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Insulting (and Defending) Mexico

by Dr David, Publisher / Editor

The newsletter for my magazine, through the miracle of automation, is published at 2:15am each Sunday, while I am sound asleep. On waking last Sunday morning, around 9am, there it was in my email inbox, along with a response from a subscriber, a rather angry response to my weekly article, A Work-a-holic in the Land of the Retired.

Good morning,

If "Dr. David" (what a sobriquet) is the publisher of Lokkal, I am requesting that you kindly remove me from your mailing list. I don't appreciate a smug, Ugly American rant with my morning coffee. What a poorly written piece by an insufferable, boasting boor.

I am deeply offended by his article , in which he refers to the "lackadaisical" Mexicans and the "do-gooders" of SMA who don't want to get involved in the project he apparently deems far more important than the projects that are close to their hearts. Let me guess: he lives in San Miguel, maybe only part-time, in a gated, speaks little to no Spanish, and the only Mexicans he "knows" are his gardener and his housekeeper.


I try to keep an open mind. I give people the benefit of the doubt. Who knows? My motto is, I know now what I didn't know then, but I don't know yet what I don't know yet. I take things to heart, at least at first; it's part of my radical learning program. But J.'s email was silly.

My response follows:

Hola J.,

Espero que estes muy bien.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
And thanks for your defense of Mexico's culture and people.

"Dr David" is not a nickname; it's my name coupled to my professional title. That's what my patients call me, because my last name is hard to pronounce, let alone remember, and because I don't like the power dynamic between doctor and patient. Then, Dr. Seuss wrote a story called "Too Many Daves." There are a lot of us. "Dr David" is easy to remember; I think it's all those d's, the alliteration, D... D... d.

Last week I was with a group of 20 persons, all Mexican, people who are fighting the planned removal of the 41 trees of Avenida Guadalupe. In speaking, with a young woman there I mentioned that it was hard getting things done in Mexico. I added that I loved Mexico and didn't mean to insult it. She replied, "Mexico insults itself." I didn't ask her to elaborate.

If you haven't noticed "that Mexican lackadaisical / mañana attitude," then you haven't been paying attention. Now, of course, people are people. In the great center of the Bell curve there's no difference between Mexicans and "Americans," or between men and women. But on the outside tails of the curve there is. Mexicans are more relaxed. Sometimes they are too relaxed.

I don't like the way "do-gooder" sounds, but I don't know any synonym. What do you call people who dedicate their time to doing good? I don't mean it as a pejorative term. I admire people's impulse to help. The frequent manifestation of that impulse makes San Miguel special. I don't deem my Lokkal project "far more important than the projects that are close to [do-gooders'] hearts." Still, I do think that I am on to something special, a digital town square, a platform to organize and amplify that impulse to do good.

I read your guesses at my character to the Spanish language editor of my magazine. (Did you notice, before you unleashed your "Ugly American" rant on me, that two of the six articles I published that morning were in Spanish?) A young Mexican, she is quick to tease me and to point out my faults. But this time she was on my side. She laughed uproariously at your caricature of me, because it was so far off the mark.

Where do I begin?

My girlfriend of 4 years speaks no English. Jokingly, I say that it's a perfect arrangement; she speaks no English; I speak no Spanish; we can imagine whatever we like. But the truth is that we speak only Spanish and, at the risk of justifying you in your conviction that I am "an insufferable, boasting boor," I speak it very well. I also speak it very frequently, more than I do English; not only with my girlfriend, but with my co-workers. I often am the only extranjero at the party or gathering. Mexicans tell me that I speak Spanish very well, at times thanking me for learning their language. But then, that might not mean much; they are so polite and friendly.

I've lived in San Miguel full-time for eight years. I live, not in a gated community (not that I have anything against gated communities), but in what my landlady tells me was the first house in San Antonio, that of the caretaker of the church. She should know. At 80 years of age, she's lived here more than 50 years. Her father was born here. Although she is fluent in English, we speak Spanish.

I don't have a gardener or housekeeper. I water my own plants and sweep my own floors, the later perhaps not frequently enough. It's a little place and not that hard to keep clean. Not that I have anything against gardeners or housekeepers. When my Lokkal project is more successful, I hope to employ a gardener and a housekeeper and to contribute more to the local economy in general.

As to my "boasting" about my Lokkal project, I thought it was obvious that in giving voice to my global aspirations I was making fun of myself. Opening up myself to ridicule is something I do regularly; I don't care if you are laughing at me, as long as you are laughing. I'm not that far gone to not realize that my "messianic" ambitions ("I go to bed feeling like I am going to change the world") are comical and a little crazy. Then, it may be that, according to the title of Fidel Castro's court argument, History Will Absolve Me. Perhaps we shall see how crazy I am or amn't.

Of all your unfair portrayals of me, the calumny that irked me most was that my article was "poorly written." Madame, surely you go too far. Object to what I say all that you like, but, please, not to the way that I say it.

Your own email, while I don't agree with its sentiments, is very well-written. I am always in the market for a passionate author. Maybe you would consider joining my team?

Thanks again for writing. Stay in touch.

Gracias y saludos,
Dr David

If you still want to unsubscribe, you can use the "Unsubscribe from this list" link at the bottom of any newsletter, but I wish you wouldn't.


photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr. David welcomes you to San Miguel Sunday. Anyone with any interest in contributing articles is heartily encouraged to contact him at the email below. The "Best City in the World" deserves a good Lokkal magazine.

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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