Mexican guide for foreigners: how to talk with us

As a Mexican in Europe, I have found that the culture of the United States had already infiltrated more the perception in Europeans rather than a Mexican or even a Latinamerican point of view, which is as valid to know as the precedent. If you are an European or even anyone else from the world and want to talk to Mexican people, which is in fact easy, try to follow the next steps: 

Never refer people from the United States as “Americans”, unless the Mexican with whom you talk already has begun to use it. We know that everyone else in the world but most of Latinamericans call Americans to U.S. citizens, though even knowing that doesn’t mean that we like it, so try to avoid to use that term; instead use “gringos” or even just “U.S. citizens” if you don’t want to use the first one for respect. You can also try in other languages like “estadounidense” in Spanish, “étatsunien” in French, “statunitense” in Italian and even “US-Amerikaner” in German or “Usonano” in Esperanto. Of course, never use the word “America” to refer the United States, just use the last one: United States. America for us is the continent and sometimes we call ourselves “Americans” not because we were born in the U.S., but because it’s the term for people that live in the continent.

Also, people from the U.S. call the continent “The Americas”, but imagine that for example, British people began to use the word “Europeans” rather than British to refer to themselves and everyone else in Europe began to be called just from their country name. The continent will be called now “The Europes” and in an imaginary scenario where a French guy next to a British are talking to a Mexican, and the last one tell the others “So you’re European because you’re from Europe and you’re French because you’re from France, right?”. Well, that is what we feel when you use “Americans” and “America” only to refer the U.S. Also we feel that U.S. call to themselves America because of their foreign policy, particularly the Monroe Doctrine and as a kind of continent conquest. 

Now, another thing that I have found it’s that geopolitical geography is taught different in every part of the world. At least in Mexico, we consider ourselves part of “North America”, never part of “Central America” or even “South America”. Again, we don’t call ourselves “north-americans” because we love the US, it’s because for us we are in that region; if not, why we’re part of the North American Free Trade Agreement? –NAFTA, which I’m using as an example, not as a proudly international agreement –. However, if you want to relate us to the latin people or region, you are free to say that Mexico is from “Latin America” (term that is actually also debatable, but far less controversial). But remember, never, never say to us “central-americans” or “south-americans”, and don’t insist.

Another thing is despite that we know that the world consider Mexico and Latinamerican countries part of the “Third world”, it’s better to keep your words. If you’re in an open academic debate could be appropriate to discus about it, but if you say to a Mexican or Latin American “Accept it, you come from a third world country”, it’s highly disrespectful. That’s because “Third world” has become a pejorative term rather than an objective debatable one. Sometimes we use that term when we’re disappointed and tired about our people behavior, selfish politics and injustices, but again, we think that term is used with a contempt attitude rather as a reasonable one.

Also, if you say that we are a “poor country” could be inaccurate. It’s okay if you mean that we have a huge poor population in terms of per capita income, but in terms of gross domestic income we are one of the richest countries in the world, despite the richness is lost in corruption and lack of social equity. Also richness for us isn’t only money, is to have history, traditions, a multifaceted culture and locations, something that we have a lot of and are proud of it.

So if you want to make Latinamerican, or in this case in particular Mexican friends, follow this rules, because that would mean that you really take care about us. If you don’t, isn’t serious at all, most of us are friendly and still will be open to have a conversation; but of course you will cause a bad impression, not only seeing you arrogant and boorish but also the culture that you represent as well.


Volksgarten von Wien

"Volksgarten von Wien" o "Jardín Público de Viena". Dibujo a lápiz. Realizado en observación directa en la ciudad de Viena, Austria. Elaborado en 2008.

Opinión personal: Un tanto sucio, pero aún así difiere mucho la foto del dibujo real.