Less than a month ago, I went to some hamburger joint near my apartment in Lindavista area of Mexico City.
It was the best hamburger joint I could find in that part of the city.
The lady cooking the hamburgers was nice but sometimes a little bit awkward because, near the end of my time in that area, I almost felt like she was slightly flirting with me.
And I wasn’t really that attracted to her nor do I like flirting with people in customer service.
Anyway, she was nice as I said and pleasant to talk to overall.
And, as I wrote here, I met other people at that hamburger joint that were very nice overall.
There were a few other regulars that I chatted up with as I waited for my food.
Similar to other areas of Mexico City that don’t really get any gringos, you also get more interest among the locals just out of sheer curiosity about what you are doing there.
Having said that, I did meet one dude at this hamburger joint who seemed a bit rude.
Near the end of my time in that part of the city, I walked on over to the hamburger place again at what was probably around 9 PM more or less.
The lady asked what I want.
I said “the same as always.”
And sat down waiting for the food to be cooked.
Right away, I noticed this dude sitting down next to me who looked to be in his mid-30s.
I immediately tell him “provecho” as I see him eating some torta.
The dude looks up and gives me a look as if he’s thinking about something before saying “gracias.”
Give it another few seconds before he then starts a mini conversation with me.
Well, in hindsight, it was less of a conversation and seemingly more of him giving a mini monologue about his life.
He asks me right away if “I speak English?”
Before I could even answer, the hamburger lady replied for me saying “no” shaking her head.
I had told her before that I’m from Russia because I sometimes do that with some folks down here to avoid being forced to “practice English” with strangers.
Especially in contexts where I’m busy and need to be somewhere.
At any rate, the dude looks back at me and asks “de donde eres?”
And I give him the same answer as I give other strangers.
From there, the conversation is pretty normal in which he asks basic questions in Spanish.
“Do you like Mexico?”
“What are you doing here?”
“How long you been in Mexico for?”
My answer to that last question was what ended up setting the dude off into a tangent that, while I don’t think the dude was trying to be an ass, he did come across as slightly annoyed for whatever reason.
After I told him that I have been here for roughly 4.5 years, the dude then became doing what I felt was like a mini investigation into my life.
“Do you work here?”
“You got family here?”
“When are you going back?”
“So you got residency?”
To which, on the first three questions, I feel the dude was just genuinely trying to get why I would live in Mexico or what’s my purpose being here.
On the last one, I answered truthfully in saying that I simply doing border runs to continue living in the country and that foreigners have been able to do that for years.
Obviously I didn’t say that I’m technically illegal in Mexico or else that definitely would’ve set the dude off in hindsight.
Because after answering how I live in Mexico, he then led me into his life story.
“I Was Deported!”
There might’ve been other things mentioned in our basic conversation but I don’t remember everything said.
At this point though, the guy goes off talking about how he spent time in “USA.”
To which I asked him a few of the same questions.
“How long were you there for?”
“Why did you go?”
“Why did you leave?”
To which he responds “I didn’t leave! The US was my home! I was deported.”
Then going off about “racism” in the US, how they call folks up there “wetbacks” and everything else.
He spent about 3 years up there, has no family but went to make some money.
And the rest is history.
Now lives in Mexico City with no plans on going back.
Now, being honest, everything he said up to this point wasn’t really negative towards me.
He obviously expressed his distaste for the US with “all the shit” he dealt with up there.
And, as he later pointed out to me, it’s “much easier for you all to live in Mexico than it is for Mexicans to live wherever you from. Russia?”
To be fair, I can’t argue.
It is technically true that it’s easier for me to live in Mexico than for him to live in the US.
Granted, I don’t see much hypocrisy here.
Most countries discriminate against poorer countries that are more likely to send poorer folks over illegally.
Mexico isn’t better given its treatment of Central Americans and heavier visa restrictions placed on Ecuador and Brazil recently.
Or how, as you can read here, countries like Mexico and other Latin countries often have people who share the same sentiment of not wanting too many immigrants at once.
But he is right that it is easier for me to live in Mexico long term than it is for him to do the same in the US.
And there’s no question that there’s racist folks up in the US (like there are in Mexico also).
So far, nothing he said stuck out.
Until, for whatever reason, the conversation turned more personal but not directly given he didn't think I was from the US.
“So You Ain’t Ever Going Back?”
This is arguably where I felt the dude was starting to be hypocritical himself and a bit of an ass.
Basically, he began asking “why live here? Life isn’t better up there?”
And, while I do have plans on leaving Mexico to travel again soon, I do see myself potentially choosing Mexico as a place to settle down in a few years after my next traveling bit is over.
So I told him that I don’t plan on leaving.
To which he said “but this isn’t your country!”
“Y eso que?” I threw back.
He stumbled a bit then in what he wanted to say next.
