Do you think Mexican food can be healthy, or that Mexicans themselves are lazy? If so, then you might have fallen for one of these moronic misconceptions about Mexico. After living here for more than a year, here are my top picks for the stupidest things us foreigners think about Mexico.
Authentic Mexican food is fresh and healthy
Apparently, there’s a bit of a trend in the west for healthy Mexican food, with a focus on light, fresh flavours. I guess hipsters just love their salad tacos with salad and more salad.
Yeah, fuck that. This is what real Mexican food looks like:
Sorry, but authentic Mexican food is unapologetically terrible for you. It’s going to harden your arteries, and the chilli will strip the lining off your stomach. Personally, since moving here, my diet has degraded from a steady mix of pasta, fish and vegetables to deep fried hamburgers and hotdogs wrapped in bacon.
I’m no exception. The Mexican diet is so shitty, in recent years Mexico has even managed to snatch the crown for most obese nation, beating out tough competition from the US in 2013. So, authentic Mexican food is brutal on your health, but tastes brilliant.
Having said that, Mexico is also the happiest country on Earth. I don’t know about you, but I think there’s a correlation between being happy, and eating whatever dumb shit takes your fancy.
Mexico is super-duper dangerous
Whenever I tell people I live in Mexico, the first response is usually something like, “By golly! Aren’t you scared of having your insides pulled out through your mouth, then barbecued and put on a taco?”
Or, you know, something like that.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly true Mexico has a massive crime problem. Much of the northern border region is obviously a world class shitscape, with drugs flowing north and AR-15s heading south (yeah, that’s right America, you dumb, gun toting shits are largely to blame for Mexico’s violent crime problem). The west coast has also gotten a bit of a bad rap lately, with some high profile cases of narco related violence. Having said that, Mexico is a country of 120 million people, spread out over nearly two million square kilometres. So, it’s pretty big.
It’s like asking if the US is dangerous. The answer correct answer being, “Yeah, it’s dangerous if you go to the wrong places.” The answer isn’t much different in Mexico, where the worst crime tends to be concentrated in just a handful of areas. Generally speaking, the centre and south of the country are pretty safe, especially for tourists. Mexico City is generally considered noticeably safer than it was a decade ago; though it’s still one of the world’s largest cities, which means you can expect the usual kind of bullshit you’d run into in any city this size.
Mexico is also extremely dangerous for specific groups of people: undocumented migrants, journalists who cover the drug war, environmental activists and low skilled workers – to name a few. Moreover, the biggest targets of the worst crimes are people who won’t be missed by anyone, or will otherwise be unable to take any action against perpetrators. On the other hand, as a (relatively wealthy) foreigner with some degree of support from a foreign government, you’re generally insulated from the worst of the worst. Overall, your biggest risks as a foreigner are being ripped off by some stupid scam, being pick-pocketed on the subway, or being mugged for your phone while leaving a bar late at night. For most seasoned travellers, this is all pretty stock standard.
Mexicans are lazy
It’s the stereotypical image of the Mexican: the sleepy poncho clad campesino catching a kip under a big sombrero next to a cactus. Sure, that’s obviously a trope, but plenty of people seem to think life in Mexico is just one big siesta. Indeed, at first glance, there seems to be some truth to this. Mexicans tend to take long lunch breaks, usually around two hours, and sometimes more. However, this means Mexicans also tend to finish work much later than westerners. In Mexico, consider yourself lucky to finish work at 8pm.
The real nail in the coffin of this myth is that Mexicans actually work the longest hours of any OECD country. According to OECD data, the average Mexican worker clocks in 2246 hours a year. Comparatively, Australians work 1665 hours a year. Do the math, and over the course of a year Mexicans work the equivalent of almost an extra month compared to Australians. So, no, Mexicans aren’t lazy; they’re stupidly overworked.
Tourists are safest sticking to tourist areas
I’ve heard this myth time and time again, and even read it in a few guidebooks: stick to the well beaten path, and you’ll be safe. Hence, many gringos like to congregate around resort towns like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, or tourist hotspots like San Cristobal de Chiapas. All the while, gringos are terrified of leaving the beachside resort, or visiting a town that isn’t totally dependent on tourism for income. In reality, crime is an integral part of the tourism industry. Just as the tourist economy cultivates budget hostels and tour guides, it also nurtures pickpockets, con artists and the drug industry. This doesn’t just apply to Mexico; wherever there are tourists weighed down with too much money, there’s an economy there to relieve them of that burdensome cash – by whatever means necessary.
Mexicans just love to smash that tequila
Here’s another stupid stereotype: the Mexican with a big hat, a bigger moustache, and a bottle of tequila in hand. Everyone knows the overall picture is cartoonishly ridiculous, but I’m still surprised at how often people seem to think some elements of it must be true, especially the drinking part. In reality, tequila culture is nothing like what Americans seem to think. For one, you can forget the salt and lime: that’s almost exclusively reserved for bottom shelf trash. Real Mexicans drink real tequila slowly. After all, a bottle of half decent reposado can easily cost more than the average campesino’s weekly income, so you’d better enjoy it. If you want to get tanked, you’ll probably make good friends with joven – the cheapest, roughest stuff. Alternatively, you can get even lower by opting for a licor de agave – a generic term for impure, garbage alcohol that’s so bad it can’t even be legally recognised as actual tequila. It’s usually sickly sweet and leaves you with a horrific hangover.