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- Progress & Decline in Latin America
Over a year and some months ago, I ended my time living in a Mexican city known as Pachuca.
And decided to live in Mexico City again.
Before I was in Pachuca, I had already spent a few years in Mexico City.
And so, after missing Mexico City, I decided to go back.
In my days back in Mexico City, one thing I noticed was that the city seemed to progress maybe a little bit over the years I’ve been in Mexico as a whole.
One thing that struck me was how the metro system seemed a little bit nicer.
Not saying there was crazy improvement over that one year alone or even over all of the years I’ve been here…
But it did seem nicer overall.
Better music played in some of the trains.
To more guards I would see looking for anyone trying to rob others
The use of air conditioning in a few of the metro trains that I went on.
Some of the metro trains also looked cleaner and didn’t smell like piss.
Finally, they even set up more TVs that hung from the ceiling that looked nice.
All around, you can argue these are relatively minor improvements overall.
But improvements nonetheless.
For a time, it looked like Mexico City was improving in some ways despite the Covid Recession.
However, this happened.
And then there’s this video in Spanish showing all of the issues with the metro system in Mexico City.
How, in many ways, it isn’t very safe and a lot of improvements are still needed.
With the news of that one train crashing in the video above and all of those people killed…
It was like Mexico City had taken “one step forward, two steps back” in a way.
At least with the Metro system.
It looked like it was getting nicer over the years but then the bad news made it look pretty bad obviously.
At any rate, what’s the major point here?
Progress or Decline?
Generally, there are two types of observations that gringos tend to make in Latin America if they spend at least a handful of years here.
Both of which have to do with how their location has changed over the years.
For better or for worse.
Before I ever set foot in Mexico City, I was talking with a Canadian guy I know named Doug who knew Mexico City dating back to the 90s.
He told me that Mexico City is much nicer now than how it was back then.
All around, much nicer to live in.
He thought, from his perspective, Mexico City was kinda shitty in the 90s but nowadays it is nice.
I can’t verify that opinion because I was very young in the 90s and definitely not in Mexico City.
But you have other gringos saying the same thing at times about their respective communities.
Take for example this article here by a guy who has spent about over a decade in Latin America.
More specifically Colombia and Peru for the majority of it.
In that article, you’ll notice how the author describes the progress of Peru becoming “rich as fuck.”
In that example, the author describes seeing tiled floors in a local food market as his own example of how seemingly the country is improving and becoming wealthier.
Here’s a quote from the same article:
“So as I said, all these markets are the same as far as I could tell, aside from the regional offerings available for sale. But there’s one big difference about my neighborhood market in 21st-century Peru — it just got tiled floors to cover up the dank concrete ala your standard Midwestern basement.”
Certainly, I haven’t made as strong of an observation about changes in Mexico City since I’ve just wrapped up my 4th year here so far.
But some changes I have noticed.
Like the metro system or how, for worse, there seems to be a lot more aggressive homeless people outside.
Probably because of the Covid Recession.
But while some gringos have noticed a progress in their respective communities…
Not all have!
Take this article here by an American couple who spent two decades in Mexico.
They went to Mexico in the year 2000 when they thought Mexico was on the up and up.
But, over time, they concluded that Mexico isn’t really progressing that much and is arguably getting worse from their perspective.
Especially after dealing with incidents like having money stolen from their bank account, witnessing highways closed off by cartels, property invasions, an incompetent president and more.
Here’s a quote from that article here:
“We really believed Mexico was changing 20 years ago. New auto plants, more hotels, more jobs and a true middle class starting to arise. We had hope and I think the Mexican people had hope too. But in the last five years we have witnessed the rise of the cartels stealing oil, cattle, avocados and anything else available, the rise of violence in unprecedented levels and the failure of the Mexican government to actually change anything. The only thing that changed was the slogan: hugs not guns. This is true insanity on a national level.”
In another example, we have another person who wrote this article here after having spent quite a long time also in Colombia in this case.
The article is pretty well written and there are other nice articles on that website also so I recommend anyone to check it out.
Especially for those interested in Colombia.
