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- Is it Ever OK for a Gringo to Be Politically Active in Latin America?
Well over a month or more ago, I was walking around Mexico City.
While I live in a very non-touristy area, I do sometimes appreciate a nice walk in some of the more popular areas of the city.
So I found myself one afternoon just casually taking a walk when I noticed a mini protest happening.
In Mexico City, a majority of the protests that I have seen personally were usually conducted by the locals for one of the following reasons:
- Feminists fucking shit up.
- Paid political protesters by some opposition party to the current President of the day.
- Some small indigenous protest bringing light to some massacre of indigenous people in some rural area of the country that nobody cares about.
- Literal communist protesters marching in a group of 20 with their flags or sometimes in larger numbers if mixed in with Labor Rights people.
Among others, I'm sure!
The thing is though that they are always held by locals.
Though, in the case of feminists, sometimes you might see what appears to be an obvious foreign woman (usually white) participating in the protests by taking selfies every 5 seconds and walking along with the group.
For a more comical situation, she might even be trying to initiate the local woman by shouting in broken Spanish whatever she thinks they are saying but not always with the best success in terms of understanding what they are shouting or pronouncing the words well.
"America Latin ... Latina? ... Latino? ... Feminist! ... Feminista? .... Feminist! .... Siempre!"
Regardless, they are almost always protests full of 99% locals or 100% even.
But, once in a blue moon, you will see the foreigners protesting.
Though I would argue that it's more common to find foreigners being politically active in other ways than directly marching down a street protesting with a protest sign.
That meaning those who volunteer for local NGOs or social movements doing more mundane things like delivering resources for people, attending meetings, trying to fundraise for their local causes, etc.
....But directly taking the protest sign to march & yell in the streets?
And, like I hinted at before, the types to protest in the street are more often just taking selfies for Instagram from what I've noticed personally (especially if it's a woman).
So, on that particular day in Mexico City, I found it odd to see a group of what appeared to be mostly foreigners (with some locals) protesting outside of the local Russian Embassy in Mexico City.
In fact, you can see a video I found of it online here.
I didn't stick around too long though because 1) I don't feel like protesting outside of Russia's Embassy will do anything and 2) I don't want to risk getting deported.
Because, in case you didn't know, it's technically illegal according to the Mexican Constitution for foreigners to be politically active in Mexico.
While I didn't hear any stories of the foreigners that day getting deported for protesting against Russia and I doubt they would have because such a protest is not challenging the political and economic elite of Mexico, it is still technically a risk.
A risk expressed in Facebook expat groups also in which some people told the people planning to protest that it is technically illegal for them to do so.
And, to be fair, some foreigners have been deported from Mexico for their political activities.
One such example that I am familiar with was an American man named Peter.
He was deported from Mexico as you can read in this other article here where he was caught trying to support a local social movement in Mexico called the Zapatistas.
It was a movement that started an uprising that led to violence, brought in a lot of media attention and frustration for the Mexican government and challenged, to varying degree, the political and economic elites of both the country and locally in Chiapas.
And deported he was!
Unlike the protesters outside the Russian Embassy as they were not really challenging any powerful people. Unlikely especially for Putin to give a shit about their protest anyhow.
Beyond the risk of deportation anyhow, you also had other foreigners disagree on Facebook with their protest.
The other point of contention was how "given we are guests, we don't have a RIGHT to protest!"
And they were not talking about necessarily just the rules in the Mexican Constitution but also from a perspective of "as guests, we should only give money to Mexicans and not voice our opinions about anything."
It's a similar perspective I wrote here where you got insecure Mexicans & left-leaning foreigners who HATE the idea of us foreigners having any negative opinions about Mexico.
For example, one guy on a Facebook group expressed discontent with a Mexican neighbor who would blast music from midnight until 6 or 7 AM for the whole building to hear on several nights a week.
He was asking "what to do about this guy to get him to stop?" and some people responded something to the tune of "given you are a foreigner, you should shut the fuck up and not complain. You are a guest."
