- Personal Stories & Opinions>
- The Latin American Frustration At Establishments in Gringo Heavy Areas
There's a certain complaint that you notice some Latin Americans have when going to areas that are very gringo heavy.
In part, said Latin American might begin to not feel like they are in their own home country even if they are.
Perhaps said individual has fond memories of said area as a child but now everything has changed.
The place either charges you now to enjoy it when it didn't before or it charges high prices beyond the salary of what most Latin Americans can afford.
Said Latin American perhaps saves up enough to enjoy such an area.
But finds English and other foreign languages being spoken all around.
And, oddly enough, the local businesses don't seem too eager to cater to the Latin American even though they are all from the same country.
In large part because of the perception that said Latin American is not going to spend as much money at their establishment and also not tip as much as a gringo would.
In short, said Latin American perhaps has the feeling of being a foreigner in his own land, treated not as warmly as the foreigners and where nostalgia might even kick in for simpler times when said environment wasn't a heavy tourist playground.
Over my years here in Latin America, I've heard or seen such examples from time to time down here.
Let's jump into a few.
"Cancun Isn't the Same"
Over a year ago when I lived in Roma Norte of Mexico City, there was a mother and a daughter that lived in the same apartment building.
The mother was a little bit on the older side of maybe in her 50s or so?
At any rate, I remember one night in particular where I went upstairs to sit down in the kitchen area to enjoy my chicken chilaquiles that I had bought from the restaurant across the street.
Yeah, chilaquiles might be more for the morning but I'd have them at any hour.
At any rate, the mother and her daughter were in the kitchen enjoying some food also.
I had this experience with them before where they'd insist on sharing whatever they had with me.
Which is a point I kinda referenced in this article here where it's a bit rude to deny someone's food down here even if you truly don't want to eat it.
It's not that it looked bad.
She cooked great!
Just that I already had my own food and I feel bad taking from someone else also.
At any rate, I accept what they offer and try to offer something back and that was it.
Meanwhile, we're sitting down having food and making small talk.
She begins asking me "what part of Mexico do you know?"
And I give the answer.
To which she responds "Cancun, no?"
And I say no as I don't really visit the beach often ever in Latin America.
Don't care as much about the beach.
But, being American, obviously Cancun is an obvious place to think I have visited by this point since so many of us visit Cancun each year.
And the conversation from there shifts somehow to talking about Cancun.
The daughter had never been there but the mother was going on about how "great it was when she was a kid" and how "it feels so different now."
Despite having never been there, I could already guess where this was going as I have heard this type of sentiment expressed by Latin Americans in other countries also about their respective areas that get lots of tourists.
But I asked her anyway to clarify out of curiosity to see what she'd say.
And it was what I expected.
How it was "less urban" compared to now, less development but had "more of a charm" then versus now.
And how lots of people try to speak English with her when she is there now despite being Mexican (to be fair, she was a very white looking woman so, despite there being white Mexicans, I could see how some Mexicans could confuse her for a foreigner if they hadn't heard her speaking in Spanish).
At any rate, I just nodded along listening to her perspective.
And, as we have brought up Mexico City here also, I have heard the same sentiment expressed by some Mexicans about Mexico City also.
How certain areas have changed over the years.
Maybe an old building that had whatever back in the day when you were a kid and now is replaced by a Walmart.
Or how certain murals used to be around here and there but no longer exist.
Along with the greater usage of English in certain areas like Roma Norte or Condesa.
Or how some gringos are even spilling out of those zones and looking into areas of Mexico City beyond that where they might speak English in some other part of the city.
All around, it can definitely change the environment that, even if said Mexican isn't overly xenophobic, obviously is not going to be ideal for some when they have nostalgia for the past regarding how said area used to be and their memories of such.
Of course, places change all the time and a place like Mexico City has always had an international influence but I get where some of these folks are coming from.
And, in a situation worse than that, said Mexican might even feel that he "doesn't belong as well" when in said area that has lots of foreigners.
Jimmy Has to Wait for a Table
A few months ago, I had an old neighbor named Jimmy.
Actually, his real name was Sergio but he was one of those Mexicans who, as you can read here, changed his name for some reason.
In my opinion, they are trying to be "more like a gringo" with the name change like that but I'll leave that topic alone for now.
Anyway, Jimmy was a pretty normal dude all around and chill to talk to.
