For seventeen years Violeta and I lived in town or in Guadalajara and had nothing to do with gated communities. We regarded these as custodial institutions for people who didn’t want to be in Mexico but liked the weather and cheap gardeners. For strange reasons irrelevant here, a year or so ago we moved to Puerta Arroyo, a gated community. Nice Houses and nice people, both Mexican and expat, if not the life and flavor of town.
One day as we stepped outside to drive to the Mini-Super down the road, we saw a terrifying apparition stalking toward us with death in her eye. It was, at least approximately, a woman. Oh God, I thought, I’ve been here before. A pissed off gringa with her innards in an uproar over something tedious. I knew the kind. They are a plague in Mexico.
Sure enough, an old woman of maybe seventy, ugly as the north end of a southbound dog, with hair dyed prom-queen blond and enough makeup to seal a driveway. She seemed to be in disguise. Maybe she was getting ready for Halloween. Or maybe a case of slow-onset dementia.
Anyway, this ruin bore down on us and began lecturing us about our garbage can that, like those of three others in sight at the moment, was waiting for the garbage truck. It was, she said, unsightly. As unsightly went, I thought, she could have frightened the tires off a garbage truck, but never mind.
Violeta is the soul of patience, until she isn’t, when it is better to be on another continent. The old bat didn’t bring her to the point of nuclear ignition, and eventually went away, presumably to hang by her toes in some dank cave.
Why didn’t her husband control her, I wondered? After all, we keep dogs on leashes.
We might have regarded her as a mere psychiatric curiosity, except that she was par for a certain type of gringas who have nothing to do and so spend their time being disagreeable. At Puerta Arroyo we seem to be regarded as fresh meat as we have attracted at least four of these horrors.
For example, we have three well behaved dogs that Vi walks in the mornings. They cause no trouble and we pick up after them. The feral biddies bitch about them to Violeta. One actually suggested that we have the pooches killed. They do this when I am not around which is why I am not in a Mexican death row.
They are like half-arachnids: glue a pair together and you would have a whole spider. Why are they this way? I am not sure. Perhaps they were raised in bus stations, or their mother drank contaminated water.
Herewith some jackleg sociology based on observation: For a certain class of women, temperament is proportional to the likelihood that a man might look at them on purpose. Young pretty women are pleasant unless provoked. The Gringa Patrol, attractive as head colds, are like menopausing chihuahuas, yip yip snap, grr, snap.
Other examples quickly followed. I began to wonder whether God was punishing me for some forgotten sin.
In fairness, most American women do not behave this way, or even close. But, at least in Mexico, most women who behave this way are American.
When I first arrived in Ajijic long ago I lived in Italo’s, a residential hotel just off the plaza. Mexicans like fiestas. Often they bring in carnival paraphernalia–merry go rounds, Ferris wheels, that sort of thing–to assist in fiesting. There is nowhere to put all of them. Nor is there space for the many stalls selling the tequila and tortillas and toys proper to a fiesta. These towns are often very old, laid out centuries before Henry Ford’s grandmother had her first date. So the locals block off streets and put things wherever they fit. It’s fun. The children love it.
But not the gringas.
During one such fiesta, hearing much blowing of a car horn, I walked up a side street to investigate and found a car containing an enraged gringa, maybe seventy. She was almost hissing. She had started down the street without looking and found herself trapped between stalls with another in front. She couldn’t drive well enough to reverse out and was yelling about people so stupid they put stalls in the street, didn’t they know this and that.
To which the correct response is “It’s how they do things. It’s their country. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”
Anyway, this dyspeptic crone damned near knocked a stall down before I babied her out, now turn the wheel the other way…now straighten out….
Hers was not a pretty display in a country not her own to which she had not been invited. American women often think they are entitled to live in Mexico as they think it should be, not as it is. Men shrug it off and do not make asses of themselves in public.
One afternoon I was in line at the dog food store. A young girl of maybe seventeen was working the register. She wore a lime-green shirt with a company logo consisting mostly of initials.