Funny enough, it's more often left-leaning foreigners with such a cucked view than Mexicans themselves.
Those saying things along the lines of "it is colonialist for you to complain about this with your first world privilege and this noise the neighbor makes is just MEXICAN CULTURE."
You did have reasonable Mexicans anyhow -- including other foreigners like myself -- who pushed back against that and said "no, being a mentally challenged dick to your neighbors isn't Mexican culture."
....Though I would agree that you have more people in Mexico City who play music loud at night than back home but I digress!
Regardless, you have this cucked view applied to politics also as we should go back to the topic at hand.
Those who think that -- given we are foreigners -- we shouldn't ever protest, be politically involved in anyway and should only see ourselves as JUST guests.
And, to be fair, I've seen this attitude in other countries also.
When I lived in Bolivia, I volunteered for an NGO that worked on various issues within the city of Cochabamba.
I didn't do it because I am "socially aware" but just because it's a good way to get out of the house and meet people with all the free time you have down here.
Volunteer. Do something to kill a few hours if you got nothing else going on.
And so I remember -- on a very few occasions -- a similar attitude expressed against the NGO in question.
Though, like I hinted at before, while you do have some locals who don't like the politically or socially active gringo, it's mostly other gringos who give the most shit about it.
One of the reasons already discussed is because of this "you are just a guest. Never try to be active down here" attitude that you more commonly see among left-leaning types.
But, to be fair, you got gringos of any political leanings who hate the politically or socially active gringo.
While left-leaning types are perhaps more likely to express the "you are just a guest" opinion, I know you have right-leaning types also who think the same.
The difference is consistency in ideology.
I think a right-leaning gringo would be more likely to bitch about foreigners in our country back home being politically active but left-leaning types, in my opinion, seem to disregard that and think that it's their right to be active in the US.
It's a weird contradiction where the left-leaning type is also OK with illegal immigrants to the US but is always first in line to bitch about foreigners "abusing" the 180 day visa system and being "illegal" immigrants in a certain way (or skirting what is accepted however they can to stay down here).
These types seem to have a "foreigners doing this shit back home is OK but us doing anything similar down here is terrible" attitude.
Often wrapped in concerns about "privilege" or "neo-colonialism" that they learned in their college class but, if we're being honest, is likely what motivates their beliefs as much as race-based identity politics does in my opinion.
And so while right-leaning people also have their own ideological contradictions (many of them to be fair), I at least can't complain about how they see things because, on this topic, they tend to be consistent even if I disagree with it.
One thing though that both left-leaning and right-leaning gringos tend to have in common though with this topic is that they, as you would expect, hate it when the gringos of the other political side do something that they disagree with.
For example, in the same Facebook group that I am part of (among others), there was talk by someone to protest in favor of Russia's behavior.
Now, to be fair, who knows how likely this was legit or just an attempt to troll the left-leaning gringos.
But, as funny as it was, you had some gringos -- some of those who expressed interest in the protest against Russia later on -- remind others that "you can't protest in Mexico. NOT ALLOWED! THE CONSTITUTION!"
So all of a sudden they give a fuck about the constitution when they didn't while protesting against Russia?
Of course, this isn't unique to Mexico or Latin America.
You see the same thing in the US where left-leaning or right-leaning people have double standards when it comes to protests back home.
The left-leaning people who shit on the truckers in Canada and want it all shut down but agree with AOC on how "protests should inconvenience people and should be allowed."
Or the right-leaning people who overlook the violence on January 6th (against cops or anyone else).
Similarly, when it comes to either group in Latin America again, you have ire expressed when they see social changes promoted by gringos down here.
Be it the gringo who gets annoyed at seeing a sex shop run by a gringo in Mexico or the other gringo who gets annoyed at gringos not wearing a mask.
Ultimately, neither side really has much consistency beyond "I don't want anyone promoting or protesting in a way that promotes something I disagree with."
