My first trip to Latin America was on August 9th, 2007.
I was the only American in the region.
No other foreigners have been to Latin America by that point!
Upon arrival, I will tell you that it was extremely difficult living down here.
There were no airports!
I had to canoe my way through the Mississippi River from Iowa, ride a horse, cross mountains and swim across the Rio Grande.
After making it to Mexico, I was immediately ambushed by AIDS infected, Zika infected, Ebola infected cartel members.
After that, an entire village of indigenous people chased after me because I made love to one of their women that I met attending a garden outside.
It wasn’t my fault!
We made strong eye contact and she moaned to me “oh papi rico!”
And then her husband found me fucking her in doggy position soon after….
Thankfully, I managed to escape with my life (though they did shoot an arrow through my left elbow).
Then came the weeks upon weeks of traversing through the Mexican desert without any water.
The only thing that I had to drink was when it rained in which, whenever it did, I learned that it rains tequila in Mexico.
Finally, I found civilization.
But life was tough for me there also.
No cars. No internet. No technology.
Gun battles happening every morning, afternoon and night.
Bodies being hung left and right.
And an odd homeless man right outside my apartment who always had schizophrenic episodes while jerking off his penis and laughing at the women passing by.
What I thought was civilization was actually an uncivilized and underdeveloped urban jungle.
Ever since then…
Life has become more tame.
It is the year 2022.
The difference between now and then?
We got AirBnB & Uber.
Now Latin America is civilized.
…..Or is it ruined?
The Societal Impact of AirBnB & Uber in Latin America
In all seriousness, you do genuinely have people who think like the above.
While the story provided is a little bit exaggerated when compared to the words actually said, it’s an argument some make about how life has changed in Latin America over the years.
Oddly enough the argument is sometimes made by people who weren’t around in Latin America before AirBnB & Uber were around!
The argument being?
That, before AirBnb & Uber existed in Latin America, you had to be a real badass motherfucker with huge nuts to live down here.
That it was just SO DIFFICULT to live in Latin America without those two entities!
How else were you ever going to take a ride somewhere or find a place for the night?
And, because those services didn’t exist down there, you had a lot less foreigners living in Latin America.
To live in Latin America back then meant you would be one of the only gringos in town.
Now the gringos are everywhere and you can’t go a day without seeing them!
Well, some folks will be a little more nuanced in mentioning other factors like how remote work is more common for example (among others).
But, in part because of AirBnb & UBER, more foreigners feel more comfortable coming down here because they feel it won’t be as much of a challenge.
Consequently, the argument is then made that this also brings more unfavorable gringos to Latin America.
When people talk about these unfavorable gringos, I often notice different descriptions used for them.
That they are dorks or maybe degenerate pussy chasers or socially retarded or whatever the fuck else.
Therefore, Latin America just isn’t the same as it used to be, man!
It’s not like the Wild Wild West that it once was where you had to be a FEARLESS gringo blazing through new trails NEVER SEEN BEFORE by other gringos.
Is this all true?
Well, let me give my thoughts (coming from someone who began traveling down here since 2014 and NOT 2007).
There Are More People
First and foremost, it does feel like there are a lot more foreigners down here in Latin America than even when I took my first trip down here on March 8th, 2014 (according to my Facebook photos).
And I say that it “feels” like that because I don’t have any actual numbers to support that claim.
I can only tell you that, at least in Mexico City, I have seen a lot more foreigners here than when I began living in the city in 2017.
Though, on the flip side, remember that Mexico City and broader Mexico doesn’t represent all of Latin America.
One of the larger reasons why so many people have come to Mexico specifically is to escape the Covid mandates and restrictions.
Not every country in Latin America is very generous to those people.
And, in those specific countries that make up most of Latin America with their Covid restrictions, I also wonder how that has impacted the number of foreigners in the broader region?
Still, having said that, I think it’s easier to feel that more foreigners live in Latin America now because I live where a lot of them have ran to.
