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100 impressions from a Brazilian in Mexico

24 enero, 2014

Trips [Icon By Buuf]  Trips.

Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.

Edward Irving “Ed” Koch (1924 – 2013). American lawyer, politician, political commentator, movie critic and reality television arbitrator.

Some time ago I found a nice post from Vinicius Covas, a Brazilian student who lived in Mexico City for most of 2013 thanks to an international student exchange program. According to his observations, he truly enjoyed living here; hoping to see “the real Mexico“, only to find there are no sombreros, burritos nor adobe houses. As many people before him have noticed, there are many Mexican customs and traditions quite unique, even if you consider Brazilians to also be “Latin Americans”. The truth is Brazil and Mexico are very different in many ways; just like Canada and Australia, or the ‘States and England. So, I’ve translated the whole article, which is causing a stir in Mexican social media sites, as it shows Mexico through the eyes of a cidadão Brasileiro. Just a word of caution: this list is especially relevant for Mexico City; not so for other parts of the country: telling someone from Cancun or Tijuana that everyone in Mexico loves tacos is like saying all Americans love their chili con carne. That being said, enjoy:

Vinicius Covas is a Brazilian journalism student who lived in Mexico throughout 2013 as part of a student exchange program. At that time, he traveled, enjoyed, ate, experienced, admired, photographed, recorded, documented and was excited by all the adventures that happened to him in our country. Read here the 100 Vinicius’ impressions:

  1. Mexico is bigger than I thought it was, and much bigger than Mexico itself thinks it is.
  2. Mexico is not just a sombrero, chili and mariachi.
  3. Mexico is warm, cold, very warm and very cold. Usually all on the same day.
  4. Mexico has two capitals. One above ground and one below, with their incredible subway (also known as metro).
  5. The underground capital has less traffic than the above one.
  6. I do not know what’s worse in Mexico: drug trafficking or road traffic.
  7. Mexico has one of the cheapest subway fares in the world. But if it is increased by 2 pesos, chilangos (i.e. Mexico City inhabitants) jump over the tourniquets.
  8. The metro in Mexico is a shopping on rails. And almost always a joint with street DJ’s.
  9. Mexican rail transport and BRT work great. You can travel throughout the capital using metro. Do not know why there are so many cars on the streets.
  10. Mexico is the country with the highest level of pollution in the Americas.
  11. “Ahorita” (right now) is short for “now”, but it is almost always used as “in a while”.
  12. Actually, “Ahorita” is used for anything.
  13. “Wey” or “güey” (dude) is a mandatory greeting. But with rules: a woman can call a woman as “wey”. A man may call a man “wey”. Women can call a man “wey”. But a man cannot call a woman “wey”. It’s in the Mexican Constitution.
  14. “¿Qué onda, wey?” is the Mexican “What’s up, dude?”
  15. “Muy padre” (literal translation: great father) is not that there are many church fathers. “Muy padre” is something like “cool”. “Poca madre” (literal translation: little mother) is also “very cool”. In short, big Father and small Mother. Machismo anyone?
  16. In Mexico everything is “¡muy padre!”
  17. ¡Hijole! Never try to understand Mexican slang, wey. ¡Aguas! with the double meaning slang. ¡Andale! is not to walk out. ¡Orale! is not to start praying.
  18. If you’re Mexican, but not born in Mexico City, you’re provincial. It is as if it were a category under “gringo”.
  19. If you live in Mexico City, you are a Chilango and you’re one of the 25 million inhabitants of the city.
  20. Mexicans fiercely defend the city that bears their accent.
  21. In Mexico, there are 365 types of food. One for every day of the year. Each passing day, you discover a new food.
  22. In Mexico, the food has a name, surname, zip code and story.
  23. In Mexico, you put lime in almost everything.
  24. In Mexico, almost everything is eaten with corn.
  25. In Mexico, almost everything is eaten with chili.
  26. In Mexico, almost everything is eaten.
  27. In Mexico, almost all restaurants have on their tables some containers with chili.
  28. Never ask a Mexican if a chili is strong. Even if they say it isn’t, it is.
  29. In Mexico, all tacos have a surname. Tacos al pastor, tacos dorados, tacos de barbacoa, de flauta, de parrilla…
pic: Tacos al pastor

