Lessons from Mexico or Where NOT to go in Mexico

For quite some time now I’ve been wanting to visit a city in Mexico. Any city. I came to North America in 1990 and in all this time never been south of the US border. I know a lot of people who had vacationed at one of the many resorts in Mexico. People talk about Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention an urban vacation to Mexico.

So, when I had a chance to visit Guadalajara this week, I eagerly took it. I don’t quite know what I expected to find there but in 3 short days I learned a lot of lessons…

Lesson 1 — I am never doing this again. The only reason I may ever go to an urban center in Mexico out of my own free will is to go to Mexico City for bullfights or a soccer game. Otherwise — no, thank you, but no.

Lesson 2 — Apparently I don’t look very American. Everyone tried to talk Spanish to me. Restaurant and hotel staff, flight attendants and everyone else would switch to English when I would openly admit my ignorance of Spanish language. I have to admit that I like that. I don’t want to be thought of as a stereotypical American from a movie.

Lesson 3 — It is amazing how much you can fit into a Nissan Sentra. 3rd generation Nissan Sentras apparently are still being made in Mexico and seem to be the vehicle of choice for a taxi. My cousin drove one of those for many years in California and Canada and I used to think this car was a very small death trap on wheels. In Guadalajara, however, it fits 4 large suitcases and 2 to 3 people in the back seat and still does 60 mph. Granted, I don’t think those people were from the Midwest.

Lesson 4 — Mexicans don’t believe in Air Conditioning. Taxis, restaurants and even planes seem to regard air conditioning as some unnecessary luxury. The inside of a Nissan Sentra populated by grown men for any prolonged period of time with all the windows rolled up against pouring rain can quickly get rather uncomfortable without the A/C. Well, OK, perhaps it was uncomfortable only for me, my driver didn’t seem to care all too much.

Lesson 5 — Mexicans CAN drive. When I grow up, I want to be able to drive like them! Not sure what happens to some of their driving skills when they come to the States, but in Guadalajara it was pure poetry in motion: turning right from the left lane across 2+ lanes of moving traffic, merging into a solid wall of traffic, maintaining following distance of no more of 4 inches — I don’t think I’d have the guts to drive like that. When I saw a 14-year-old boy driving a semi, I stopped carying about the actions of my drivers.

Lesson 6 — Not all workers have to work. Everywhere I looked, for every 1 person working, performing an actual task, there were at least 4 people standing around and watching him. It was worse than watching a unionized road constructrion crew in Chicago.

Lesson 7 — I am glad I did not buy a Mercury.  When I was shoping for a car, I had considered a Mercury Milan. The car is made in Mexico. After visiting Mexico, I don’t have much confidence in the quality of things manufactured in Mexico. (I know that this is a horrible statement. I am sure that I have a lot of things that were made in Mexico and they probably all work well. And there many cars that were made in Mexico. But I just can’t seem to shake off this feeling.)

Lesson 8 — Knowing too much may be bad for you. I went to Casa Herradura on a tequila tour. Learning how tequila is made and watching it pour into fermentation tanks almost turned me off that drink for good. Luckily, a couple of shots of the finished product helped me change my mind again. I wish I skipped the tour and went straight to the important part — tequila tasting.

Lesson 9 — We, the Americans, don’t know how lucky we are.  The city of Guadalajara is only a short flight away from the US border. Yet it truly is a whole different world. Driving on a bus to Casa Herradura through the Mexican country-side, I was looking all around me at houses, cars, people. I saw at least 6 people piled up in a rusted Chevy pickup truck and I am upset with limitations of Bluetooth integration in my new car?! Our values are truly skewed. I now can understand why someone would brave a desert border crossing just to come to the United States. I think I’d try it too.

Lesson 10 — I CAN be happy to see a US customs officer. I never thought I’d experience this, but when a customs officer at the Chicago O’Hare airport scanned my passport and said “Welcome back”, I was actually happy to hear those words.

In addition to the 10 listed above, I now know a few other things, too. But those should not be mentioned in a mixed company… Ask me in private, I might tell.


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