If you’re living in Bolivia, I imagine you’d have seen a lot less stopping by.
Though, having said that, you obviously have had a huge increase in people talking about moving abroad, dating abroad and whatever else abroad online in their own blogs or Youtube channels.
More people have switched to remote working since Covid started.
So on and so on.
Therefore, I’ll agree with the claim that there are more foreigners down here these days than even when I began traveling.
And probably a lot less even when you go back another 8 years before that like 2006.
Anyway, let’s move on.
“Gringos Have Flooded the Region!”
Now, having acknowledged that there are more gringos in Latin America broadly speaking, is there any issue with the sentiment that comes from the folks making that mentioned argument about AirBnb & UBER?
Because when I listen to them speak or read what they write, it often comes across like they are trying to say that it’s difficult to not run into other gringos.
For example, there was a comment made on a previous article I wrote months ago about a completely different topic that you can find here:
“A taxi driver in Lima once told me that it used to be an extremely rare event to meet a non-Hispanic foreigner, something that happened once or twice a year if lucky. Nowadays, he sees one every day. It’s normal.”
Now, before we go into that comment, I just want to say that the author of the comment wasn’t arguing that AirBnb ruined Latin America or that you had to be a real badass to be down here back then or anything like that.
I bring up the comment anyhow because I just remembered it and thought it shows a particular detail I have noticed.
Notice how the author says “in Lima.”
In the capital of Peru, a non-Hispanic foreigner is seen everyday by the taxi driver!
In the capital of Peru.
And, if I had to guess, said taxi driver is seeing most of those folks in the nicer areas like Miraflores.
Compared to the past, I’m not going to disagree with the notion that there are WAY more foreigners going to places like Lima nowadays versus back then.
But the problem here that I find is that these locals are seeing their dime a dozen gringos in the obvious areas where they’d go.
While I have never been to Lima, I can at least talk about Mexico City for example.
In the last two years since Covid started, we’ve had a huge increase of foreigners.
However, unless I go to a touristy neighborhood, I don’t see them.
Granted, some would argue that I live literally in the barrio of Mexico City like you can see here.
It’s not the barrio! Just slightly lesser developed!
Regardless, I could live in any other neighborhood that is nicer but not touristy and still not see a single gringo.
When I lived in the north by the Basilica – which isn’t a terrible area – I basically never saw a gringo and the Basilica has tourism value.
The fact is that, at least in Mexico City, almost all of the foreigners (outside of maybe 5%), hang out mostly or only in areas like Roma Norte, Condesa, Polanco, etc.
Even when they choose to live in Coyoacan, they only pick really the nicest and most touristy spots of Coyoacan and disregard literally 90% of the region.
Outside of Mexico City in the rest of Mexico, you see the same thing where most foreigners go to a very select few cities and the vast majority of them don’t get so many foreigners to the point that you see them every day.
When we go back to talking about other countries like Peru, I’d imagine it’s similar.
I’ve only known Peru for a month though and never have been to Lima but I would guess it’s similar.
How many foreigners find value in going to Ayacucho (some random city I just looked up) versus Cusco.
While I’m sure there are gringos who go and live in Ayacucho – maybe one random Swedish dude who married a local or something – I’d still bet you could live there without seeing a gringo every day (assuming it’s not touristy).
And I imagine it’s the same in the rest of Latin America.
Where the vast majority of Latin America’s cities don’t have a flood of gringos coming in.
They got the occasional one visiting maybe!
But not a flood.
Not to the point that you’re seeing them every day.
With some countries, like Nicaragua or Bolivia, getting such a small amount of foreigners that you could more easily avoid them there also.
And, even when you live in the major cities like Mexico City, it’s still not hard to live in a place where they basically don’t exist.
Now, to be fair, I get why most people are not going to the Mexican barrio or random cities with little tourism value like Pachuca in Mexico where I lived once.
For reasons like a stronger expat community, more tourism infrastructure, nicer things to see and whatever else, you got those hotspots that attract a majority of those coming by.