Though there were times where I felt like he had some weird inferiority complex to foreigners in general.
When you see that, it's kinda pathetic and you almost feel sorry for the motherfucker.
And, perhaps due to his life experiences, maybe it explains, at least in part, why he came across as such?
For I remember one moment in particular where he went to some restaurant/bar place in a more touristy part of town.
I forgot which neighborhood it was but "somewhere up there" that has lots of foreigners.
Maybe Centro Historico.
And so he sat down with his girlfriend as they had to wait for their turn to be given a table.
To keep it short, he noticed oddly enough some group of gringos coming in and asking for a table too.
The lady at the front asked them (in English or Spanish?) if they had a reservation.
They said no.
To which she told them to sit down and wait and she'll take them when ready.
"Ready" being in like 5 minutes or whatever time it was.
Sooner than Jimmy being able to get a table himself.
Or at least that's what he told me.
That the dude was being skipped over in favor of foreigners coming in after him.
Eventually, he got his table some odd minutes after his girlfriend got up to ask "how much longer?"
And they got the table eventually however much longer it took.
Of course, maybe there's some reasoning for why the bigger group of gringos got their table first.
Perhaps they had a big group walk out and a big table more appropriate for another bigger group instead of for just 2 people.
But, regardless of what was going on, this is a certain type of complaint that I have heard some Mexicans and Latin Americans complain about over the years as I hang out more often with locals these days than gringos.
That complaint being that they get skipped over the next table, that they get pressured more to hurry up with their meal to leave, that the service they get isn't as high quality, etc.
Or that they get the same "gringo prices" as other gringos where said local might walk into a restaurant and the food and beer is double or triple what you'd pay elsewhere.
Said Latin American might ask if they have a "locals price" but many times they don't.
Personally, I haven't seen or noticed any locals ever get "skipped over" for a table but I have noticed, while sitting down, the difference in service I might get versus others.
Not as pressured to leave.
Stuff like that.
And, like I said, my theory is that it boils down to more the idea of who they think is going to spend more money.
Or who will tip more.
While you do have Mexicans who spend good money and who tip well, Mexicans generally don't spend as much or tip as much as gringos do.
The standard Mexican tip is 10% unless said Mexican is at a very nice establishment in a nicer neighborhood.
Whereas gringos will be tipping 20% to 30% even regardless of how nice the restaurant is (unless they are cheap backpackers or gringos accustomed to living in Latin America who know how much locals tip like myself).
In fact, I get the opposite treatment if I'm at a place accustomed to foreign tourists and I don't play the role of tipping 30%.
The waiters in that circumstance sometimes might actually get hostile with you in your face (at least at one bar I remember in Centro Historico).
That's how fucking entitled they have gotten to the foreigner tipping customs.
But that's another topic for another day (entitlement of the local inflated by gringo spending habits).
Regardless, going back to the Latin American, the issue has been explained but I'll summarize it.
Unless they are a wealthier looking local (preferably with lighter skin), it won't be too rare for them to feel like they are getting "less than ideal" treatment in part because of the perception that they won't be bringing in as much cash or tips versus the foreigner or wealthier looking local.
That's just how it is.
To be fair, both examples are Mexico based and have nothing to do with the rest of Latin America.
But they're some of the more recent examples that come to mind given I live in Mexico and have been here for quite a while.
Still, I could bring up other examples but it'd depend on which country we are talking about.
For example, when I was in Argentina, I remember getting the impression that Brazilians have a slightly similar reputation for being wealthier in some parts of the country.
Not sure how true that is across the country but it was an impression I remember having.
Even in other countries like Paraguay, I remember hearing that supposedly some Paraguayans also feel like "outsiders" to their own land in certain Eastern parts of the country where Brazilian influence is stronger.
In other countries like Colombia, I imagine the same effect happens in select parts of the country. Wouldn't surprise me if it is the case in areas like Medellin, San Andres Islands, etc.
Similar effect in Costa Rica? Wouldn't surprise me either in some parts like Jaco given how many foreigners go there.
Or Panama City.
Rio de Janeiro of Brazil and all the foreigners who go there?
So on and so on.
But I'll leave that alone for now for those more familiar with all of these other areas than I am.
I've been to some of them but others, like Jaco as of this writing in 2022, I have not been to.
At any rate, if you have anything to add, drop a comment below.
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And thanks for reading.