10 Myths about Mexico – MOTW1

What false impressions do people have about Mexico? Here are ten myths about Mexico debunked.

1. Mexico’s like the Wild West

This is a series of misconceptions about Mexico. Many people think Mexico is just small towns with unpaved roads, full of donkeys and stray dogs, people sleeping under cacti and streets full of tumbleweed.

  • Small towns? I live in Mexico City, which has a population of 8.9 million, and the larger conurbation has a population of 20.4 million. This is not a small town.
  • I’ve seen donkeys in parks giving rides to kids, but not as a means of transport.
  • You might find some cacti in the desert, but I doubt you’d find anyone sleeping against them.
  • There are five million cars in Mexico City, so there’s not really room for large plants to drift down the street.

2. Mexico’s in South America

Mexico is in North America. It is a part of Latin America, which includes South, Central & North America.

3. Mexicans wear big hats all the time

You might see these on tourists at the airport. How do they get on the plane?

4. Mexicans spend all day in cantinas

Cantinas are bar/restaurants, like a combination of a tapas bar and a pub, where your meal comes free with your drinks. Not everyone goes for lunch at the cantina. A comida corrida would be cheaper. This is a set meal including water and tortillas.

5. Mexican food is just tacos, burritos and tamales

Mexican food is incredibly varied cuisine from different regions, such as cochinita pibil from Yucatán, chiles en nogada and mole poblano from Puebla, tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as the tlacoyos, gorditas and pambazos you might find in Mexico City.

What you think of as Mexican food may not be. Chili con carne is from Texas. It means chili with meat, which could be anything. Tacos in hard shells are not Mexican food.

6. Mexicans drink only Corona or tequila

There are many other kinds of drink in Mexico, such as mezcal, sotol, rum, brandy, wine and a variety of beers. There’s also flavoured water, such as tamarind, horchata and jamaica.

7. Mexicans don’t speak English

As a former English teacher, I must have taught at least a hundred Mexicans, and the demand for English lessons higher than ever. In fact, there are five times more Mexican speakers of English than British speakers of Spanish

8. Mexico is poor

Mexico’s GDP is 11th in the world based on purchasing power parity. Is there inequality? Yes. 1% of the population owns 43% of the wealth and 46% of the population is below the poverty line. However, Mexico as a whole is a relatively wealthy country.

9. Mexicans are lazy

The average working week in Mexico is 42.85 hours, as compared to 34.3 hours in the US, 32.2 in the UK and 26.37 in Germany. Productivity may not be that high, but if you had to work that long, how productive would you be?

10. There are very few middle-class Mexicans

The middle class makes up at least a third of the population, so the idea that Mexicans are either incredibly poor or incredibly rich is not terribly helpful.

Recommendations

Ever seen a Hollywood movie about Mexico? Those depictions of the country are pretty much what visitors to Mexico come expecting to see: donkeys, desert, cacti, people and dogs sleeping in the street. As someone living in Mexico City, I would have to say that those ideas are lazy and outdated at best and prejudiced at worst. That might say more about the country producing those films than the subject matter they deal with. If you’d like to see a more nuanced version of this country, you could do worse than seek out films produced within Mexico itself. Here are my recommendations:

Amores Perros (Love’s a Bitch) – a complex urban tale directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, Birdman & The Revenant).

La Ley de Heródes (Herod’s Law) – a black comedy/satire directed by Luis Estrada (El Infierno).

Matando Cabos (Killing Cabos) – a dark comedy directed by Alejandro Lozano.

Hecho en México (Made in Mexico) – a music documentary directed by Duncan Bridgeman.

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