3 Mexican Myths Worth Busting
The cartels. The ‘primitive’ heritage. The food. Three myth stereotypes to dispel about Mexico.
Myth: Drugs. Everywhere.
Related myths: Cartel-related shoot-outs around every corner. Danger of being kidnapped every time you leave the house, especially if you’re female and blonde. General danger of getting caught up in the terrifying war surrounding Mexico’s drug trade.
Before I came to Mexico, almost everyone warned me that I was guaranteed to get kidnapped and/or murdered by cartel members. Others advised me to join one and have them ‘protect’ me (I think, I hope they were joking). In response I reassured them that nothing bad was going to happen… etc.
Reality: The only reason we might think of Mexico solely as a crime-ridden, violent, dangerous country is because that’s how it tends to be portrayed by the media. Whilst it’s certainly true that some areas are heavily afflicted with the problems that arise from poverty and unsupportive power structures, the fear many people have of Mexico and South America in general is not proportionate to the problems that exist. It’s pointless to generalise about a whole country and culture but certainly the Mexican people I came into contact with were warm, inclusive and helpful, while expressing pride in their culture and nationality.
Myth: Mexico is a primitive country.
Before I travelled, I was given the impression that I should be wary about bringing equipment like my phone, iPod and camera with me. The underlying message was: “if people are poor enough they will actively want your belongings. The people of Mexico will be poor. They will therefore be primitive in terms of both technology and action.”
Reality: Expect to see all the technology and fashion in a Mexican city that you’re likely to find in a UK equivalent. From first impressions, there seemed less pressure to have these things or to dress or look a certain way. I’m rather enjoying dressing simply and comfortably and using my phone only for calls and texts.
In terms of Mexico’s cultural heritage, ancient mesoamerican culture is alive and prominent in Jalisco and throughout Mexico and more than one in ten Mexicans speaks an indigenous language. There are many lessons I have yet to learn from the Aztecs and Mayans, but appreciation of them has reinforced my belief in harmony with and respect for the universe; something we might all benefit from.
Myth: Mexican Food.
“I’ve seen zero evidence of any nation on Earth other than Mexico even remotely having the slightest clue what Mexican food is about or even come close to reproducing it. It is perhaps the most misunderstood country and cuisine on Earth.” – Anthony Bourdain
The representation of Mexican food in the UK boils down to a few concepts: chilli con carne, tacos, burritos and nachos – along with the idea that all Mexican food is phenomenally spicy. All fair enough, except:
- Burritos are small. They aren’t stuffed with huge amounts of meat, rice, beans, vegetables, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, salsa and everything else you could possibly imagine. I am yet to see one containing more than filling plus salsa. (Not to diss the British burrito – those things are to die for).
- Tacos do not have hard shells. They are small, soft tortillas, folded in half and fried on a hot plate, with fillings such as chorizo, pastor or other marinated, shredded meat, or refried beans.
- Most Mexican food allows you to add your own spice, in the form of salsas of various levels of heat.
- Some of the most delicious Mexican food is virtually unheard of in the UK, such as pozole, a soup made from hominy with various toppings, and horchata, a cinnamon flavoured rice milk drink (maybe the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life).
Mexico is a place where people live. Not stereotypes.
So many people are so afraid of South America and Mexico in particular. The media presents a warped image, blowing the dangers out of proportion to the extent that people think that’s all Mexico is. Mexican people face a constant onslaught of negative press. They don’t deserve to be feared, and neither does their country. More people ought to see for themselves how beautiful this part of the world is, and we could all learn a great deal from experiencing other cultures first-hand with a respectful rather than an entitled approach and from travelling in general.