Similar to how back home you have conservatives who rightfully bitch about cancel culture but how it wasn't uncommon for decades for those on the religious right to cancel what they didn't like in the music industry.
Frank Zappa Music Censorship
And, above all of that, you have the insecure Latin American who just wants to put all of us foreigners into the box of "tourist" who spends thousands of dollars and teaches them English but yet bitches about us when we don't speak Spanish and when we go outside of the box doing things like living down here and not going home in a week, complaining about things that are justifiable to complain about and, within the topic of this article, being politically or socially active.
Like those who called for this German gal to be deported from Colombia here.
"Colombia expels German activist over Cali protest participation
Colombian immigration authorities expelled a German activist who documented anti-government protests. She said she was the victim of an attack last week, which Colombian police dispute."
Though, from my observations, you have WAY more other gringos bitching about the politically or socially active gringo than local Latin Americas.
When local Latin Americans do the bitching, I've noticed they tend to be upper middle class or upper class types in general.
Not most people anyhow.
Regardless, what's the verdict on this?
Is it OK for a gringo to be politically or socially active in Latin America?
The Final Verdict: OK for a Gringo to be Politically Active in Latin America?
There's so much one could say on this topic and I likely won't cover all of the relevant points but I'll try.
First, gringos should be aware of the local context in which they are involved in if they choose to be active politically or socially.
While they can be part of the community down here and not just tourists or guests, they are still foreigners.
They don't always understand perfectly 100% of local cultural norms, the full history behind whatever issue they are protesting and more.
So some humility is needed because, even if you do understand a lot, there is always so much you don't know.
That isn't a call for you to be a doormat to allow a local to disrespect you or see your opinions as inferior but to make you recognize that you will always be a foreigner that doesn't know everything.
Which, to be fair, the local might not either. While Latin Americans are more likely to know more than you about the history of the issue at hand, that isn't always the case as they aren't above folks from the US or Canada.
I say that to mean that, as you know, Americans from the US or Canadians for example often get shit on for being ignorant about their own country (like with indigenous issues for example).
That type of ignorance isn't uncommon in any country on the planet even if Americans and sometimes Canadians are treated as the prime representation of such and turned into piñatas for the low-IQ condescending types that just want to feel superior to another group of people (especially those on the left when it comes to this mini factor).
The fact is that, in my experience traveling with a fourth of my entire life being abroad outside of the US, I have met no shortage of similar types in any country you can ask me about.
Every country has these types and especially in Latin America.
So, when it comes to be politically active, do be humble yourself in recognizing that you don't know everything but also understand that the locals you are dealing with are not always very well-educated themselves and can be literally retarded at times.
They aren't above you necessarily in knowledge but, at the very least, are guaranteed to have more experience with the local culture and, while not always the case, are probably more knowledgeable about the local history but that's not a guarantee and their political opinions don't always equate to facts.
Second, know the laws of the country.
While it's not likely you will be ever deported for volunteering for an NGO, you are more likely to be deported from a place like Mexico or Colombia if you challenge in any meaningful way the political and economic elites of the country.
And, when I say "challenge the political and economic elites," I don't mean you have to go to the point of literally somehow managing to get the local President put in jail for corruption.
You probably aren't THAT much of a threat.
But literally any semblance of activity against the interests of the elite will put a target on your back.
It wasn't like Peter was out there with a gun looking to kill Mexican federal troops that were in a shootout with the Zapatista Movement in 1994 of Mexico.
He did many things, including helping get funds for the movement to build schools in rural communities, spread messaging about the issues their movement has and so forth.
And, as you can read here, deported he was!
Similarly, you have an English-language news organization known as Colombia Reports ran by a foreigner that you can find here.
From what I've heard casually, supposedly they have drawn the ire of political elites in Colombia but, as of now, they seem operational still and going strong after well over a decade of being around.
But ire they have drawn nonetheless.
In the end, if you choose to be politically or socially active, first know if your cause in anyway threatens the interests of local elites.
