Long, long ago in a faraway land called Mexico (you may have heard it) was a small, insignificant, flat piece of real estate located in the highlands of Central Mexico. Ringed by mountains, this "low region" was founded and by a lowly and humble Franciscan monk named Juan de San Miguel in 1542.This town played an important role as "an important stopover on the Antigua Camino Real, part of the silver route from Zacatecas." .But alas, this role was soon to evaporate as the amount of silver the filthy-rich could squeeze out of the mountains played out. By the 1900's, San Miguel de Allende looked doomed to become a ghost town.
What was to become of poor San Miguel de Allende (from here on it is SMA?I tire from writing out that entire name!) no one knew.Hark! Lo and behold! Someone had the idea to make SMA a national monument in 1926. How this was to save the poor town, I have no idea. What happened next gets a little muddy.
Some would say that SMA survived until the 1950's because of Mexican tourism. SMA's resort-like qualities of natural beauty and natural hot springs were the attraction.SMA did revive as a tourist attraction shortly after World War II, but the reason for its sudden population boom was because of American Influence.
The creation of The Instituto Allende, An International Institution of Higher Education for the Arts, Crafts, and Spanish, brought a flood of American art students to the town. Eventually, an expatriate community of more than 10,000 followed. Many of these expatriates are mostly rich Americans.One cannot help asking the question what this gigantic gringo population has done to SMA.
A screaming gringo pointed out that the locals in SMA should appreciate and thank the Americans for all the money that has been thrown at them.What is this? "Look what we've done for you?now kiss our hands and feet?" Is this what my in-my-face, screeching gringo meant? I just don't know.I would attribute what GOOD the gringo population has done for the citizens of SMA as Divine Providence rather than the (un)righteousness of American money. Money may improve a standard of living but it cannot buy friendship or love.And, there is no doubting if the gringos were to vacate the real estate tomorrow, economic horrors would result.
But, I must ask, there has been economic improvement at what cost? Standards of living have gotten better but at the cost of losing a distinctive Mexican identity. I don't think the gringos would say this.The Mexicans, however, do.
It is hard to get the locals to discuss this issue especially when they instinctively understand on what side of their bread gets a healthy application of butter.Those who have talked to me have told me that the following bothers them a great deal. I am sure you've heard this from your fellow SMA expats:.1.
"I don't have to learn Spanish. All those who come to work for me have to speak English.".2.
"Why should I have to learn Spanish when one can live one's entire life here and not have to utter one word of Spanish?".3. "I have plenty of English-speaking friends.
Why should I have to learn Spanish?".And the list goes on.Another specific thing said to me from those I interviewed is, "Why won't the gringos associate with us and why won't they learn our language?".Perhaps another way to phrase this is,.
"Why do the Americans expect of us, when we expatriate to America, what they are UNWILLING to do themselves when they come here?".You cannot very well associate with someone with whom you cannot communicate, now can you?.Think about it!.
htm..Doug Bower is a freelance writer and book author. His most recent writing credits include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Transitions Abroad.
He lives with his wife in Guanajuato, Mexico.His new book, Mexican Living: Blogging it from a Third World Country, can be seen at http://www.lulu.com/content/126241.
By: Douglas Bower