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Hot and Cold Multiculturalism

Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Last week I got an email from the man who on leaving San Miguel gave me a pump spray vial of LSD: "One spray is a tenth of a dose, what the guys in Silicon Valley are using." He advised me to take a spray every four days. In a month I've done it once. It was really pleasant, but right now I need my feet on the ground.

The beginning of my emailed reply gave him a little weather report: "Last week, winter ended... suddenly... overnight. One day it was brutal. The next day it was gone. Last week I was opening my doors to let in the sunshine and the warmth of the day. This week the same doors are shut to keep out the midday heat."

There is a Mexican saying: "Febrero loco. Marzo un otro poco." (Crazy Frebruary. March a little more.) Yes, since sending my email that "little more" has already come, the cold nights have returned. But, while I've packed away my longjohns and changed long pants, shoes and socks for shorts and sandals, the Mexicans are still wearing jackets, during the day. It seems that Mexicans have a different attitude not just to the heat, but also to the cold. On the streets I see some of them seemingly oblivious to the cold. Some of, I guess, it is that they are not trained for the cold.

When I lived in the mountains of northern Vermont and was venturing out for many hours outdoors in the dead of winter, there was a way to get dressed. An indispensable part of this routine was:
1) tuck your short-sleeve undershirt into your underpants,
2) tuck your long-sleeve undershirt into your longjohns,
3) pull your longjohns down over your socks,
4) tuck your shirt into your pants.
All of this tucking was to creat pockets of warm(er) air.

Building my house up in Vermont I worked with a man who never wore a coat on the coldest day. He only ever used a sweater and, over that, an insulate shirt as a jacket. Some of those days were cold (negative degrees Farenheit) and long. But he had his (inner) shirts tucked in, unlike some of the Mexicans I see as I go shivering along my way.

Granted they are all young. Still, I think it is a cultural phenomenon. The cold visits for a while, but it will leave soon. I imagine that for many Mexicans the cold is like us gringos, guests to whom they do not have to pay attention much less accommodate.

Before you go get all upset with me, please note that I am not saying that all Mexicans are unaccommodating to us extranjeros. I am immersed in, not divorced from, Mexican culture. The other day I was meeting with Moises, one of my Venezuelan associates and a man working across the alley stuck his head in (the open door) and asked brown-skinned Moises if someone could move my car to allow a delivery of gravel. I preempted Moises' responding myself, "It's my car." The man looked curiously at me and then continued to address, grinning, silent Moises. I said to the man, "It's my car, so if you want someone to move it, then you have to ask me." He did.

It wasn't my accent. It wasn't that I was being difficult. It wasn't unpleasant. It was honoring the moment, acknowledging the circumstance. I promptly moved my car, a short distance, but out of the way. Returning before the gravel truck even had a chance to occupy the space I had vacated, I asserted to the man who had asked me to move, "You have never spoken with a gringo before." He smiling admited it was so. I am that immersed in Mexican culture that I speak to a lot of Mexicans who have never spoken to an extranjero before... and often I make them smile.

Also, while I am making disclaimers: I know that the cold is a problem for people here in the mountains, especially in the campo (countryside), especially for the poor. I've gazed down from friends' roofs into the warren of habitations inside the large blocks here in San Antonio. I know that often behind the charming street facades are shelters (one can't call them "houses") without windows or doors, more fit for a stable than for people. I know that they are a single room. I know that in the winter, for warmth, everyone uses the same bed.

Discussing multiculturalism can be dangerous. For example, if I suggest that, like there is a way things are done in Mexico, there is also a way things are done in the United States, then I risk being branded as a racist. Look at it in reverse. If your coming down to live in Mexico means that Mexicans must change to adapt to you, then, to some degree, Mexico would cease being Mexico, wouldn't it?

Up north we understand the cold, we have an intimacy and respect for it. Such is the way with culture. Despite our global, inclusive perspective, culture is about differences, what makes us and others unique or distinct.

After the horrors of two world wars the Europeans have lost confidence in Western culture. Under the ahistorical critique of Social Justice Warriors the level of dislike that white American Democrats have developed for themselves is impressive. Nothing compares favorably with the utopia you can imagine. The hysterical screeds of those who have no perspective on what America has overcome do not appeal to those who are proud of what America has overcome, which is why Trump is going to win in November. (Sorry for the bad news.)

I am much more concerned with the huge decline in the insect population due to the use of pesticides than I am with those who claim to speak for the trans community. Whatever coaliton that could be built to save vanishing butterflies (or to dethrone Trump) is being destroyed by those who claim that a failure to use someone's chosen exotic pronoun constitutes a hate crime (and in parts of Canada it is on the books as such).

Acknowledging its faults and its need to keep evolving, self-correcting, I am proud of Western culture. I love our traditions of tolerance and personal liberty. I am proud of the great progress that women, gays and minorities have made in the United States since I was a boy. I am sorry that the Democratic Party has capitulated to its hard-left wing, who seemingly have listened too often to John Lennon's Imagine. Just because Lennon would have you imagine "no countries" does not make anyone who believes in a border a racist. America is not going to elect a socialist president. I get it: you don't like Trump. But you have to present a viable alternative.

Culture comes in many forms: high and low, traditional and modern... Personally, I would be okay with Mexicans littering less and taking better care of their roof dogs. Generally, however, interested in the exotic as I am, I am here to observe and absorb the life around me. I learn about my own ways by noting the ways of others. In the process I become aware of and have a better chance of overcoming my own blindspots, biases and neuroses. That's my multiculturalism.

Like I am regarding America's development, I am proud of the progress I've made since I was a boy. Also, like America, I know that I can and should do better. Among many other things, Mexico has taught me, when the sun is blazing, to keep on the shady side of the street. I knew before I got here to tuck my shirt in when its cold.


Dr David is looking for authors to contribute to San Miguel Sunday. He is also looking for people who want to add more meaning to their lives. See his new website below.

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