I’m just saying that, at least from my life experience, it’s not hard to avoid the gringo crowds.
Very easy to do so and it doesn’t have to involve living in a Mexican barrio either.
But, having said that, what if you want to live in areas where these extra gringos exist?
Little need to elaborate here.
When I last lived in a touristy area (Roma Note) about 9 or 10 months ago, I did see all of the extra foreigners outside.
Hell, I even made acquaintances with one named Alex where we talked often.
But, in my days living there, the extra foreigners in question did not bother me.
I walked outside of my apartment in Roma Norte.
Time to buy some food, meet another Tinder chick, get some vodka, spend time in a park or whatever else.
Along the walk over to wherever I’m going, I see these foreigners!
They’re talking while sitting down at a restaurant.
I pass them.
Why are some of you so god damn autistic at the simple sight of these people?
While more unfavorable gringos do come to Latin America these days and some are dorks, does it really fucking matter?
Just ignore them.
When I lived in Roma, I never interacted with anyone like that.
Never had a moment ruined by some dork gringo talking to me.
Maybe I saw one or two eating a taco at a restaurant.
But who cares?
Life went on.
And, if you do get talking with someone you don’t like, just stop hanging out with them and walk away.
The Gringos Who Hate Gringos
Having said all that, I think that those who over exaggerate the effect of UBER or AirBnB encouraging more gringos to be here are just coming at it from another place.
As I wrote here, you got gringos who hate seeing other gringos seemingly from my perspective.
They have their various reasons.
Some bitch about gentrification and rising prices (even though they might also contribute to that and fail to give responsibility to any locals for being at fault there also).
Others feel worried that more gringos will make us less of a novelty to the local women and somehow worsen our dating chances.
But, regardless of the reason from the individual, I feel that those who bitch about AirBnB & UBER are the type to just feel like Latin America should be their own backyard and nobody elses.
When I pick up the vibe from the people bitching about this, that’s how it comes across to me.
You do have those types in Latin America who like to think that they have their own gem in some corner of the region that NO OTHER GRINGO knows about.
I wrote about this before in another article where I discussed some other American named Jeff I met in Guatemala who bragged about some beach in Guatemala that supposedly nobody knows about.
These gringos come across as wannabe Christopher Columbus types who like to think that they are the ones blazing paths where NO FOREIGNER has been to before.
But, on top of that, they also just want to protect their own little corner of the world from being too “Americanized.”
Where they can continue to get whatever feelings of authenticity from the area forever.
And, more importantly, not have that wave of foreigners discover it and jack up the prices.
Among other issues they might have also that motivate them to seek out and protect their own little corner of Latin America.
So, when people bitch about the AirBnB & UBER factor, that’s the vibe I get from them that some of them are just bitchy about more foreigners coming to their area.
Like some foreigners in Mexico City who have been here for years getting bitchy about more foreigners moving in the last two years.
But, being honest, not every foreigner who brings up AirBnB & UBER is bitching.
Some of them just exaggerate that detail I was just discussing about blazing new paths where NO FOREIGNER has been to before.
Are they right when they talk like that?
The Tough Life in Latin America: Only Badasses Apply
So, like I said, it’s not always bitching but sometimes just exaggeration.
As I tried to illustrate in my intro with my own little bit of exaggeration, it often comes across to me like some of these types look at the years before AirBnB & UBER as tough years to ever have traveled to Latin America.
Where, if you had gone to Latin America during that time, you must’ve been a real badass who somehow navigated the tough waters of life down here.
With no UBER, now you have to order a taxi and how’s that Spanish for doing that?
No AirBnB? OH NO! Now we’ll have to use a hotel booking website.
Here’s my experience.
For one, I’ve never used AirBnB once in my life anywhere (the US, Latin America, etc).
Or, at the very least, I can’t remember ever using it on top of my head (maybe the rum is ruining my memory).
But you get the idea – I live down here and always have (even when my Spanish was shit) without AirBnB.
