Friday, 15 May 2015

Mexico is strange 2

"Mexico is strange" may end up become as long a running series as "Adventures from the classroom" (now in its 22nd installment). All countries have their quirks and customs, but Mexico is definitely a uniquely strange place.

Love to fight:

The recent 'fight of the century' captured most Mexicans' attention, and proved how much they like to watch a good tear up. In fact the fight seemed to be sponsored exclusively by Mexican things - Corona, Mexico tourism, and it had two Mexicans on the under card (just so they wouldn't get bored waiting for Mr. Maywhether). In addition to boxing, Mexico is keen on wrestling, or Lucha Libre as they call it. Whilst it is mostly theatre, the athleticism required is great and one guy even died in the ring recently. I went to watch the spectacle of the masked fighters at Christmas and found it distinctly strange yet immensely enjoyable. Large groups of young men and kids, seemingly ignore the action to shout insults at each other all night. The TV doesn't really translate the 'anything goes' atmosphere of the fight night arena. On a recent BBC travel documentary I discovered that the first masked wrestler was Irish. Maybe the pasty Paddy was using it protection from the sun, who knows?

For a country that loves to fight so much, Mexico isn't great at wars. Conquered by the Spanish, they finally threw off the shackles of colonial rule only to have almost every Independence leader captured and killed by their rivals. The French invaded later in the 19th Century wanting to impose a new monarchy, and then Mexico lost almost half of its territory to the Americans. The Americans were so happy about liberating the land, they even named one of the new states "New Mexico". Now that's rubbing it in! Since then Mexicans haven't bothered participating in wars so much.

They are pretty good at fighting each other though - 8 million died during the Mexican revolution and now the army have declared all-out war on the cartels and the citizen militias set up to fight the narcos after a military helicopter was shot down.

The Metrosexicans:

Known as being a very macho race, Mexican men are taking care of themselves a lot more these days. Certainly in the big cities, the coiffed preppy look is alive and kicking. Beauty product sales are increasing 25% annually in Mexico and they were recently voted the second most vain country in a recent survey (see video). I often get strange looks, questions, and people wanting to cut my messy locks as cropped gelled hair is gospel here.

Pop stars and actors have influenced a wave of young men that now need to visit the hair stylist at least once a week, and its not just for their hair. The bushy Zapata moustache has given way to angular shaped beards and facial hair. The well dressed, fashionable crowds even have a name - Metrosexicans.

On the other hand, some people have always got to be a little bit different.

Six of one, and half a dozen of the other:

My last look into this odd nation mentioned their penchant for over dramatising and over formalising fun social gatherings. In a way, that's just one example showing the inability to follow one course of action. They want to have fun at a party, but spend all their time listening to boring speeches. Mexicans will stand in line for hours at the bank or to get a free t-shirt, but that doesn't stop them pushing in front of you at the supermarket or the post office. Go figure.

Mexico is a country of contradiction. Many employers still employ farcical amounts of red tape and administration although they don't seem to care if you are doing a good job. I have to punch in and out four times a day, and am followed around by clipboard wielding admin hags, yet I have never had an appraisal, or even had a class monitored. There's no dress code, and you could come to work with a 3ft green Mohawk, but you can't wear shorts. I found out that this is actually a countrywide employment law!

Other contradictions include that Mexico once outlawed fireworks during Holy Week - That's like outlawing turkey at Christmas. Its not like people don't pay attention to noise pollution anyway. There is also a law which prevents cyclists taking either foot off the pedal, as it is dangerous, yet you can drive a quad bike at 60 m.p.h. with no crash helmet! Let's not forget, this is this is a country that condemns drug-based violence and hero-worships narco culture at the same time.

Laws are made to be bent here. Some states strictly enforce public drinking laws and stop the sale of alcohol on Sundays. But if you put up a sign for a festival, people can get wasted in the town center without fear of police harassment. I guess it depends if Corona are sponsoring the event. Mexico can't even make its mind up about some of its more important laws. Abortion is illegal . . . apart from in the capital. I wonder what Pope Francis thinks about this little oversight.

You're getting it wrong:

Understandably, Mexicans have a love-hate relationship with their neighbours to the north. The land of opportunity is also the land of racial oppression and intolerance. There are a lot of American traditions and culture that have made their way south of the border - Baseball, Rodeos, Starbucks, fried chicken and political corruption. I could go on.

This country continues to get a lot of American greats so wrong though. Donuts are a great example of how so many US classics are just murdered here. Sweet bread with lukewarm piss-weak coffee is just no match for the sugar induced ecstasy of a Krispy Kreme.

For all the beef Mexico produces and consumes, you can't get a good hamburger anywhere. Burgers here consist of thin patties smashed flat in fake Bimbo bread. Rather than upping the quality, Mexicans go the quantity route, adding chillies, ham, plastic cheese, garnishes and chopped up hot dogs.

It's not just American food that people get so wrong, but business practices too. Few waiters work for your tip or give you good customer service. It's the same for them either way, so the customer loses out. You often have to shout for assistance in shops or get up to ask for your bill because the waitress is on WhatsApp with Juanita and Maria. Whenever I travel internationally now, I feel like a superstar. No, thank YOU. I WILL have a nice day.

Incidentally, one American classic that Mexicans do do better is Coca Cola. They drink more, and even use real sugar, not corn syrup. All that guzzling of fizzy pop leads to health problems though. Depending on whether you think that being fatter is doing better or worse at obesity, Mexico has now overtaken the US in terms of overweight adults as a percentage of their population.

Americans even celebrate 5 Mayo better than Mexicans. They have successfully commercialised another country's holiday! Whatever next? Maybe they'll start making tastier tamales.

Mexican walking fish
Weird wildlife:

There might not be as many crazy critters in Miahuatlán as in the Istmo region where i used to work, but Mexico is still full of wonderful creatures. I can see humming birds and eagles from my office window, lizards and geckos scurrying around campus, and my cat catches a wide range of rats, bats and assorted insects.

Speaking of pets, it always surprises me when I travel to other cities, because I see pedigree breed dogs. Chihuahuas, Labradors, Poodles and German Shepherds. Mexicans love their dogs, although Oaxaca keeps more street hounds than the pampered pooches in D.F. or Puebla.

There always seems to be some new news story about the discovery of an unknown type of animal carcass, or a new breed of mutated giant squid in the Gulf of Mexico. One example of something unique to the area is the pictured fish with legs. It looks rather pleased with itself.

Mexico might be proud of its diverse fauna, but that doesn't stop them wanting to eat some of their weird and wonderful bugs. I must confess, I've tasted the craft beer of the same name, but I haven't seen the famed and feared Chupacabra yet.

Next time, Spanglish.

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