These are tacos. The other stuff is… well, let’s say those are a glorified hamburguer served over a nacho. In the picture, tacos al pastor, made of pork meat colored by annatto seed and roasted on a vertical spit, known as trompo. These are served with onion, coriander and a slice of pineapple. (Source: philadining.com)
  1. In Mexico, to say burritos is a typical meal is almost a crime. Even if it is in fact, a meal with Mexican origins. It is “Tex-Mex”, they say…
  2. In Mexico, water has several flavors. There is chocolate water, of barley, pineapple, root, melon, sugarcane, orange, strawberry, rice… and even water.
  3. In Mexico breakfast is sacred. Actually, it is the first meal of the day. Stuffed corn dough, atole, quesadillas, pozole, chilaquiles, muffins, pancakes…
  4. For the average Mexican, it is God in heaven and tacos on earth.
  5. In Mexico you can get fat by inhaling fatty tacos, gorditas and quesadillas. ( – . – )
  6. In Mexico, tacos are eaten with your hands. They also prepare them with their hands. But those who make them, don’t handle any money.
  7. Anyway, it’s better not to know how tacos are made. Out of sight, out of mind!
  8. In Mexico if you make an appointment with someone at “noon”, it means it is at 1 PM. Or later.
  9. Not for nothing the main television station has 3 channels: one that displays the current programming, other exhibiting the programming delayed by one hour and another with programming with two hours of delay.
  10. In Mexico gratuity is paid for everything. In the bathroom, if you clean your hands, someone will hand you paper to dry yourself. It isn’t kindness; it is an innovative way to ask for tips.
  11. In Mexico, you have to hang outside with a few coins in your pocket. Someone will surely ask. (In Brazil too).
  12. In Mexico, you never pay what the reader at the supermarket shows. It is always rounded.
  13. And if the cashier does not offer a refill on your phone (buying a prepaid card), you win a free refill.
  14. In Mexico, supermarkets have a big declared fight in advertising. You go to the “super” or “La Comer“. In the “super”, everything costs less.
  15. In Mexico, the price of a bus ticket is according to destination. Up to 5 Km is a price; the more it goes another price it costs.
  16. In Mexico, it is common to see wealth and poverty side by side. When they are on the same side, the poor is usually the rich’s employee.
El Resplandor by G. Emmanuel Hernandez

Mexico, a land of contrasts: In the foreground, one of the multiple “colonias” – and their characteristic houses made of filler block – close to Centenario Avenue, in Mexico City. In the background you can see the skyscrapers of the Santa Fe business district. (Source: Flickr)
  1. Mexicans believe very little in Mexico. But they have great pride in being Mexican. Besides everything else.
  2. The average Mexican is proud of his history and does everything to not forget the heroes of the past.
  3. Foreigners love Mexico.
  4. San Miguel de Allende was voted as the best city in the world, and ironically, the city has more foreigners than Mexicans.
  5. Not all Mexicans go to the United States by crossing the border in search of opportunities. In Mexico there are also opportunities and legal means to travel to the neighboring country.
  6. The second city with the largest number of Mexicans is not a Mexican city. It is Los Angeles, California.
  7. In fact, several large American cities formerly belonged to Mexico. What an irony!
  8. In Mexico voting is not obligatory, but 500 pesos [for the "right" party] make it obligatory.
  9. The current president of Mexico was elected without anyone electing him. It seems…
  10. In Mexico there is a union called CNTE (National Teachers’ Union). I prefer not to comment on it…
  11. Teachers from Mexico do not like to be evaluated. When that happens, they leave school and go to the streets to assess the government.
  12. Mexico has one of the world’s richest men and 45.5% of the population is poor.
  13. Carlos Slim earns $27 million per day. The Mexican minimum wage is 64 pesos a day. A Mexican (Carlos Slim) has the daily salary of 4 million and 756 thousand Mexicans.
  14. However, Carlos Slim has built the Soumaya Museum, which has the name of his wife. Quite original.
  15. Mexico is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world. Precious metals, oil, gold, copper, silver, natural gas… do not know why it is considered poor.
  16. Mexico does not forget the heroes of its history.
  17. Mexico is the land of all civilizations. Totonac, Maya, Toltec, Olmec, Aztec…
  18. The T-shirt printing in Cancun you will buy will be in English.
  19. In Cancun, the Mexican works while the foreigner enjoys.
  20. Playa del Carmen is better than Cancun.
  21. In the Mexican Caribbean it is sunny every day of the year.
  22. Mexico will never die from lack of tourism.
  23. In Cancun things have two prices: one for tourists and one for Mexicans.
  24. In Mexico, men greet each other with a handshake after a hug and then another handshake.
  25. In Mexico telenovelas are pure drama.
  26. Mexicans are friendly.
  27. In Mexico the same word can be written in two ways: in the original formal or with “-ito”. Actually these are diminutives, but almost all leading “-ito”.
  28. Mexican Christmas without piñata is not Christmas in Mexico.
  29. If the Mexican [soccer] team wins, it is the best in the world. If they lose, they are the shame of the country.
  30. The covers of some Mexican newspapers are as follows: on one side, a naked woman; across, a dead person.
  31. Some Mexican politicians spend more on advertising in the campaign, than with investments directed towards governing the people.
  32. In Mexico, not even grandmothers want anything to do with Nieto (the Mexican President).
  33. Before catching a cab in Mexico, check if the driver has put his identification in the window glass.
  34. Mexican Day of the Dead is one of the strongest traditions I’ve seen in my life. Food that the deceased liked is prepared and eaten with “him” over his grave. Music is played and his death is “celebrated”. The cemeteries are made beautiful. It’s exciting.
pic: Day of the Dead in Michoacan, Mexico