As he then asked me “you’re from Russia, right?”
I nodded (the nod was a lie).
He put his hand up and looked down as he said something along the lines of “look, I don’t know Russia. It’s unfair though. We get deported. We should deport them too.”
Given the word he used "deportarlos" from what I remember, I'm not sure if he meant just Americans or all foreigners.
I nodded away and looked back at the hamburger lady to see how the burger is coming along
“No offense to you. But I don’t get why you’d live here. It’s not your country.”
And, in that moment, I could've been an ass and ask if "Mexicans belong in the US" but didn't feel like fighting with the dude while just waiting for my hamburger.
Being honest, I’ve heard this line before among a very few Mexicans.
Though I feel the sentiment is stronger among Mexican-Americans who live in the US who might get insecure at a non-Latino knowing their country better than them.
It’s a sentiment we’ll get to later anyhow.
Still, going back to this guy, he very clearly had resentment against the US and folks living up there based on the conversation we had.
And, keep in mind, I’m only paraphrasing everything said here. I can’t remember how everything was said exactly.
But, near the beginning of the conversation, there definitely was a slight hostility in tone when I described how I live here and how other foreigners live here legally also.
To that tone becoming a little more hostile as he gave off the same vibes of “you don’t belong here.”
Then the hamburger lady chimed in, perhaps simply to be nice with a customer, by saying “there’s some foreigners who live here.”
And I knew where the conversation was heading.
By then anyway, the conversation dropped a bit with nothing really interesting said after.
Food was ready.
I paid and left a small tip in the jar before heading out.
Points of Consideration
Personally, I didn’t think much of the conversation afterwards.
As rude as the guy sounds, the conversation wasn't actually that confrontational.
It's only the sentiment that he carried, as someone deported back to Mexico, that I feel is actually interesting here to discuss.
It wasn’t until I saw this video here where I was reminded of that small conversation.
While the guy in the video isn’t being an ass to the foreigner, I did find it interesting when he said how “in the US, they call us beaners.”
Or at least that’s what I could hear despite the low audio.
And there’s really six points I’d like to bring up that I think are relevant here.
First, the guy is right that there’s racism against Mexicans in the US.
There’s racist folks in every country – including some racist asshats in Mexico and Latin America more broadly against people of any skin color.
The racism you might experience is just dependent on if you meet an ass that day.
You deal with it how you can.
Second, as I said, I agree with the dude that there’s benefits that folks like me get that he doesn’t when it comes to travel and living abroad.
Third, this type of mindset that the dude had that night is something I’ve noticed among a very few Mexicans who were deported from the US.
Though most I have met were cool folks who understood that I didn’t do shit to them, you do have that type of Mexican who holds resentment against not only the US but also folks from the US.
Basically, any bad experience they had up there and the fact that they got deported despite trying to get a better life up there leaves them with a sour taste regarding the US and its citizens.
Therefore, they might project their bitterness onto you.
Like I said, among the small handful of Mexicans I have met who were deported, almost all of them were chill and friendly to get along with.
It’s only a certain type that not only holds onto their resentment but projects it onto you.
Fourth, as I’ve written about regarding other Mexicans I’ve met who were deported like this guy here, it’s been my experience that many can’t understand why you’d live here because of their determination to leave Mexico to live in the US.
And all of the sacrifice they put forward to make that happen.
It’s not necessarily that said Mexican will be hostile to you – in fact, this guy was really the only who was this direct to me – it’s just that many would have a hard time understanding why you’d live down here.
Imagine you gave up so much to live in a country and some foreigner from that country told you “nah, I want to live in your country.”
Unless they connect the dots regarding the currency exchange rate benefit, they aren’t going to understand the financial benefits until you explain it to them.
Even then, there still might be some confusion.
Fifth, there's a part of me that wonders if this sentiment isn't as strong in other Latin countries?
Truly, I don't know for sure.
I've seen or heard other foreigners be told in other countries like Colombia that "they don't belong here."
The only factors that I'll mention that I feel are relevant to this theory are the following.
For one, I feel if you live in an area where there's enough people who look like you, such as Mexico having an alright amount of white locals, then the idea of you "not belonging" isn't as strong.
A place like Argentina would be an area where I feel I definitely would "fit in" even more racially.
And, the less you fit in racially, the most I feel that you'll have more locals who will see you as "not belonging" to the society.
Next, you have the fact that Mexico has a much higher of folks deported from the US than other countries in Latin America (outside of perhaps Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, etc). Given that, I could see how you'd find more folks with resentment in these countries.
Though keep in mind they make up such a small percentage of the overall population and are not the usual person you meet.
Though that history of deporting their nationals might influence the opinions of locals who weren't deported to be fair.
On the flip side, a country with more American influence like Mexico might arguably have less people like this given so many Mexicans do have family in the US compared to other Latin countries.
