is.

Taking all of these issues together…

I’d say maybe 1% to 5% of the population in Latin America is ignorant enough to be annoying with you in the ways described above.

Maybe more but I don’t want to exaggerate it.

Perhaps, by reading this article, you will think all of the locals are like this.

Truth is, most aren’t in my experience.

But you live down here just long enough and you will notice some of what I am saying is true.

And it does annoy you after a while even if most of the locals are cool.

So that’s my take on this issue anyway.

If you have any experiences of your own, let me know in the comment section below.

Or follow me on Twitter here.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Matt

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