During Day of the Dead, altars or graves are decorated with Mexican marigold flowers, candles, food and personal items liked by the deceased (i.e. toys for children, cigars or alcoholic drinks for adults). In the picture, a traditional altar found in the western state of Michoacan, Mexico. (Source: yosoyixtapazihuatanejo.com)
  1. Actually, no one dies in Mexico.
  2. The average Mexican is in love with tequila, but is lover of mezcal.
  3. There are 3 sacred things in Mexico: moms, the Mexican flag and the Virgin of Guadalupe.
  4. In Mexico there are two kinds of people: “buena onda” (good vibes) and “mala onda” (bad vibes).
  5. Lucha libre [Mexican wrestling] is a big lie, but it’s the funniest lie you’ve been told. ¡Muy padre!
  6. The other wrestling is the struggle of Mexicans, which almost always is not free, to combat lies (from governments).
  7. Speaking of lies, Mexican 28 December is a difficult day [It is the Mexican equivalent to April's Fool]. Lies! It’s not. Lies! It is.
  8. Mexico has a reputation for being dangerous. It is a shame! There are so many good things in the country that could have more fame.
  9. In fact, Mexico has its dangerous side. That side is on the front cover of some tabloid newspapers.
  10. In Mexico, music has an extremely large role. While it is being lost among the young, there is a movement to keep Mexican traditions alive.
  11. Mexico City is one of the cities least “… of Mexico.” It is worth traveling to other parts of the country to learn more about Mexican culture.
  12. The Chapultepec Forest, with its 747 hectares of green, breathes for the grayish Mexico City. Meanwhile…
  13. In Mexico, they have a problem with water and air pollution. The country needs the help of Captain Planet.
  14. In Mexico, it is forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages on the street. Outside the streets everything goes, such as beer with butter, coffee, salt, lemon and chili. They like it.
  15. The Mexican national football team is the green uniform of the America team. Even the coach. I think the team in yellow uniform would win over the green uniform.
  16. In all parts of Mexico you will find a Sanborns.
  17. Mexico is always portrayed in Hollywood movies as the country of drugs and cartels. I don’t know why the Mexican government still allows this.
  18. In Mexico, it is very easy to travel in time. In some cities you live as they lived centuries ago; in others you live in the future.
  19. Actually, the notion of time in Mexico also changes a lot. I have no doubt that in villages across the country the day lasts more than 24 hours.
  20. Mexico is the country of those who still have dreams.
  21. An impression from Vinicius Covas: he is delighted with Mexico.

