El Salón México, Part 1

Como México no hay dos, the song goes. Like Mexico there is no other or, more literally, there aren't two of them, only one. Thank God, many Americans would say if they knew Spanish and those words, which they don't. Of course, there's that other phrase, poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States. Which the same Americans who would wince at the no hay dos would reverse, poor United States, so close to Mexico (I'll leave God out of it).

Let's be real. Neighboring Mexico poses problems. The drug trade and its violence can't be ignored. Neither can runaway immigration, though that's less problematic than it's made out to be. And much, if not most, of the problem should be blamed on Mexico itself, or more precisely, its ruling and governing classes. Like Russia, Mexico has suffered under the yoke of a betrayed revolution, roughly the same age. It's no secret that the country is rife with corruption, an institutionalized courruption that has led to what some label "narcogovernment", where the criminal classes that run the drug trade are accused of also running the country. 

Mexico is hardly a poor underdeveloped country -- there is great wealth and one Mexican has been labeled the world's wealthiest man, whose fortune is based on the very modern business of telecommunications. Yet, poverty accounts for the masses of Mexicans that attempt to cross the US border without documents on a regular basis. One can sympathize with the late Edward Abbey's solution to the immigration problem: turn each one away at the border, but hand each one a gun so they can overthrow their government.

Yet, it's not the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" who should be the object of American contempt. They are immigrants, undocumented yes, but immigrants nonetheless. Like me (documented). Like the grandparents of so many Americans. Or, if you look back, like all Americans, including those who immigrated across the frozen Bering Strait.

Still, many Americans look at Mexico and Mexicans with disdain. We are about to build a wall to fortify the border with that nation and keep its people out. Mexicans, who are, by the way, North Americans according to geography, are Other. Bad Other. A perception of badness based on provincial prejudices that diminish those who think and feel them more than the object of provincialism and contempt.

And there are some, like myself, who feel affection for the country, its incredibly rich culture, and in my case for very personal reasons, its people. Como México no hay dos. Just one. And I like it.

(To be continued)