Makes me wonder how that influences all of this.
Anyway, it's a thing to consider.
Which Latin countries are more accepting of foreigners from the US and elsewhere living there and "belonging to society?"
Your guess is as good as mine -- I don't have a firm answer.
Sixth, I find it hypocritical and backwards this idea of “we belong in your country and you’re racist if you have borders but Mexico is for Mexicans and you don’t belong here.”
This is not at all a rare opinion among Mexicans.
Can’t say most Mexicans believe this given I don’t think most think about the topic of foreigners actually living here.
As I wrote here, there’s plenty of Mexicans who really haven’t been introduced to that topic.
But you do got some who have this weird belief of “Mexico is only a country for Mexicans.”
And, in my opinion, this type is more likely to also have an ignorant view on what Mexicans are supposed to look like.
Where, as I wrote here, you got those who think all Mexicans are mestizos and that Mexicans who are black or Asian, for example, are not “really Mexican.”
While most Mexicans are not that ignorant, you got some like that.
Of course, if we’re pointing the finger regarding hypocritical beliefs or behaviours, I could point it at myself too.
I’m illegal in Mexico but I don’t mind countries (including Mexico or the US) enforcing their immigration policies.
Still, even if I was legal here (and I might be someday if I decide to settle here), I’m confident that Mr. Deported would still have a stick up his ass about me living here.
Simply because I’ve seen Latinos like him in other countries also have an issue with the idea of foreigners “living” here and even getting citizenship.
Simply that they have a more ignorant view regarding who gets to set up a life in their country.
Still, I can only finish the topic with the last few points that need to be said.
First, not every Mexican or Latino is this ignorant and some would accept you as “belonging to society” after you do things like set up a family, get residency or citizenship, spend a long time there, etc.
Second, I think this topic relates also to the feeling of “being an outsider” that any gringo will experience after living here long enough.
Could you ever be accepted as one of the locals?
Look, I don’t like the idea entirely of trying to “be like the locals” given that it’s much more than just citizenship in question but also roots and culture.
While a country like Mexico has people of numerous cultures being part of society, I feel the type of gringo who tries too hard to be accepted comes across like he hates his own roots and is trying to be something that he isn’t.
Particularly if he acts like a stereotype of what a Mexican is supposed to be.
Having said that, it also should be said that, no matter how deep you establish your roots in Mexico (like buy a house, raise a family, get citizenship, etc), most folks, in my opinion, will never truly see you as “truly Mexican.”
It’s something you got to accept and I’m cool with it too.
I’ll never be 100% Mexican nor do I want to be.
I’ll always retain who I am and what my roots are while doing my best to still assimilate to whatever appropriate degree to the society I live in.
Having said that, does that mean someone like me doesn’t belong to Mexico?
That’s where I push back.
By that logic, no country anywhere should ever accept immigrants because they’ll never truly be 100% like the locals and therefore don’t belong.
Shouldn’t live there!
In my opinion, the Mexican guy isn’t really any better than the stereotypical backwards hillbilly who hates seeing Mexicans in the US.
Two can play this game.
If no foreigners should live in Mexico, then no Mexicans should live in the US.
While we deport more Mexicans than they deport Americans, we still do have many who live in the US legally (and illegally in sanctuary cities).
At any rate, I’ll only leave it at the belief that, because most Latin Americans are not as accustomed to folks from countries like the US setting up a real life down here, this idea of “accepting us as part of the community” hasn’t been as normalized among a lot of people down here.
Though it not being normalized doesn’t mean that most folks are hostile to it. It’s just a different reality for many of folks down here.
With some hostile and, in my opinion, most probably being open to it.
Especially when you see cities like San Miguel de Allende where it is part of the conscious of locals in spots with so many foreigners like that place.
Though, even in that case, I believe there are limitations as an outsider looking at a situation like that.
Where, in my opinion, a place like that makes some locals dislike us more, like you see in Roma Norte of CDMX, due to concerns like rising rental costs in those areas, us dating “their women” and other issues that can sometimes be rooted in racial bias or xenophobia but not always.
And, in places like that, some of those that support us living here, in my opinion, only see us as good for bringing money to the community like ATM machines but nothing else.
Though, on the flip side, I would be fair in putting blame on other foreigners as well for not only contributing to that stereotype by spending too generously (thus, raising prices) but also because many of them do refuse to have any real interactions with the locals.
Put their foot forward to making real friends that aren’t other gringos.
Either way, I’m rambling now touching any point that crosses my mind when it comes to this topic.
Nothing else to say for the moment.
Only that, as a last reminder, I’ll say it again that not every local is this ignorant or hostile to the idea of foreigners living down here.
Most are chill.
That’s all I got to say.
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Thanks for reading.
I like your take on it. We do have a place in Latin America but don’t forget your “roots” as you put it.