In line was an cadaverous gringa. She looked as if she had been dried, kept in a box, and occasionally let out to terrorize the neighborhood. She asked the girl what the logo meant. The girl said she didn’t know. Whereupon the gringa began braying–this from memory, but it’s close–”Can you believe it? She’s wearing a shirt and she doesn’t even know what it means.” Etc.
Presumably the girl saw the shirt somewhere, liked the color, and bought it. I didn’t know what it meant either.
It was characteristic of the Entitled Gringa. They are embarrassing, and should be fed to eels. Expat men don’t treat Mexicans or anyone else with arrogance and vulgarity. Nor do Mexican women behave so badly. Amng expat women, it is a clear sex difference.
Why do men not behave this way? Partly from self-preservation. A man knows that if he insults the señorita at the cash register, a Mexican guy may well smack the living dog-snot out of him. For men there are consequences. For women there are not. The gringa knows that no one will deck her.
There are other reasons. Women are far more class conscious than men. A man will usually judge himself and others by accomplishments–starting a company, commanding a division, being a lead engineer at Boeing. Increasingly, women do this too. I see many young Mexicanas going to university to be doctors, lawyers, dentists But the gringas of Lakefront are usually in their sixties or seventies. They haven’t really done anything. Their status depends on their husbands’ money and the size of their houses.
When they arrive in Mexico, they discover that they have more house and money than most Mexicans. They can now be princesses.
They exhibit condescension thick enough to lube a diesel. You can almost hear the thought bubbling up from deep in the brain stem, “Why do these—these—brown people think they can do as they please in their own towns? It wasn’t like that in Amherst.”
They are purse proud. Long ago when Violeta was just out of university and trying to make a living teaching Spanish to expats, the lesson subject was cars, their parts and upkeep. The student, a gringa, knew that Vi, just graduated, was nearly penniless and didn’t have a car. She managed to find a pretext to announce that she would never be seen in a mere Honda, that she had to have a BMW. Which, of course, her husband would buy for her.
This is sheer female status signaling. A man would never get into a cab and assure the driver that he, the customer, had a much nicer car than the driver.
There are other reasons for the gringa’s hostility–which is what it is– to Mexican women. Expat women here are in a bit of a trap. Sally Sue comes to Mexico with her husband, who promptly dies. Sally Sue doesn’t want to live alone, so she has to compete for one of the very few single men who are not hopeless drunks or confirmed bachelors. The hunting is poor. Such eligible, or bearable, men as exist will invariably and wisely go for Mexicanas. These are younger, prettier, more fun and much more feminine (consult your dictionary). Gringas intensely resent this. They become sour and disagreeable, if they weren’t already.
Some become lagartonas, literally “big lizards” as Mexicans call them. These are women in their sixties or better who wear tight short-shorts, dye their hair and use makeup as if applying peanut butter to a sandwich. It is as saddening as absurd, but there you have it.
Now, racism. Racially, Mexicans run from pure white to pure brown. There is not so much a color line as a color blur. Usually it has no great importance. But there is a certain kind of Mexicana, who is white, or close enough to pass. She comes from money, or some money, may have a European husband as a style accessory who provides money and status She may have gone to university somewhere, and regards herself as high on the status ladder. She looks down on her darker countrymen.
The problem is that she will always be a Third World curiosity in the eyes of the world’s Uppah Clawsses, not so much a trained seal as like the Congolese ambassador’s daughter. If she were in the United States and a good engineer, she would be judged as an engineer. In the world of social status not based on accomplishment, there is an unstated ceiling.
Those are today’s profound insights, and will doubtless transform our understanding of human nature. Meanwhile I came home the other day and learned that while Vi was unloading groceries from the CRV, yet another of these bottle-blond garden slugs had driven up and bitched that our dogs had been barking. Actually the pooches in question were the neighbors, but never mind. I went out front and looked for pools of blood, bone fragments, and widely separated eyeballs. Nothing. Violeta’s patience had held again.
Hailstorm–not snow–yesterday in Guadalajara.Two meters of it. Where this it fell on sloping roads, the bottom melted a bit and huge ice packs slide downward. Meanwhile lead melts in Rance. Violeta, with fifty years experience oof the city, remembers a couple of inches in ‘97 and nothing else. Climate change is a myth,though. It only looks like it is changing because it keeps getting differenter.