Published On: Sat, Mar 21st, 2020

Cross-Cultural Reactions to the Virus

by Joseph Toone

San Miguel is always interesting.  We’ve been in a bubble as despite the country having ports welcome every cruise ship and flights from anywhere breeze through the biggest city in the world, the virus has been largely ignored in San Miguel until this week.

Now all schools are closed, no government sponsored events, no sporting events, no gyms, and alike and that was just over the weekend.  Next week they’ll be no masses or faith-based events meaning no Holy Week and such.

It’s been an interesting cross-cultural stud between the three largest nations in North America….

Mexicans are largely jovial and still going out and about particularly since it was a 3 day weekend.  Having survived the Inquisition for 300 years, countless plagues and being a conquered nation they’ve learn to laugh at adversity and have some humor when it comes to death.

For example, a popular video making the YouTube rounds features three Mexican kindergartens.  Two are medical professionals chasing a virus cell wearing a Chinese rice hat all while dancing a cumbia.  Wildly un-PC and quite funny as the adult parents cheer the dancers on.

Canadians are rather shocked to be somewhere where the government doesn’t care if they live or die after all those years of living with socialism.  When the Prime Minister announced citizens were to come home immediately if they had any hope for getting free healthcare every Canadian worth their salt went looking for airfare.  Airfares to Canada have been doubling and tripling in fares hourly since then. 

Folks from the US, being the center of the universe (at least in our minds), haven’t really paid a lot of attention.  As long as La Europa (the booze store) delivers, as does pizza (Pizza Guy with the prettiest delivery folks), we’ll quietly stay home as we often do.

Well, unless you want some attention.  One foreign gal that I know to be a bit mentally unbalanced often insisting articles I’ve written that have no mention of her are, naturally, all about her became a local social media sensation last weekend.  Claiming to be the first foreigner infected she got her story all over the place.  Perhaps she was, but I know she’d stop at nothing for a bit of attention no matter how unsavory.

Turns out she wasn’t infected and instead of being chastised by fellow foreigners she was publically rewarded for her bravery.  How brave does one need to be make up a story that belittles her hosts (the Mexicans that provided care) and tries to steal the spotlight from someone that is actually infected?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for some of the wackier ex-pats, like the guy that dressed as Dudley Do-Right, the Mountie, daily and read books to children.  But to lie about something so serious and make fun of your hosts only shows, like Romulus and Remus, one was raised by wolves.  It isn’t behavior to support.

However, the virus has brought out the ugly side in many ex-pats quick to belittle Mexicans.  Again, no one forced them to be here.  As any guest at any party knows, never belittle your host in public.  Or, better yet, ask around to try to figure out why someone acts differently than you.

Plus we ex-pats are a fickle bunch.  One day we’ll be encouraging folks to come see our English-speaking play or concert and the next chastising anyone that advertises a Mexican event taking place at the same time.  The ethnocentric irony is palpable.

Personally, Easter is my least favorite holiday anyway as unlike Christmas and Day of the Dead, it focuses on death here more heavily than life.  Still, I’ll miss the pilgrimages, processions and such that make Mexican culture so tactile, ritualistic and feminine. 

As someone that survived Three Mile Island as a child and numerous hurricanes, as an adult, I’ve learned there is a tissue-paper thin line between civilization and chaos.  To initiate a little compassion and grace for others of a different culture or mindset goes a long way in stressful times.

Joseph Toone

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed hereby are those of the author and not necessarily those of the San Miguel Times.



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  1. Carol O’Ryan says:

    I agree with Colleen….Toone does tend to be a negative guy. I stopped reading his stuff awhile ago but was taken in by The Virus story. I’ll return to ignoring his articles and snobbery. I’m not physically in SMA at the moment but part of my heart is there. May you all stay healthy!…..whatever your opinions might be……….Saludos!

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