Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Some Comments On Mexico

I've been in Mexico for the past week and every time I come down here I understand the place a little better. There's a few things that I'd like to share with you about the place.

First of all, and this is no surprise, most of the people that live here are fairly poor. By American standards, many are in abject poverty. One of the things I like about the place though is that the people are fairly entreprenurial. There are lots of road side and neighborhood businesses. When I say neighborhood businesses, I mean businesses that people run directly from their homes or directly in front of them. There's lots of food vendors, primarily tacos and hotdogs. Every neighborhood has a few little stores in it where you can buy sodas, snacks, and in some of the slightly bigger ones, normal stuff for normal meals. Still most people go to the big grocery stores for their main supply of groceries.

On the road to those grocery stores, you can see lots of street vendors. They sell food, piƱatas, trinkets of all types, priated CD's and DVD's and I've even seen a few selling USB memory sticks.

Also, trucks go up and down the street selling newspapers, etc. and shouting over loudspeakers announcing their presence. The newspaper guys are especially funny; they announce headlines in the most fervent tones. My Spanish is pretty limited so I don't understand much of what they're saying but it comes across sounding like Hitler shouting political propaganda. You would have to hear it to understand. Anyone who did that in the US would be immediatley cited for disturbing the peace if the neighbors didn't pour out of their homes and lynch him first.

There is a blatant disregard for rules, regulations, building codes, health codes, etc. that makes American cities neat, clean and orderly. To a degree, it's rather refreshing. Essentially, there is a high cost to trying to do everything legitimately here because there are people to be paid off for any major and many minor undertakings. For the most part, people just don't bother; they do what they're going to do.

You'll see acrobats performing for people as the're stopped at trafic lights. I've seen fire jugglers also which is pretty cool. They live off the tips.

Food is much cheaper here than in the US. Luxury items are quite a bit more expensive. TV's, stereos, digital cameras, etc. seem to be about 10-20% higher here. Clothes are also more expensive here than the US; especially for the popular named brand stuff that's already expensive enough in the US.

Mexico's problems are not insurmountable. They don't have the culture of liberty that is woven in to the fabric of American life. They need to stop accepting the corruption so rampant at every level of government and start demanding accountability. Unfortunately and expectedly, those in the top levels of the system are adamantly opposed to changing the system that keeps them in power. Mexico could solve many of it's problems just by ridding itself of the corruption.

Another thing that would great improve Mexico is for the US to legalize drugs. The drug cartels here would disappear nearly overnight. It would be a painful transition for Mexican commerce though because much of the drug money is funneled in to legitimate businesses and communites grow.

I'll probably be saying more about all of this later.