For example, when I volunteered in Bolivia, I primarily worked in fundraising for an NGO that sought to get funds to build portable toilets so you'd have less homeless people taking a shit where the poop would go into the local lake.
That did not threaten the local elites in anyway.
So, if after doing your research, you find out that your activity might piss off a local elite, then you will have to ask yourself: is this worth getting deported for or, at the very least, drawing the ire of local elites for?
If not, you might want to reconsider your activity.
Third, aren't you just a guest who shouldn't be doing this? YOU DON'T BELONG, MOTHERFUCKER!
I disagree with this point.
Like I said, I can at least respect right-wing people for being ideologically consistent but I don't agree with them either on this.
The fact is that I see the foreigner as both a guest and not a guest in this sense.
In a social sense, I don't believe you will ever convince most of the locals that you are "beyond guest status."
As I wrote here and here, you have a certain bewilderment from the locals at the "gringo immigrant" idea.
Even if they see the Haitian as an immigrant (with many wanting the Haitian out of the country to be fair), they will ALWAYS see you as not an immigrant (while sometimes ironically bitching about how we call ourselves expats when they don't even see none of us as immigrants).
But, for those who do bitch at us about using the term expat and not immigrant, then I would ask: Is an immigrant a guest?
We have the phrase "you've overstayed your welcome" that is often more applied to guests than not in reference to being in someone's home.
And, when you do walk into someone's home as a guest, it is understood that you will generally be leaving at some point in time. Maybe in an hour. Maybe tomorrow morning after you finished fucking the woman who owns the house. Perhaps in 10 minutes after you bought her laptop that you saw on Facebook marketplace!
A guest you are with the expectation that you are leaving soon.
Personally, I don't see the immigrant as a guest.
If we understand the immigrant to be someone who is trying to permanently relocate, then he isn't trying to leave anytime soon and will be staying for years, decades or until he dies.
He has immigrated.
Not a guest.
If you all want to bitch about us gringos calling ourselves expats and not immigrants, then you can only be rhetorically consistent by accepting that we can complain about local inefficiencies about life in Latin America (like a noisy neighbor with his music) and that we can be politically active.
If not, then stop being a little bitch when we use the term expat to describe ourselves.
If said gringo is only going to be here for a week to see Cancun, then I'd say he is a guest by definition.
He only will be here a week, has not lived here for years or decades and will be out the door soon.
Said gringo has lived here for years or decades (legally or even illegally)? He clearly, by his actions and sometimes by the approval of the Mexican government if given approval for permanent residency or citizenship, is NOT guest.
On top of that, it's also just as important to mention that, even if said gringo is still a guest, I would argue that he should still have a right to be politically or socially active if he has committed to much to being part of the community.
If you have spent years or especially decades here, own a home here with a local family and more, you are part of the community and the issues that impact everyone else can likely impact you also.
You SHOULD have a say in your community if you live here as an IMMIGRANT (which many gringos are).
In the same way that any immigrant living in any other country (like the Mexican in the US with as much commitment given up there as the gringo immigrant down here) SHOULD also have the RIGHT to voice their concerns over any local issue impacting their life.
It is NOT just about how much of a "guest" is the immigrant but also the SIMPLE FACT that they are objectively part of the community based on their behavior alone (without even considering their legal status as I'd say this right should be given to both legal and illegal immigrants).
This is not something I'd say for the gringo showing up to Cancun for a week (or the rich, upper-class Mexican showing up to Houston for a week on a "shopping vacation") but a point that I hold firm on for anyone (regardless of legal status) living in another country with some form of commitment to the local community that they have called home for years or decades (in terms of years, home ownership, having a family, having a business, legal status or whatever else that could count).
Though, when speaking of the importance of legal status in the case of Mexico (and this isn't true of all Latin American countries), it should be said that he doesn't have the legal right to protest technically if just a permanent resident.
But could he have the legal right to protest if naturalized as a citizen?
