What is The Mexpatriate?
Have you ever wished you could follow the news about Mexico as reported by the Mexican press? Would you like to be better informed about the events and issues affecting the country’s present and shaping its future?
The Mexpatriate is a blog for English-speaking expatriates living, working or retiring in Mexico. This isn’t a travelogue or a manual for gringo FAQs like how do I treat a scorpion bite, or how do I pay my electric bill (the one they didn’t deliver), or is today a holiday? This is your guide to the country’s political, economic and cultural landscape, taken from today’s headlines and op-ed columns in national newspapers and magazines.
I update the blog daily with brief entries covering the breaking news and post more detailed analysis of the week’s stories in the categories of Politics, Crime, Economics, and Culture and Society. There is also a lexicon – the Mexicon – under construction, which will have descriptions of the key topics, parties and players to help you correctly identify all those acronyms and peculiar acronyms-as-adjectives (e.g. priista, panista) and to provide context for the headlines.
The idea for this blog first came to me one afternoon when I saw a spattering of comments on Facebook from expats living here in San Miguel de Allende, deploring the US media’s exaggerated coverage of the drug war in Mexico. Some stated that Mexico is safer than the US, that the violence only affects criminals, that there must be a conspiracy in the American press to tarnish Mexico’s image. I’d seen similar sentiments expressed before and agreed that it is foolish to assume that you take your life in your hands, or as Mexicans would say, “con Jesús en la boca”, walking down every street in every town in this country. My family and I had lived in downtown Chicago one of the years it bore the dreadful distinction of murder capital of the United States, but we didn’t immediately pack up in a panic and flee for safer terrain, or even think twice about our daily routine. But as I scanned the commentary this time, I was struck by its facile dismissal of the most serious problem Mexico has faced since the Revolution.
I had just finished reading an article in the Mexican weekly, Proceso – the edition’s cover image was of a partially exhumed body with the words “Horror Cotidiano” (Everyday Horror) in red across the top – about the scores of “forced disappearances” happening every day on the country’s highways, the numbers increasing at a sickening speed. As horrifying as the shootings, decapitations and stabbings are, reading about a young woman searching in vain for the father of her three children whose only crime was getting on a bus heading north to look for work, or a brother looking for his sister who was driving to see family, made my heart lurch. They vanished, leaving behind a fragile, terrible hope that drove their loved ones to carry their photos with them into hospitals, prisons, police stations, begging for information – even the worst. The authorities don’t have any information, or refuse to share it, and the tragic truth is that the search will likely end when the bodies of the missing are identified in the exhumation of a mass grave. These deaths will be listed as casualties of the drug war, just more “drug dealers” succumbing to the ultimate occupational hazard.
If those expatriates condemning US news stories about the drug war in Mexico had been able to read this article in Proceso – or the hundreds published in Mexican newspapers and magazines every day – wouldn’t it give them a different, better-informed perspective on its real impact?
In the long history of foreigners in this land, weaving a tapestry of both wonder and sorrow, one can always follow a particular thread: the desire to believe in Utopia, and that it can be found here. Cortés’s vision was of a gilded paradise, the friars saw multitudes of souls awaiting salvation and 19th century Americans and Europeans saw a bounty of untapped resources. Today’s extranjeros may see a place where they can shed the trappings of whatever society they called home and start fresh. They don’t want to acknowledge, much less explore, the darker side of this bewitching Neverland; perhaps they fear the spell will be broken and they will lose the lifestyle they have found here. My intention with this blog is not to sensationalize or exaggerate, or to discourage tourists from visiting or baby boomers from retiring or families from moving to this country I love. But I do believe being truly informed about what is happening today in Mexico requires hearing from Mexican voices, their reporting and opinion – even though the news isn’t always good.
If you’re a Mexpatriate, I hope this becomes a regular stop on your morning tour of the web – somewhere between the world headlines, Facebook and your steaming plate of chilqauiles. If you want to keep up with the national conversation, this is a good place to start.
Kathleen B. Lowenstein