Often on tours folks from the US ask me if I tire of the corruption in Mexico and are shocked to hear me respond “There isn’t any more corruption here than in the US, corruption here just lacks the sheen.”
That baffles folks so indulge me as I explain in more detail. As with anywhere in the world, if you understand how the corruption works it can often play in your favor. I’m not naïve, and realized when I was a volunteer English teacher having my best student be in charge of Immigration only behooved me when getting my visa application through.
Is that any better, or worse, than any newly elected state senator that gets to place all their employment impaired nieces and nephews in jobs at the DMV alongside Selma and Patty? Or the fellow diplomats I worked with in the Paris embassy only because they volunteered on a losing local election campaign. Lucky for them, when their candidate’s party won the national election their former candidate became Ambassador to France and they all lined up for jobs in title only at the embassy?
Personally, I’ve never understood even in my youth why I paid taxes for a police force that spent at least half their days making sure an insurance card was in my glove compartment. If so much time of a police officer’s day is tied up ensuring insurance companies make triple digit profits why aren’t half of their pay and benefits paid for by insurance companies versus taxes? I think we all know it is because insurance companies have lobbyists working hard to guarantee presidents and senators legislate in their favor as this 1880s cartoon mimics. In Mexico this effort to buy favor is simply called a bribe.
The veneer of corruption continues to this day when each year I lose hours of my life on IRS forms to explain I live in San Miguel and don’t need medical insurance from a US based company. For years we lived with the battle of “access to healthcare” when in reality it has always been about access to a company providing health insurance determining your level of healthcare in such a way they always make a healthy profit. And, again, you are paying for government employees to make sure an insurance company is well funded.
It reminds me of when the newly elected President Obama bailed out car companies for being poorly managed and to keep jobs in the US. Instead new USA based car plants sprung up in Querétaro and Guanajuato you could view coming to and from the airport that revitalized those cities.
Another example is after Obama took office Mexico became the scariest place on Earth according to the US press. Press promoted if you came to Mexico you’d die of swine flu, be beheaded on the street from a drug crazed stranger or be kidnapped as a sacrifice to Santa Muerta (Saint Dead). In reality it was all nonsense, but I learned to never speak a word of owning a home in Mexico or having my then teens volunteer all summer here to my clients. I’d be labeled a Looney Toone and get no more contracts from them.
I assumed then and now, the administration had a well lobbied deal that in exchange for “contributions to those dedicated to public service” Spring Break travel to Cancun would now stick closer to home in Florida.
With the Trump administration folks fear Mexico today but in a different way and are more apt to ignore him making Day of the Dead our most visited time of tourists from the US (well, that cute as pug’s tail cartoon movie, Coco, helped too!)
Corruption travels south with our own gringo run charities in town. I heard upon arrival many Mexicans state “Foreigners form charities to line their own pockets.” At the time, as an active volunteer fundraiser for several charities, I was offended. With time, board room experience and an inability to view audited financial statements I learned the adage was true. We foreigners take advantage of weak government monitoring and often, despite our self-generated press, do little or anything for locals in need.
My point is, we from the US have grown up with corruption since birth also. We learned to put fancy words around it like lobbyist, public service, charity and insurance company but our institutions are just like in Mexico, filled with corruption.
As known since pre-Hispanic tribes roamed the area, with the good, comes the bad, and corruption may be cold and unforgiving, but I’m not, and that’s what really matters when or wherever one lives.
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