I actually have no idea what the law says about naturalized citizens being able to protest but that would be a funny image even if he had the right legally given the gap between the social reality and the legal reality.
Said gringo protesting against AMLO with his typical gringo accent: "AMLO ES MALO! AMLO ES MALO!"
Mexican cop: "Bro, I'm going to deport you. You are a foreigner."
The gringo: "Oh yeah? You see my citizenship documents?"
Mexican cop: "No mames. I'll take you to jail if you don't give me a bribe of 1,000 pesos."
Truth be told, I don't see said Mexican cop believing that the gringo was naturalized because, as I hinted at before, most locals aren't experienced enough with the reality to recognize the fact that there are "gringo immigrants" who have moved down here permanently and are not just expats.
So we clearly have it where, from a social perspective, you could see how it can be hard (or impossible) for most people (outside of those part of the same protest) to accept the politically active gringo.
Though, like I said, most locals wouldn't give a fuck and it's only those of the following that would: snobby gringos who also see us as just guests (even if naturalized themselves), upper class snobby locals or locals who disagree with the protest.
But, putting aside the social context in which it would be contested for the politically active gringo to be politically active, I would say that it is not wrong for said gringo to be politically or socially active.
And that is even if I disagreed with his cause.
I don't see it as overly harmful for most normal gringos to be involved politically or socially because, from what I've seen anyway, their impact is usually minimal and are simply supporting something larger than themselves ran by locals.
Unless said gringo is working for the CIA to overthrow a local government, then we can discuss if the behavior in question is a positive or a negative for the Latin American country in question.
....Haha haha haha ....CIA ... overthrowing governments ... that would never happen, right?
Fourth, you have the neocolonial argument.
Could also be sometimes associated with the "white savior complex" argument.
Gringos who come to Latin America thinking that they know what is best for the locals and try to impose their viewpoints on them.
There's a few things here to say.
For one, sometimes we gringos do know what is best and sometimes we step on our own dick.
If said gringo is trying to somehow discourage racism or classism, then how much of a bad thing is that? Like if he holds a sign at a protest (especially if ran by locals) that says "no more racism to indigenous people."
It might be pandering and he likely isn't going to achieve shit but who gives a fuck?
And his message is appropriate. If some racist type exists down here hating indigenous people (and they do exist as you can see here), then whatever.
Argentine women who cries "india horrible" in CDMX
But, to be fair, you do have the "white savior complex" gringo who just wants to feel better about themselves (usually herself) by posting images on Instagram or Facebook about how they helped poor people.
What you typically saw in Africa I guess in those commercials or with social media types who post pics of volunteering to help them.
Sam Kinison World Hunger
Personally, I don't see much harm here.
If they did somehow helped someone like offer a African kid a sandwich or something, then who cares if they get social media points?
Is it superficial and is their impact fairly small to the point that it didn't change anything?
But at least a random African kid (or Bolivian? Or whatever...) got a free sandwich that day.
So while I think it's fair game to critique the foreigner in question doing this for how superficial they are, I don't see much harm here in the real world.
I've seen these types take their photos at the feminist rallies in Mexico City or when doing something for poor people in Bolivia.
Their behavior likely didn't turn an entire Latin American city (like Cochabamba) into a first world paradise but maybe they did something beneficial somehow.
And they got social media likes for it?
In the real world, what happens in 99% of cases is that "Jessica" the Sorority girl of UCLA got 57 likes, 29 hearts and 1 angry face (from her ex-boyfriend) on her latest Facebook profile pic of her giving a starving kid a sandwich during her "semester abroad" in Tanzania during sophomore year.
Sure, the Tanzanian or Bolivian kid don't have the same privilege to do the same in the US or Germany but I see it as largely a non-important issue because it doesn't have much impact in the real world.
And, going back to the term "neo-colonial," the other thing that I will say is that the foreigners who use the term are mostly just bitching about foreigners having a critique about some country down here or supporting a social or political cause that they don't agree with (but yet being OK with foreigners giving opinions or support to causes that they do).
