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Protecting Our Elderly Ex-Pats

by sanmigueltimes
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Recently one of the local papers ran a profile piece on an elderly ex-pat.  My first thought, as a volunteer with local elderly, was “That’s cool.  It’s always good to make folks (particularly women of an advanced age) feel special with some attention.”  It’s part of what I enjoy about participating with my dance students at the Miss Grandmother pageant each year.   Here elderly women from every neighborhood get to don a tiara, sash and ball gown while performing a dance with me and other instructors in front of friends and family.

As can happen, my first thought was off-base.  Not about the notion of shining a light on a Senior Citizen that likely no longer receives any time in the spotlight, but how to go about it.

In a nutshell, according to the piece, the subject has been retired for about 40 years, been coming to San Miguel since childhood and living here for decades.  Yet, in nearly a century of life she was always “to busy” to learn any Spanish.  However, she knows Mexicans, and Mexico, because she has read books, in English, on Mexican history.  Plus she knows Mexicans love her because of her volunteering with a foreigner-run non-profit.  Icing on the cake is she loves Mexican food.  So much so she’s writing a cookbook that will feature her favorite Mexican food, a Swiss version on a Mexican standard.

No fault to the subject, a person of such advanced age cannot be expected to foresee how her comments will read in print.  I do fault the foreigner run publication for putting an elderly ex-pat in a situation where she came across as arrogant, ignorant and wildly culturally insensitive.

Imagine a Mexican gal that been visiting Topeka since childhood and has lived there for decades but was too busy to learn English, but knows how folks in the US think because she has read books on US history in Spanish.  Plus she knows folks in the US love her because of her efforts with Mexican-run charities that operate in Spanish.  She is even doing a cookbook on local cooking because her favorite Topeka based cuisine is Thai Fried Rice.

Obviously, the article would never be published and if it was, the publication would be slammed for being, at the very least, arrogantly insensitive on so many levels.

Now, it can be argued the subject of piece actually said  what is attributed to her so her looking bad in the piece is her own fault.  I can’t argue the validity to that line of thought having known the gal for years and she has told me countless stories that were very long and she came out looking very bad.  However, her being culturally oblivious isn’t the point.  The point is press designed to give her a moment to shine, like a Mexican Miss Grandmother pageant does, should have edited her comments better if only to save herself from herself.

Gouda Dancing
Grandmother cake

If you’ve been lucky enough to have parents that lived to an advanced age we’ve all done this.  At some point every child becomes the parent, and though the subject wasn’t the periodical’s grandmother, a minimal amount of respect would have saved her from being disgraced in print.

We foreigners in San Miguel already have a reputation for being culturally ignorant, being those loud people that like a quiet life in a world of quiet folks celebrating life loudly.  In today’s sensitive world stage why further our image of being insensitve at the expense of possibly our most elderly contemporary?  Every mature woman should get plenty of attention, but not at her expense, not making her look foolish, not like her moment in the sun did.

by Joseph Toone


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 HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.



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