Monday, March 15, 2010

The “Real” Mexico

David sat in the living room last night reading the books I'd lugged home from the library. Since he's lived in San Diego all his life, just thirty miles from the border, the word “Mexico,” to him, means cities like Tijuana or the Baja coast where he and his buddies used to sail their catamarans. I'd brought home all the books I could find on Mexico because I wanted him to learn about other parts of the country, especially the central part where we will be in June.

He decided, though, to first read the general visitor information and kept calling out questions. Did you know that the gray and black scorpions aren't deadly, but the yellow ones require medical treatment? Is the water in all parts of the country unsafe to drink? Will we need to take our band aids and emergency supplies because this (pointing to the book) says we will?

It's not only David who is largely uninformed about our neighbor to the south; my friends have asked similar questions. When I told Nona where we were going, she said, “You mean you're going in June. Won't it be unbearably hot then?” Joan wondered if we would survive with all the drug violence, and Marissa suggested we not drink a single drop of water the entire month we were there. (I don't think she thought that one through!)

The truth is that Mexico is as diverse as the United States or Canada or France. Just as New York is different from Tucson, or Quebec is unlike Vancouver, or Paris is seemingly a world removed from Arles, so Tijuana is vastly different from Ajijic. Of course, it is possible to find parts of the country where you must fear yellow scorpions, tote your own water and medical supplies, suffer from tropical heat, and fear for your life, but there are just as many parts of the country where none of that occurs.