In Praise of Mexicanas
Living in Mexico as I do, I often hear from North Americans that gringos move to Mexico chiefly for the women. Well, yes. The women are certainly an attraction. Indeed they are. The North American tendency however is to confuse women with sex. American men in the United States usually see Mexican women as LBFMs, 'little brown, er, sex machines,' faceless, indistinguishable, and cheap. So do American women, though with resentment instead of longing.
Col-Text">Permit me if you will a different view of Mexicanas.
Col-Text">To my eye, they are almost quirky in their distinctiveness, strong, content with being themselves, and psychically stable. They are also women, delightfully so, vibrantly feminine. They are wonderfully amorous without being loose, uninhibited, frequently beautiful, and they are . . . ladies. They do not drink themselves silly in bars and shriek obscenities.
Col-Text">They can also be savagely jealous, to the point of removing body parts. But for this I respect them. Any woman worth having has every right to expect her man to keep his pants up except in her presence. He owes to her what she owes to him. Fair is fair.
Col-Text">It is not easy to explain to an American readership under forty what is meant by being a woman. We are accustomed to androgynous, litigious, Prozac-sucking shrews who would inspire erectile dysfunction in an iron bar. Yes, there are exceptions and degrees, but here is the main current. (If there is anyone with less respect for women than the average squalling dyke feminist, I haven't met it.)
Col-Text">Feminists of course say that femininity cannot be distinguished from subservience. But it ain't so. The Mexicanas I know are not subservient. They work harder and bitch less than we do. They are not weak. They do not need support groups, Depacote, Paxil, Welbutrin, or classes in self-esteem (which idea they find puzzling or ridiculous). They are self-sufficient adults.
Col-Text">There is for the Mexicana a difference of centrality. Her focus is on her home, her man, and her children. She sees her job as a way to support her family instead of, as happens northward, the other way around. Her home is more important to her than her office. Making partner at Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe is not her reason for living. Should the man share these sentiments, as gringos with Mexican wives seem to, there flows a warmth and steadfastness that changes the tenor of life. The time at home, talking, doing yard work, dancing to the boom box, or screwing their brains out, counts more than whatever else might be out there.
Col-Text">For gringas, Mexican women are tough competition. The embittered single American women in my town do not understand why, believing that men only young Mexican bodies. Everything, they assume, must be sex.
Col-Text">Now, young and beautiful has its charm. Men do not, as a rule, seek out withered crones. But'and I know many of these men well'what draws them is the warmth and womanliness of the Mexicana. In Mexico you don't marry one of the guys. You don't marry a child-support bomb waiting to explode without visitation. You don't marry a hundred pounds of irrational anger looking for an excuse. You marry a woman. The difference'my God, the difference.
Col-Text">Often, though by no means always, the age difference is substantial between gringo and lady, from ten to twenty-some years. The easy interpretation is that she wants money, and he wants sex. No. For one thing, the economics of marrying for sex, as distinct from paying fifty bucks a shot for agreeable lovelies at the Galleon in Guadalajara, is absurd. In terms of money, renting makes much more sense than buying. Sex is not why the men marry.
Col-Text">Further, there is such a thing as being too cynical. (Wait. I said that?) Yes, money is the only effective aphrodisiac, anywhere, as any man knows who has been in the Philippines with a paycheck. Drive a flashy car in Washington and leave hundred-dollar tips and you will have women all over you. But:
Col-Text">The Mexicanas married to my friends here do not want jewelry, clothes, or big houses. They certainly do not want to go to the United States. None wants to give up her job and be supported. They want security, love, loyalty, and not much else. It works for me. It works for a whole lot of guys.
Col-Text">The men? I know them, know them well. I know them sober and in their cups. They do not talk about how good Maria is in bed, what a great piece Conchis is. They talk about how much they love their wives or girlfriends, how fortunate they are to have found them.
Col-Text">I'm one of them. And I mean every word of it.
Col-Text">The Mexicana has a strength that Americans of the era of the Depression had, but somehow lost. The wife of a friend of mine was working as a nurse when an earthquake struck her town. Mexico does not have the money to provide the services upon which Americans rely. She spent over a month in a makeshift tent in a field, during rainy season, with a suckling child. (Her husband had abandoned her. Mexican men are not always as impressive as their women.) It was tough. She didn't like it. Neither did she crumble under it. Life is life. In the crude but succinct Anglo-Saxon, shit happens. Deal with it. Net psychic trauma: None. Prozac consumed: None. Hours of grief-counseling required: None. Symptoms of PTSD: None. Importance of all of this to Sara: Not much. They were cold and wet for a while. Gee. Golly.
Col-Text">She is not an exception. The Mexicana to whom I am undeservedly yet miraculously linked came from a poor family in Guadalajara. She worked her way through university in bellas letras. Then she set about teaching Spanish to foreigners, mostly Americans, to earn a living.
Col-Text">When those buildings went down in New York, her students disappeared. I cannot conceive why. The condition of real estate in Manhattan has no obvious connection with learning Spanish in Guadalajara. How pitifully frightened of nothing can people be? Violeta was suddenly, utterly, and in the short term irremediably without work or money. She also had a daughter of nine to care for.
Col-Text">For a long time it was beans, tortillas, and water. Mexico does not have the social safety net that Americans rely on. So they stayed home and read. Violeta got through the Decameron and four volumes of Borges. The daughter, whom I know well, will read anything, probably to include lawnmover manuals in languages she doesn't speak. Were they depressed, I asked? No, they said. What purpose would that serve? Anyway, they got to read a lot of books.
Col-Text">Use of Prozac: Zero. Psychotherapy: Zero. Psychic scars: None. Shit happens. They dealt with it.
Yes, women are high among the attractions of Mexico.