In July 2018 I stopped living in Mexico and moved to Ecuador. A year later, in July 2019, I moved again, this time to Spain. The changes, especially the first one, were by my own decision and although it will sound like a movie cliché, the main reason was because of love.
When some people know where I am from and that I have been away from my native country for almost three years, sometimes the following question comes up: do you miss Mexico? The answer I usually give is: I miss my family and friends very much. It is the truth, but I have never gone deeper and I thought I could write a blog entry about this and share what I miss and do not miss about Mexico, combined with what I like and do not like about the country. Although it goes without saying, I want to make clear that these are all personal opinions and judgments.
Positives. What I like and miss about Mexico
I already mentioned family and friends (not a day goes by without me missing them), so I want to focus on less personal things. I have never been much of a fan of any country’s cuisine and I have never been a fan of spicy food, but after these years away there are days when I crave Mexican dishes like pambazo/guajolote, pozole, sweet and savory tamales, pan de muerto. You can get some very decent tacos in Madrid, but the variety of salsas is very limited.
I like hard-working Mexican people, who despite adversity pull through and remain honest. I admire very much those who become international champions in any field such as sports or knowledge contests, because unfortunately the government support to Mexican athletes and competitors is not big and most of them have to seek private support. You just need to watch how many Mexica athletes compete in the Olympics compared to other countries. I have seen and continue to see many campaigns on donation platforms to support athletes, competitors or artists who need resources to be able to attend an event outside the country. It makes me proud that solidarity exists.
Part of the same, I like when there is support during a national tragedy or catastrophe. I knew of many people who gave both economic and physical support in adverse situations, such as earthquakes and floods. There are always concerts, donation and collection campaigns to find ways to help. Solidarity, unfortunately, is not present in all cultures.
It may seem like a minor thing, but I miss being around people who have the same accent as me and use the same expressions. Although in general my accent is not so strong (so I have been told), people always recognize me as Mexican or know right away that I am not Spanish. And on the same line, although I have always met people who make me feel good and at home, I am still the “outsider” or the “foreigner” and there are always things about the local culture (phrases, words, TV shows or past national events) that I do not fully understand and I have to ask what they are talking about or I do not get a joke. Sometimes it is tiring to be aware of using local words to make myself better understood, which happens within Mexico itself, but it is very marked in Spain. I imagine is similar to words used in the United States compared to the U.K. or Australia, like cellphone instead of mobile.
I miss how cheap it is to go to the movies in Mexico. A VIP theater ticket in Mexico costs the same as a regular movie ticket in Ecuador or Spain. That along with the pandemic, does not make me love movies as much as I did in Mexico. Also, in Mexico (and I believe in several Latin American countries) there is always the option of subtitled movies, when in Spain only certain cinemas have the original language version. Fortunately, streaming platforms like Netlix do.
I also miss the Mexican beaches. In Ecuador and Spain there are beautiful coasts that I like, but I still prefer the Mexican sand and also that no matter the time of year, it is always hot. In Spain the seasons also affect the coasts, and there are places with beaches that get very cold.
Negatives. What I do not like or miss about Mexico
I do not miss the homophobic and sexist culture. I am gay and it was not until I was 36, when I came to Spain on vacation, that I could walk down the street hand in hand with another man without feeling in danger and afraid of being insulted. There are racist and homophobic people in every country in the world, but in other countries there is more tolerance or at least people do not meddle in other people’s business.
I do not miss that in Mexico there is more merit in being able to eat a lot of spicy food or to drink a lot of alcohol than to compose a piece of music, learn a folkloric dance or read a book. Since school days and childhood, not eating spicy food brought looks of disdain from others. There are even memes about the “non-spicy chili” (in some places, they offer a chili which is mostly flavor with no spice), it is a joke, but it is still a reflection that not being able to endure the pain of spiciness is a sign of weakness. Several times I heard something like: “Did you see that they asked for the spiciest salsa and ate it just like that?”, but I almost never heard something like: “Did you see that they finished a book in a week?” or “Did you see that they know how to perform a traditional folkloric dance?”
I do not miss feeling like the odd one on a plane or train for being the only one reading. There are many people in Mexico who read, even more than me (I consider myself an avid reader), but it is not the average or the majority.
I do not miss the work exploitation culture, where “going the extra mile” is an excuse for not paying overtime, where leaving the office early (even if every pending task is finished) is frowned upon because “we all stay late”.
I do not miss that the police scared me more than made me feel protected. When I saw a police car in Mexico, I used to get nervous because I thought they were going to stop me and fine me for any excuse they could find, just to take money from me.
I know there are many people who feel as I do, or do not, and that is fine. We do not all have to like local customs, or traditional food, or colloquial expressions. We must learn to respect and be respected for who we are.
I hope you like this entry. Feel free to contact me for questions or additional comments in: email@example.com.