I’ve been thinking more about this issue of Mexican Landlords and Beggars. Just why do Mexicans think they can exploit a Gringo when they see one coming down the pike? Now, is this true of all Mexicans without exception? I do not know since I have not met nor had any experiences with “all Mexicans without exception.” But it is beginning to look like my expat innocence (stupid naivety) is getting a lesson in what it is “really like” to live in Mexico.
I am the type of person who can get along with “almost” anyone. I have had the philosophy that someone is innocent until proven guilty (Oh, my! How naÃ?Â¯ve is that?). Even if I hear the most vile rumors about someone, I generally regard them as just that-rumors-until that person actually acts out those rumors in my face. In other words, I always give someone the “benefit of the doubt” until they prove to me otherwise.
It is beginning to appear to me that there “is” a kind of anti-American sentiment here, only it is subtle and unassuming. I have yet to witness personally or hear on the news of any marches as were seen in Argentina the last time Bush was there with locals chanting, “Yankee go home”. However, I do not exclude the possibility of seeing that someday in Mexico.
How the existing anti-American sentiment exists here is Americans are seen as stupid, arrogant, imperialistic, and self-serving. (I do not entirely disagree with that evaluation.) Witnessing some of the behaviors of Americans in this country, I can see where the Mexicans get this idea.
However, unfortunately, this seems to work itself out in the attitude “since Americans are horrid behavioral monstrosities, we Mexicans can take advantage of them and exploit them”-and exploit them they indeed do!
Mexicans have traditionally seen that the type of Americans who expatriated here were the rich. Mexicans understand class structure all too well. They have had hundreds of years of practice of getting what they want and need from the rich.
Traditionally, it was the “rich American” who would come to Mexico, usually to the country’s west “Gold Coast”, and buy up all the real estate. You can still see this in cities like Puerto Vallarta. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who lived in Vallarta, were prime examples. These rich Americans would hire the locals as servants. The servants, when they went home after work, would tell family and friends of just how Americans lived-like movie stars! They appeared, and were in most cases, fabulously wealthy and acted like the spoiled children that they, in most cases, were. Thus the stereotype was set!
The rich, upper class Americans became the local servants’ “PATRONS”. They would, in many cases, pay their servants the lowest possible wages but the locals accepted it because the Americans provided for them in other ways. They paid for the Mexican’s family members when they took ill, for the births of their children, baptisms, deaths, etc. The rich Americans got by with treating the locals badly and paying them poorly because, in the long run, they would provide these extra services that benefited the Mexicans. One rich upper-class American could not be outdone by their rich upper-class neighbor, so they would keep up the Patron act so as to conform. Again, Mexicans benefited.
What Mexicans never saw, and had no experience with, is an American “middle-class”. It didn’t exist then nor does it now exist in their culture. There was absolutely no concept of an American that wasn’t Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton rich. There was no concept of an American that could not, nor would want to, become their Rich American Patron and take care of them and all their family. There was no idea what an American middle-class would look like, much less that one existed.
Mexicans with property to sell or rent have been accustomed to rich, upper-class Americans who would breeze into town and show a willingness to pay outrageous prices for everything from housing to food. There developed, therefore, the prices for “The Gringos” and the prices for “The Mexicans”.
My wife and I have seen this over and over again here in Guanajuato. We have experienced this with the landlords here. They see you coming and all of a sudden the local property owner starts hearing, “Cha-ching, cha-ching”! Dollar signs start floating before their eyes. The vendors and services providers are the same way. Their culture evolved the idea that anyone from America is so wealthy that they can afford to pay higher prices for things than Mexicans could pay. And they take full advantage of this.
If you are a Mexican trying to rent a house, you will be told one price. If you are an American, be prepared to pay through the nose.
It is, I believe, because Mexicans have no concept of a middle-class, a class that is just now beginning to visit and even move as expats to Mexico.
Our friends from northeastern America were paying $700.00 for their mortgage. They moved to Mexico and a landlord charged them $600.00 in rent for a studio apartment. But, Bill and Jo were new to Guanajuato, the landlord knew it, and they were stuck with an overly-inflated rental-BECAUSE THEY WERE GRINGOS!
Is this evil exploitation-You bet!
Is there a thing you can do about it? Nope!
So does this mean that if you are a middle-class American wanting to retiring to Mexico, and you cannot afford rich, upper-class prices, you are doomed to this exploitation?-Pretty Much!
UnlessÃ¢Â?Â¦What you need to do, that we are presently discovering, is apply the only possible remedy for this “Oh here come the filthy rich Americans for us to gouge” mentality.
1. First, realize if you have no contacts here, you will be at the mercy of this exploitation. There is nothing you can do about it. It will happen. Be prepared. Get over it. It is going to happen.
2. When moving here, sign a lease for only 6 months at a time.
3. During your 6-month lease, while in the clutches of Mexican landlords who regard you as a money-bag to be exploited and drained dry, start making contacts.
What I mean is that it appears the more important people you know, and make that fact known to potential landlords, the less likely you are going to get bamboozled and hoodwinked.
In other words, if you make friends with someone in the community who is influential, and drop that name in front of a would-be evil-doing, exploiting Mexican landlord, the less likely you are going to get taken. Someone of great influence has to the capacity to ruin your reputation and shut you down. Exploitive Mexican landlords know this. They will be less likely to take you for all you’re worth if they know you can tell someone of influence what the evil landlord did to you.
Take advantage of this and use this tactic liberally!
Once you have established yourself and made these contacts, then you will be in a better position to protect yourself from the would-be exploiters. The beggars, the panhandlers, however, will still regard you are someone to lie to in order to get money. What to do about that?
Beats the heck out of me!