When it comes to UBER, I only started using UBER a few years into my time in Mexico City.
Never used it anywhere else in Latin America (and, in some countries like Colombia, I think it was banned or not available).
It was only with my last girlfriend, if I remember right, who used UBER and, after a few times using it when she ordered it, I thought “huh, this is pretty convenient.” Then I began using it ever since.
As you can see, I’m a boomer.
It takes me forever to adopt to some new technology or app because I just don’t give a fuck about changing.
My sister keeps wanting me to switch to Spotify but I prefer Youtube!
Still, despite having shitty Spanish in my first year living down here going from country to country like Guatemala or Bolivia, I did just fine without AirBnB or UBER.
It didn’t make me a badass and it doesn’t make you one for living without it either.
Life really wasn’t that much more difficult without it and with limited Spanish back then.
For example, how did I get anywhere?
If I needed transportation like a taxi, I could’ve just said the word of the place I’m going or give a piece of paper that has the name of it written down and read the guy’s body language.
Perhaps have a local friend or local girl I'm seeing talk with the taxi driver.
Or whatever else I did.
Without Spanish, the charge would probably be higher but fair enough.
Maybe he would speak a tiny bit of English to get basic things across to me?
You don't need much English to know as a taxi driver the words for "9 0 5 0" when describing the charge that the tourist owes you.
Like how many Americans know basic numbers in Spanish and a few words without knowing how to speak in Spanish really.
And, when it came to the charge, all he would have to do is just write the number down on a piece of paper.
For other things like getting a place to live, there were plenty of websites online and Facebook groups to find rentals.
Or hotel booking websites.
The simple fact that you have the internet is what has made it easier for all of us to live down here dating back to 2014 and before.
If you want to talk about gringos who truly had it harder to move down here, talk about those who literally didn’t have the internet (which also gives some online information about life down here).
And you know what?
I bet it would’ve been a cycle.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some traveler to Latin America who arrived here in 1970 over exaggerates how easy it is to travel down here in the 1980s because of some other random factor.
And so on and so on.
To which that also exposes to a degree the irony of millennial gringos (usually millennials who say this stuff) talking about how difficult it was to travel down here in 2014 versus 2022.
That irony being that you’ve had gringos coming down here for MUCH longer before 2014.
Though, as I said before, I do concede to the point that there has been a huge wave of gringos coming down since 2010 and also it is easier to live abroad for various reasons now than compared to before.
Going into the future anyhow, I bet there will be other developments that make life easier for us to live down here than before.
I can see it already.
It’s the year 2040 and gringos now have UBI (universal basic income) where they don’t have to work anymore.
Guaranteed income to live in Latin America!
If that happens, you might want to invest more in crypto.
Either way, life goes on.
Throughout human history, there has always been developments that made it easier or more difficult to travel for certain groups of people.
Anyway, let’s wrap this up by summarizing the main points.
First, things like AirBnB, UBER, more remote work opportunities and other factors have made living in Latin America easier over the last decade.
Second, you have had a huge wave of more gringos either talking about or living in Latin America.
Third, it wasn’t insanely difficult to live in Latin America in 2014. You weren’t some badass or innovative person that did amazing shit that only few could figure out how to do.
Fourth, I imagine it’d be funny seeing future aspiring digital nomads talk about how difficult it was to be here in 2020 versus 2030 and 2040 and so on with whatever later developments come out.
Fifth, there are still numerous places in Latin America where it’s easy to avoid gringos and, if you find a gringo you don’t like, ignore them. Yes, the developments making travel easier have brought in more that are not very likeable. Just ignore them.
Sixth, I feel some gringos just use the “AirBnB & UBER” detail to bitch about foreigners in general because they just hate seeing more in their area. It’s not even about avoiding a certain type of gringo in my opinion. Some just want their corner of Latin America to be left all or mostly to them.
Finally, I like UBER. I can’t really complain about other foreigners using UBER or AirBnB because I at least use UBER and find it makes life more comfortable.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
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Thanks for reading.