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7 myths about Mexico that escape me

“Mexico is a poor and dangerous country, mostly made up of beaches and hot deserts.” As a part-time expat, I am deeply frustrated to hear the stereotypes people have about my adopted home – a large, diverse country with an extraordinarily rich culture and history.

All cultures breed stereotypes, but in my experience, Americans have even more misconceptions about their neighboring country than others. After doing extensive research, I discovered facts that surprised me.

Here are seven common myths that I hope to dispel:

Monument of the Angel of Independence above Mexico City, Mexico
(Photo credit: Nelson Antoine / Shutterstock.com)

Myth 1: Mexico is dangerous

You wouldn’t hesitate to visit New Orleans, would you? How about Mexico City? If you’re like many Americans, you think Mexico City is far more dangerous. Yet New Orleans has an assault rate five times higher than Mexico City, which is also safer than Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC and Atlanta.

The US State Department regularly issues warnings to Americans when traveling to Mexico. I was surprised to read that currently only two of Mexico’s 32 states are considered completely safe to travel. I wonder how we would feel if Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary issued warnings about the United States

Of course, Mexico can be dangerous, and it is especially dangerous for certain professions (like journalism), because drug dealers don’t want their strategies exposed. And drug cartels are indeed fueling violence in parts of the country, a fact of life in Mexico caused in part by US drug policy and our ever-increasing consumption of illegal narcotics, which is driving up demand.

The lax gun laws in the United States do not help. I was amazed to learn that Mexico only has one gun shop in the entire country and issues less than 50 gun licenses per year. But each year, half a million guns are smuggled into Mexico from the United States, and many of them end up being used by drug cartels.

However, it is highly unlikely that you will get caught up in drug-related violence. If you have any concerns about safety, search online for travel blogs or local expat blogs to give you the current “facts on the ground”.

Myth 2: Mexico is poor

The tenth largest country in the world, Mexico has more than 127 million inhabitants and an economy ranked 15th in the world. Its percentage of middle-class citizens is higher than that of many countries, including some in Europe.

According to 2021 data from the National Institute of Statistics of Mexico (INEGI), 42% of Mexican households belong to the middle class, which represents 39.2% of the Mexican population. It is even higher in urban areas, at 50.1%.

A middle-class household is usually made up of a married couple with two children. The head of household probably has a authorized (bachelor’s degree) or the equivalent of an associate’s degree from one of the Mexican universities. The couple generally own their own home and work in the private sector. They have a car, a computer, a television, cell phones and at least one credit card. Some send their children to private schools.

One of the painful ironies is that while in the United States, and especially on the West Coast, homelessness has become the norm. I have never seen a single homeless encampment in Mexico. The reason for this is that Mexico’s poor live in slums, which can indeed be squalid – but even a flimsy structure in slums still provides a roof, and a slum is more permanent with a potentially higher quality of life than an encampment. homeless.

Myth 3: Mexicans are lazy

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Mexicans work far more than almost any country in the world, usually because they have to do so to support themselves. In 2018, Mexicans worked an average of 2,246 hours per year, including part-time jobs, while Americans worked 1,783 hours. The Germans clock in at least at 1,371 hours.

LGBTQ Pride Parade in Mexico City, Mexico in 2018.
LGBTQ Pride Parade in Mexico City, Mexico in 2018
(Photo credit: Sergio Mendoza Hochmann / Shutterstock.com)

Myth 4: Mexico is a lost country

I always assumed that Mexico was far behind the United States in terms of accepting, for example, same-sex marriage and the right to abortion. Bad! A 2021 study showed that 76% of the Mexican population supports same-sex marriage, compared to 72% in the United States. The main reason is that 80% of Mexicans identify as Catholic, which is much more accepting of same-sex marriage than Evangelicals. , a growing group in the United States. Mexicans also started supporting gay rights much earlier than the United States, decriminalizing sodomy in 1871, 124 years before the United States in 2003.

As for abortion, it has not been a crime in Mexico since 2021, although legalization still varies from state to state. Within months, a woman living in the United States may find it easier to terminate a pregnancy in Mexico than in her home country, sometimes even for free.

Myth 5: It’s always hot in Mexico

Another common myth about Mexico is that it is made up mostly of hot, humid beaches and dry, dusty deserts. Of course, some places can be very hot. Oddly enough, April and May are warmer than July and August, as summer is the rainy season when monsoon-like afternoon thunderstorms cool things down.

It’s also not universally hot in Mexico. The backbone of central Mexico, the Altiplano, is an elevated mesa-like landscape ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees (Fahrenheit) during the day most months of the year.

And, no, Mexico isn’t all desert or beach. It is also rich in rainforests, volcanoes, wetlands, grasslands, glaciers, jungles, scrubland, tundra, and steppes.

Myth 6: Mexico’s national language is Spanish

Although Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Mexico, it is not the official language. In fact, Mexico doesn’t even have an official language.

Mexico’s percentage of native (Aboriginal), one-third, is the largest of all nations in the Western Hemisphere. The natives speak up to 68 languages, the main ones being Nahuatl, spoken in the states of Puebla and Veracruz; Yucatec Maya; and Mixtec, in the state of Oaxaca.

If you only speak a little Spanish, you’ll be happy to hear what my husband Barry and I discovered when we started visiting Mexico 40 years ago: it can be easier to communicate with native. that bastards (mestizos and by far most Mexicans), because Spanish is the second language of the native, too.

Central Library, National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Photo credit: javarman / Shutterstock.com)

Myth 7: Higher education in Mexico is second rate

Again, I was wrong to assume that higher education in Mexico must be mediocre. In 2022, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) ranked 105th out of 1,300 universities worldwide. In Latin America, it ranks second only to the University of Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico’s MIT has been ranked among the top 200 out of 1,673 prestigious universities worldwide for the fifth consecutive year.

Until I started living in Mexico, I also didn’t know that although university students have to pay additional costs, such as housing, food, textbooks and their diploma, the tuition itself are completely free. Not only that, but the Mexican government is very generous with Scholarships, or scholarships. Many of our Spanish teachers have spent a few semesters studying in Europe or the United States, fully paid for by the Mexican government.

I love my second home with all my heart and I want you to too. Now that all of our mistaken assumptions are hopefully discarded, Come visit! (Come visit!). Mexicans will welcome you with open arms.

If that didn’t sell you for a trip to Mexico, these articles surely will:

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