Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Well then, Mexico has been my greatest by-product.
I’ve just returned from that dreaded trip into the land from which I ran. I was not chased. I was disillusioned. What I saw happening to my country of origin I could no longer abide. The people who inhabit that country are not bad, but they have become isolated and oblivious. In a land of plenty, I saw empty, unfulfilled lives. As we drove from the airport, we experienced culture shock. We drove through 10 miles of a freeway lined with nothing but stores. I was struck by the obscene presence of rampant consumerism. I remembered divesting myself of all my years of accumulation and spending on items that were completely unnecessary to daily life. I gave that up when I moved to Mexico. But seeing all those shopping centers and malls—made me realize how so many of the priorities of daily life in the USA have warped.
Days later I opted out of driving through my old neighborhood where the condominium had four units sharing a common entry. I lived there for three years before any of the three other residents took time to say anything other than a brief “Hi” as they passed me in the hall and rushed into their home. We ended up being great friends, but we had wasted three years of friendship. Here, my neighbors are friends, and while I don’t know them all well, we always have time for each other.
Here there is genuine respect for people. Oh, sure, there is an occasional opportunist or con, but the majority are leagues above these isolated few. I think of this as we greet each other as we pass – friends or strangers, it doesn’t matter. There is always time for pleasantries.
Passing through the TSA security in the Phoenix airport, a tall-self-important TSA agent barked at me over his folded arms “You bumped the machine! Go back though and this time don’t bump it!” I’d been squeezed into a too-tight airline seat for nearly three hours, wheeled to security where they removed my shoes and took away my cane. I was unsteady on my feet. I responded: “Sir, I just got out of a wheelchair, you took my shoes and my cane. I am handicapped and this isn’t easy.” Did he apologize? Flinch? Nope. He just stared at me, with his arms still folded across his chest.
We had a long layover. I was able to watch people, and listen to their conversations. Where once the United States was first among education, I found many to be uninformed. They’d comment about a story on the news clearly not understanding the situation.
Everything I saw and heard reminded me of the psychiatric diagnosis “narcissistic.” The public has a personality disorder. Self-centered. Complaints centered around gas prices, bad investment return, income taxes, and nobody seemed to take responsibility—just assign blame.
While I listened, I thought about Mexico. Many don’t worry about gas prices, because they cannot afford a car. Investments? On a daily wage of $56 pesos? No big concern about ROA there. And we’ve all dealt with the luxurious infrastructure the low, low tax rate of Mexico affords us. Poor roads, inconsistent utilities, and underfunded police are the result of their low tax rates.
Do the residents of the United States appreciate how fortunate they are? I think not. Yet every day, I see smiles on the faces of the Mexicans I meet. I hear whistling, and humming as they work at hard physical labor. Happiness seems to be their by-product as well.