Putting aside the academic application of the term within academia, that's how I've seen it used in real world conversations between gringos voicing opinions or support on local issues and those who are mad about their opinions and want them to shut up.
Literally, it's nothing more than an intellectually lazy argument that amounts to nothing more than "shut the fuck up because your opinions hurt my feelings."
Fifth, for those who do volunteer work, I'd also wonder if sometimes just donating your money would be better than doing the actual volunteer work.
For example, as I wrote here, I once did missionary work in Nicaragua.
We sent maybe 10 people more or less to Nicaragua to help a small community build a house.
We also got food poisoning and didn't work for half the time we were there.
When we did work, we were not very good at it because none of us had experience in building a house (we did work then but we were obviously not as fast working as those who had experience with building a house like the locals we worked with).
In short, some of us left the experience thinking that it was kinda retarded for us to show up and not just donate the money to these people so they use it more appropriately than buying our plane tickets to get there.
So, if you want to be politically or socially active down here, sometimes donations really is much better than the alternative behavior (though, for obvious reasons, I can understand why you'd want to physically meet the people you are supporting but you get my point).
Sixth, sometimes right-wing gringos will exaggerate too much about foreign left-leaning gringos "changing" Latin America.
And sometimes right-wing "based" Latin Americans who are in their 20s and speak English on social media will say the same thing.
They will complain about how "feminism" or "gay issues" was brought into Latin America from "the west."
....As if Latin America never had gay people or feminists before.
Take feminism for example.
If you are in a large city like Mexico City that is already more liberal, you are going to have feminists and the gringos won't matter so much.
Granted, like you can see here, the local Mexico City government might get foreign funding for "penis seats" in the metro in the name of feminism.
But said Mexico City government is still a Mexico City government run by Mexicans and voted in by Mexicans.
Without that support by -- you guessed it -- Mexicans, then the penis seats wouldn't have happened anyway.
And that's on a government scale.
If said gringos are just fundraising money to build schools in rural Chiapas or take selfies at a feminist protest, that activity in of itself isn't bringing the social change that the right-wing gringo hates.
You still have the local people in Chiapas making their social movements and the 99% of the feminist protesters in Mexico City being Mexican.
The left-leaning gringos you hate didn't cause these social changes or movements to happen. It was Mexicans who brought them up and felt compelled to due to local factors that caused a cry for social change.
The gringos are background noise for you to bitch about.
So what's the verdict then, jack?
Is it ever OK for the gringo to be politically or socially active in Latin America?
Sure. Why not?
There's nothing more I can say beyond just be socially smart about how you do it.
Even if you are a gringo who knows more about a topic than a local on something, know to be respectful about it and not an ass going full "Ben Shapiro" explaining how they are wrong.
Be smart about if your actions could get you deported and if you'd be accepting of that risk.
Ignore the retards who give you intellectually lazy arguments about how you shouldn't and know they are wrong.
So on and so on!
We already covered all of that.
Personally anyway, I don't give a shit if you protest down here or not.
Because my day to day life is fairly normal and doesn't involve political or social activity.
While I have a disdain for those who are very condescending and use political or social issues as a weapon to bludgeon people while sitting on a high horse, I avoid them anyhow and they aren't part of my life.
And my day to day life involves the usual: going to the gym, enjoying some vodka, meeting nice women from Tinder, eating street food, cumming on your mom's face, hanging out with friends, taking a nice walk from time to time, etc.
So, on a personal level, I couldn't care less if you are politically or socially active or not.
While I find politics and social issues to be interesting to think about, my life will go on and I will continue to avoid those who seem incapable of having friendships if their politics are not aligned (and who act like condescending cunts when you have different opinions).
But that's all!
Protest all you want!
I think it's fine.
I don't care.
Just leave me alone and, if you attack me while I stumble across your protest, know I will attack you back (and probably enjoy it if I'm drunk on vodka).
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Thanks for reading.