- Personal Stories & Opinions>
- “Latin America isn’t for Losers. Only the Tough Survive.”
Another day in Mexico City…
Walking outside in the middle of the afternoon, I see thunder clouds as far as the eye can see.
Mass murderers on every corner of the street.
Bodies hanging from trees everywhere!
A guy running outside yelling “THEY SHOT ME!” similar to this scene from Goodfellas here…
Over my time in Latin America…
I’ve been shot at 97 times.
Stabbed 22 times.
Beaten with a bat 9 times.
And lost my life 5 times.
Still got a few more lives left.
The scariest place in the world.
Only the tough survive.
Or is that bullshit?
Gringos Tough Enough for Latin America?
One peculiar aspect when it comes to talking with other gringos about life in Latin America…
Is that some like to hype up just how tough you have to be to live in Latin America.
This sometimes translates also to shit talking about other gringos when someone says something like “oh, that guy we met is a pussy. He won’t last here very long.”
Or when folks shit talk gringos back home about how certain groups of people – perhaps leftists or whoever – are not tough enough for life in Latin America.
That they wouldn’t last.
Personally, I find much of this to be bullshit.
It’s a minor detail about the types of conversations some gringos might find themselves in once in a blue moon.
Believing that you have to be tough or of a certain character to “last down here.”
Like how some many odd months ago when the whole Covid thing started….
Shit, it’s been a year now, hasn’t it?
There was one gringo I know who was talking shit about gringos who left Latin America early when all of the Covid restrictions were beginning to be put in place.
In reference to some random dude I don’t know personally that supposedly lasted maybe 14 years down here or whatever.
Before ultimately going home due to the Covid situation.
In which the first gringo was saying shit like “surprising how he lasted here so long. You have to be tough to stay down here.”
Or something like that – I’m paraphrasing.
Anyway, like I said, it’s kinda weird when gringos talk like that.
On one hand, I kinda get where they are coming from but also disagree for the most part.
Just How Tough Are You?
On one hand, I get what people mean in a way when they say that you have to be “tough” to last down here long enough.
Though I hesitate to use the word “tough” and would probably pick a better word like resourceful or dedicated.
Something like that instead.
Because there do comes challenges with living abroad.
Loneliness can be an issue sometimes.
Feeling like an outsider and being treated as such in a negative way can sometimes get annoying.
Knowing how to support yourself.
None of this is really “tough” in the sense that someone wants to kick your ass and you got to defend yourself.
Though on that topic of security…
Well, it depends.
There is more crime down here generally speaking.
Most cities in Latin America, in my opinion, don’t look as nice aesthetically speaking as some cities in the US and my hometown.
In Mexico City specifically, you also have a shit ton of homeless people.
Way more than I’ve seen anywhere else in the world.
But I wouldn’t overemphasize the issue of security.
Most days of my life down here have come without issue.
And you get used to how things look outsider.
But there’s another side to this…
The Gringo Bubble
Assuming you speak English….
You’ll probably be fine.
The truth is that the path to living in Latin America is so well paved – especially for English speakers – that it isn’t that difficult to have a life down here.
So many gringos show up and stick to the more touristy areas
Never leaving the touristy areas even!
Show up right to the international airport.
Get some taxi driver who speaks enough English to get you to your destination.
Which you probably were able to find online at Airbnb or whatever.
The host speaks enough English to work with you.
Or the hotel staff do.
Plenty of the touristy restaurants in your gringo friendly neighbourhood have staff who can muster together enough English.
Maybe with the help of Google Translate if needed but not necessarily.
The bar staff in the different nightlife venues have enough English speakers.
And you got Facebook and other online tools to make friends with other gringos in your area.
Who you can find easy enough perhaps because they also choose to live in the Gringo bubble.
And even if you choose to go outside of the gringo bubble…
Let’s say a small city in Mexico that nobody ever really visits…
Like Pachuca, Mexico.
Where I lived for some time.
Again, enough of a path has been paved even for the non-Spanish speaking gringo to live there.
You got Airbnb there.
My landlord there could speak perfect English.
Where exactly do you have to go for the non-Spanish speaking gringo to have a rough time visiting?
An indigenous village in rural Mexico?!?
As you can read in this article here.
That was my very first trip to Latin America and my Spanish was crappy back then.
Pulled off the trip just fine.
Had a local guide who spoke perfect English take me there without incident.
All of the accommodations already handled from point A to point Z.
Granted, some might say that Mexico is too “americanized.”
Even the indigenous villages?!
Of course, there are plenty of spots in Latin America where English might be essentially non-existent and where a gringo would have a harder time penetrating.
Like in this video here of this British guy who goes to a small village in Bolivia.
But with the power of money, he made his way in just fine even without Spanish.
Walked out without incident.
And, if we are being honest, most gringos are not going to random Bolivian villages.
That’s more of an extreme case of what you’d have to do to find a place that isn’t well paved for you with UBER, hotels, Airbnb and English speaking locals who work with tourists.
Like I said, most stick to the gringo bubble and are happy with that.
Spend years in those parts.
And are happy.
Good for them.
But you don’t need to be “tough” to navigate UBER and Airbnb.
So are gringos then who spend years in Latin America “tough?”
Do you have to be tough to last it out here?
No, not really.
Maybe in the past when UBER and Airbnb were not a thing.
Maybe in the 1980s when you had less English speaking locals.
But that’s probably bullshit also.
Plenty of gringos visited or lived in Latin America then also.
Perhaps a shit ton less than nowadays.
With less services available to make it easier for you to travel and live abroad.
Nonetheless, you still had some folks pulling it off.
I feel it’s mostly an ego thing really.
Or it partly is.
Perhaps a way for a gringo to justify in his head why he has spent so much time down here.
“I’m tough. I’ve lasted 8 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, 1 day, 7 hours, 21 minutes and 9 seconds in Latin America. I’m a tough guy. The longer I last here, the more tough I am. The more of a real expat I am above all the other gringos.”
Anyway, that’s all I got to say on the matter.
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Thanks for reading.