The Plan Revealed
"It helps to have some freaking idea of who you are dealing with, especially if they are Latin Americans."--Sun Tzu
It is odd that Americans know less of the world to the south of them, with which they share a border, than they do of Europe, with which they don't, though they know very little of Europe either. For a country still of large importance in the world, the United States lives in peculiar cultural isolation. Americans are inward-looking and profoundly local, traveling little, lacking curiosity about other countries, and virtually never learning languages. Their sense of superiority to all them fern places leaves them little reason to look around. What could there possibly be to learn? And so their ideas of Mexico, of Latin America in general, go beyond the bliss said to be concomitant to ignorance and plunge headlong into the absurd.
For them Mexico is a land of lazy and shiftless people, dirty, disease-ridden, keeping burros in their living rooms, probably criminal, fit only to be maids and gardeners and prostitutes and, well, just not civilized. All of Latin America is indistinguishable from Mexico.
One looks at this vast ignorance in stupefaction.
Certain differences separate the Protestant, North European civilization of the United States from the Catholic, Southern European societies of Latin America. It takes a trained eye to notice them, though.
Actually a sprawling complex civilization lies below the Rio Bravo, a world unknown to Yanquis, stretching from Nuevo Laredo to Tierra del Fuego. The countries differ sharply—Mexico is not Argentina is not Bolivia, or even close—but they are all Latin. Being Latin implies things many of which make gringos uneasy: The music is so…you know, strident or sassy, and sometimes has horns in it, and just doesn’t sound like Top Forty. The food has too much spice, and so does the whole damned civilization. The churches are gaudy instead of being insipid little boxes with a pointed thing on them as God intended. Latins are brown and they dance. Everything is wrong with them.
In the little literary missiles that follow I hope to give one man’s view of the world in which he now lives, warts and all (and there are plenty of warts). It will be personal and idiosyncratic as well as sporadic, as I am not going to attempt surveys or hurl statistics. I hope they will be of use to any who wonder about the lands to the south.