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10 comentarios

  1. […] Read the rest here: 100 impressions from a Brazilian in Mexico | ::everac99 […]


  2. […] See the original post here: 100 impressions from a Brazilian in Mexico | ::everac99 […]


  3. amazing. i really appreciate it. thanks. vinicius covas


  4. Hi, just wondering… It seems Mexico isn’t as dangerous as news depict it. In that regard, what would be the safest places in Mexico? And where does Mexico City stand against those cities? I plan to make a trip down there, and maybe take the proverbial less beaten path; however, I don’t want to get too adventurous and put myself into trouble. Cheers!


    • The surest way to measure how dangerous or safe a country, region or city is, would be the “murder rate”, or intentional homicides per 100,000 people. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mexico as a whole has a murder rate of 23.7, which looks awful when compared with say, the United States (4.7)or any European country, such as Spain (0.8) or Sweden (1.0).

      On the regional level however, you can see most violence is happening on major ports of entry, transport and distribution of illegal drugs into the United States. These cities include say, Acapulco (112.80) which is a major port in the Pacific, Culiacan (54.57) home of the Sinaloa Cartel or Torreon (54.57) which is very close to the US-Mexico border. For comparison purposes, the most dangerous cities in the U.S. are Detroit (46.99), New Orleans (45.08) and Baltimore (37.77).

      Finally, the safest places in Mexico include the whole state of Yucatan (2.2, as safe as say, Finland), the state of Aguascalientes (3.09, just like China) or Tlaxcala and Mexico City (4.7, just like the United States). In general terms, I would say the safest places in Mexico include central and southern Mexico, with the exception of Morelos (just south of Mexico City) and Guerrero (where Acapulco is located). I would recommend the Pueblos Magicos (Magic Villages), which are located throughout the country. These may show you that Mexico isn’t just beaches or Mexico City. And definitely, no sombreros, ponchos nor El Guapo lookalikes.


  5. Wow. Very complete answer. Will check those Pueblos Magicos. Some of them look out of this world.

    Thank you very much!


  6. Interesting stuff. Considering Mexico is a popular tourist destination, what do most Mexicans think about tourists? I myself have been to Cancun a couple of times, but I am pretty sure not all Mexican people is happy to see so many Gringos all the time.


    • Well, without resorting to stereotypes, I would say there are three kinds of tourists. First, you have American springbreakers, who visit Mexico for the sake of “wild fun”, which more often than not means alcohol, sex and possibly, drugs. These are considered spoiled brats who do in Mexico what they wouldn’t dare to do back in the ‘States. They however, bring much-needed dollars with them; as such, they are tolerated.

      Then, you have the bulk of tourists who visit Mexico, staying at resort cities along the Pacific or Caribbean. Most of them are quiet and respectful and are pretty much welcome.

      Finally, you have tourists who like to know more about Mexico, its culture and traditions, visiting interior cities such as Queretaro, Guanajuato or Guadalajara. They tend to be more culturally advanced, and are quite respected by the population.

      A special mention includes retirees and expats, who live on certain communities wthin Mexico, such as Ensenada, La Paz, Chapala and San Miguel de Allende. They are considered “almost” part of the population (e.g. American-Mexicans) depending on their friendliness towards the “locals”.


  7. >even if you consider Brazilians to also be “Latin Americans

    Ofcourse brazil is also latin American… You think Argentina, bolivia, chile, ect… share the same cultute as Mexico just because they speak spanish? Go ask for a taco, they wouldn’t even know how to make one. Portugese IS A LATIN LANGUAGE, make sure to remember that.


    • THAT is precisely the reason of this post: to defy common stereotypes about Latin Americans in general and Mexicans in particular.

      See, as much as the rest of the world view all Americans as gun-loving, morbidly obese rednecks, most Americans and Europeans think of all the countries south of the Rio Grande as “Latin Land”: that place south of south of the border with jungle climate, dictators, banana republics and poor people who speak Latin — which we all supposedly speak, regardless of country. By the way, most think the capital of Brazil is Buenos Aires.

      So, I personally invite you to write something about YOUR own country, just like I did for Mexico some posts ago. You know, to dispell the notion that the United States is “Eagleland”?



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