Back from Mexico

Wed, 06 Aug 2008 21:29:28 +0000

The trip back from Mexico on Monday had the same feel as the departure a week earlier. Those of you who must use Newark airport for your travel have my sympathies.

The town we visited was San Miguel de Allende, where my wife's sister now lives. It claims 80,000 inhabitants in the urban area and, by my count, has exactly zero traffic lights (and only a handful of stop signs and rotaries). The streets are made of stones, and people just take turns when they come to intersections. It was an interesting trip, particularly as my first immersion in a Spanish-speaking culture in over a decade.

I am even more frustrated with the word "Hispanic" than I had previously been. When applied to Mexicans, it seems to overstate the relevance of Spain to the local culture and hides a lot of diversity in the ethnic makeup of the populations. Mexico's most recent census summarized the ethnic composition of population as "60% mestizo, 30% Indian, 9% European and 1% other." In general, and as you might expect, socio-economic status tends to increase with greater ancestry tied to Spain.

When we consider the plight of the illegal immigrant and temporary workers coming to the United States, I think we should bear in mind that their conditions have some similarities to those of indigenous populations in the US. I am surprised that there isn't more of a connection being made in that respect by groups advocating on their behalf.