Back in high school I wrote a term paper for Algebra class called Perspective in Art, highlighting how one’s perspective influences how you view a painting. The topic was vague enough I repeated the paper all the way through graduate school in a variety of classes including film, statistics and biology.
The main thing I walked away with (aside from an easy to replicate term paper topic) was that perspective projects out while at the same time being deeply internal.
For example, a local ex-pat wrote on the Civil List recently. (Civil List is a constant email chain to help foreigners find cranberries or a good gynecologist. However, lots of complaining happens in the emails’ postings earning it the moniker Snivel List.)
The writer of a recent Civil List post used a made-up name though posted under her email using her actual name making the subterfuge pointless. Her post described how she had been attacked mid-afternoon on a busy street by a Mexican woman who slapped her glasses off her face. The woman then fled and witnesses didn’t help the elderly foreign woman who was attacked, but helped the attacker escape.
I was very surprised to view this post mainly because the woman’s point was Mexicans attack elderly Americans with the protection of fellow Mexicans. In the Trump Era of US/Mexican relations broad generalizations are likely not the firmest ground on which to stand, especially when you are assuming the ex-pat community will be on your side.
Largely, they were not, only adding insult to injury for this woman.
Suffice to say the author/victim was chastised for blaming all of Mexican culture for her situation. Others simply questioned the situation having themselves been helped by bystanders in similar circumstances. Many simply called her out as racist, and thereby provoking the attack on some level. I’m sure this was not the level of support the author anticipated.
She took particular offense at being called racist stating she volunteers for an NGO (Non-Government Organization, the acronym for profit oriented businesses that also may provide a charitable service when they have excess profit). Somehow, in her mind, being a volunteer implied she was not racist. Having trained and worked with the person numerous times, I already knew she was. Not in an aggressive Archie Bunker manner, but in soft-spoken “aren’t Mexicans silly” way you’ll hear in a Kindergarten teacher explaining the antics of her charges.
For example, after explaining multiple times how Guadalupe is the mother of Mexico for a variety of complex symbolic perspectives in her image, this gal simply calls her Jesus’ Mom in lectures. Plus, if you put Guadalupe’s image in your car like she does in her car (the same one she walked towards in the attack) folks won’t break into your car.
Now, on a surface level what she states is correct, it simply missed the point of why. Instead of explaining why Guadalupe forms Mexico’s national identity her view of Guadalupe’s image as simply a talisman preventing these darling local folks from daring to touch her car. Her tone is the same as my fellow Southerners expressing “Bless his heart.” which is a not so subtle code for “He’s an idiot.”
Her racist and entitled attitude, I think, is the cause of this entire incident. I can’t help but wonder what she said to her neighbors that would illicit both such anger and implicit cooperation condoning the slap. As foreigners, it is so easy to insult and offend, often with zero intention. God knows, I find I do it at times and must rely on a mountain of previous emotional deposits for folks to realize I’m simply ignorant of an aspect of Mexican culture that will now be explained to me. For this gal, I can’t help but wonder what she stated to her neighbors, repeatedly, in her day-to-day life to cause them to strike back like a provoked kitty with claws.
As a culture, Mexican women don’t rely on physical violence as a preferred method of communication unless they are starring on a televnova. Nor have I ever seen, or heard of, a (great?) grandmother being physically harmed as they gambol down a busy street in broad daylight, by another woman.
Again, the entire situation all ties back to perspective. The gal sees herself as a victim of a cruel culture advocating violence against ladies in their last days. Others on the Civil List felt she was racist for being oblivious as to why the attack even occurred. For me, I simply feel sorry for an elderly woman whose intentions are, sometimes, good, but nearly always offensive and insensitive to our hosts.
Growing old is tough, as is being a perpetual foreigner, but part of the fun is the challenge to learn more forever allowing yourself a fresh perspective on most any situation. Methinks this little old lady is simply completely unaware of her racist attitude towards Mexicans and her neighbors are all too aware. Perhaps she’ll find the root cause of the incident and grow as a person, or she’ll simply moan about Mexicans being bullies and move away. Perspective defines our actions.
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin