All over Mexico at the same hour on the same Sunday, Americans and Canadians joined with Mexicans to protest Trump’s treatment of his southern neighbour. Here in San Miguel de Allende you can feel the people’s stress. Everyone has a family member or at least knows of a fellow Mexican who lives in the USA and fears deportation. Likely they also know of someone who has actually been shackled and escorted to the border.
On the Sunday of the protest, I joined Mexicans, tourists and expats in the march to protest the wall. Winding our way through the narrow streets we chanted, “Puentes no Muros.” (Bridges not walls) Mostly we outsiders were gringoes and Canadians. (Canadians are not “gringoes.” The word comes from the green uniforms American soldiers wore in the war to seize Mexican territory. “Green Go Home” was the cry.)
Proceeding through the narrow winding streets, the flag of Mexico held high, the march headed for the central square of the town. All along the way, Mexicans came out of their homes and shops to express their joy at seeing support for their country. The protest probably won’t do much to influence Trump’s inhumanity, but it certainly gave local people a show of moral support.
I have a Mexican friend down here. His parents were Mexican and he was raised in the USA, in a Texas border town. He has personal knowledge of the problems faced by Mexicans. He tells me of the huge disparity in incomes. He estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty while twenty percent are affluent by any standards and ten percent are incredibly rich.
Here on the streets of San Miguel de Allende poverty is less evident than in Mexico City. Still, even here where Snow Birds spend the winter and generously support children’s education and health, there are women sitting cross-legged on the street, a small child on their laps, their hands outstretched begging for pesos from the passing crowd.
A trip outside the town reveals poverty that is shocking to us North Americans. People live in unimaginable poverty. Whole families live under a corrugated roof where they all bed down for the night on the floor. One bare bulb hangs down providing light. Food is basic: beans, corn and rice. Historically, it’s just lucky that beans and corn, the traditional available foods, happen to combine to form a complete protein. Water is scarce and not safe to drink. Affluent people drink only bottled water. Plastic bottles are ubiquitous. The poor drink water that would never pass the test in the United States or Canada.
“Mexico needs a revolution,” remarks my Mexican friend. “It’s the only way things will get better here.” He explains that the bosses and the rich keep a tight rein on the population to prevent chaos. It’s like a country seething with terrible deprivation while the countries to the north are perceived as rich and comfortable.
I went to the internet and found the following:
“Mexico is the country of inequality. Nowhere does there exist such a fearful difference in the distribution of fortune, civilization, cultivation of the soil, and population. …The capital and several other cities have scientific establishments, which will bear a comparison with those of Europe. The architecture of the public and private edifices, the elegance of the furniture, the equipages, the luxury and dress of the women, the tone of society, all announce a refinement to which the nakedness, ignorance, and vulgarity of the lower people form the most striking contrast.”
As the writer Augusto Monterroso wrote in 2002 (p.60): “the unique, truly hyper-real characteristic of Mexico is its social inequality; the misery that marks the everyday life of the immense majority of Mexicans.”
In my next post I’ll write about my trip to a rural school to cut the ribbon on a new library funded by San Miguel’s expats.