Either way, the article focuses on a bit about the author’s decision to leave Colombia after experiencing various moments that were negative to her.
Like issues with the lockdown measures, the presence of troops, the worsening violence in the news, racist physical violence, feeling like an outsider and a bad relationship with neighbouring landlords.
In relation to this article, I found this paragraph to be relevant:
“And against all of this, there was the growing sense that the political situation in Colombia which had perhaps been improving a little over the Santos government had gone in a backwards and violent direction under the new ‘president’, Duque. Every day it only got worse, aided by his highly propaganda TV show and an obliging majority of the population who didn’t want peace anyway. They even voted against it.”
Either way, as we can see, different foreigners might have different opinions on this matter regarding the progress or steps back witnessed in any specific Latin country.
Of course, we only covered 3 countries here briefly but the point has been made.
Which is that, if you live here long enough, you’ll likely start to become observant about how well the country is progressing or declining from your experienced perspective.
Consequently, that will obviously impact your own sentiment about whatever country you happen to be.
If you are like the couple from Mexico, enough decline in your own experience living down here might cause you to rethink and actually move to another country.
Or it might impact your mental health if you consistently see noticeable declines in aspects of life in certain areas of whatever country you are in.
On the flip side, maybe you are more of an optimist and see overall positive trends?
To me, that’s kinda where I am.
Latin America Progressing?
Overall, in a historical context, Latin America has been progressing.
Now, to cover the obvious point, it depends heavily on what part of Latin America as this is such a huge region obviously.
In Mexico, some parts like Acapulco haven’t done very well in the last few years with news of it being a much more dangerous city in Mexico.
So, relative to other cities, it doesn’t look very well.
And, of course, we have the Covid situation that has harmed quite drastically the economies in every Latin country.
As I said, I’ve seen a considerable spike in homelessness and businesses closing in Mexico City over the last year.
Here’s a quote from a news article about just that that you can read here:
“Más de un millón de comercios cerraron definitivamente a causa de la paralización de actividades y se estima que 500,000 más estén en riesgo de 'bajar sus cortinas'.”
Still, I believe Latin America as a whole will get past this as economies begin to recover.
It’ll take longer down here though in Latin America to recover than it will in countries like the US or Canada obviously.
Though going beyond the Covid Recession…
I do think some countries down here don’t have very optimistic futures.
Which is why again I emphasize that the progress or decline of Latin America depends heavily obviously on which country you are talking about.
In particular, I think the risk of climate change is likely to heavily screw over certain countries much more than others in this region.
Like how Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama or Mexico are likely to better overall as research I’ve seen in this article here has shown.
But you have other areas – like Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bolivia, Paraguay or Puerto Rico – that, in my opinion, will get fucked over heavily.
The same article I cited to above has a section going into climate change in Latin America and it elaborates on some of the research looking into that.
But essentially it comes down to issues like lack of proper infrastructure, heat waves, ever intensifying hurricanes that occur more often, etc.
And even in those countries that are suited to do relatively better….
Like Mexico for example.
You still have areas in those countries that will get fucked over more than others like Chiapas in Mexico is likely to take a bigger beating due to how much poorer and more exposed it is to the risks of climate change.
So progress or decline in Latin America?
As I said, I’m overall optimistic about this region.
Like Doug pointed out about Mexico City much earlier, there have been noticeable improvements across the board despite the setbacks that come.
And going into the future?
Well, it’s impossible to predict exactly what will occur in each Latin American country.
But you already know my thoughts now as to which countries I’m more pessimistic about than others.
Of course, climate change is just one factor that will impact every country’s future to be fair.
Either way, let’s wrap this up.
In the end, the main points of this article are:
- If you live in Latin America long enough, you’ll likely notice a trend in how your community is developing.
- At times, it can feel like for most of us that there is a “one step forward, two step back” trend occurring in our respective communities down here.
- However, I would argue there is room to be optimistic as a whole when taking into account the historical progress made.
- Nonetheless, I do think some countries down here and certain regions in certain countries will be much more heavily fucked over than others.
But that’s all for now.
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And thanks for reading.