Wednesday, August 16 was my last day in San Miguel. I’ve been home almost a month now and new journeys are right ahead of me. Therefore, I am going to pour myself a small tequila (I didn’t drink, like, any tequila in Mexico. I drank wine and Victoria beer both in and out of micheladas and mescal yet when I got home what had I developed a taste for? Tequila. Which I never much liked before. Go figure.) and muse about Mexico for a minute. First off, I want to go back. I don’t know if I ever will, but I hope very much I do. I like Mexico. I like it much more than I thought I would, to be honest, because as I covered in the first post about Mexico, my expectations were all wrong.
With the aid of that 20/20 hindsight of a month, though, I can see my first impressions were also a bit wrong. San Miguel is a wealthy, wealthy city and it’s in a very calm part of the country. I have never been to the border or to Chiapas, for example, and I suspect they are quite different. My impression of all the wealth of San Miguel was partly that it is, in fact, rich and largely because I myself have been very poor for a long time. I’m not right now, I hasten to add, I have enormous economic privilege at the moment and I’m enjoying every second of it. But I’m still used to being on the low end of the American economic curve and thus San Miguel looked very rich to me. I do not, in hindsight, think that perhaps it is all that rich comparatively. It is beautiful and when you come from a country where poverty is basically never beautiful or even picturesque – straight up greed capitalists, as the US has become in my lifetime, don’t think poor people deserve stuff like murals and statues and houses painted like flowers – it’s easy to make the mistake that beauty = wealth. (And OK, it sorta does! I could make that argument! Aesthetic wealth is better than aesthetic poverty any day!)
But. The USA is not very rich anymore either. We don’t talk about American poverty because it is a great shame: we’re supposed to be the BEST and if we’re not, well, then what? American poverty is supposed to be the fault of only the individual, never the society and this toxic, untrue idea just gets more and more traction.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’ve been reading Rebecca West’s book Survivors in Mexico and I mostly recommend it (TW: She likes Cortez and she was writing before we collectively decided that Freud was a silly man.) I can’t really come up with a sweeping conclusion here, except that poverty sucks but is mitigated a little by art, no, honestly it is and that Mexico feels as if it is heading in the right direction. They have just had a horrible earthquake and many people died, but less than would have if they hadn’t, since the quake of 1985, stringently followed earthquake safety building regulations. I do not know but here, anyway, are the pictures I took on my last day in Mexico.
My last day! I went to the Biblioteca and discovered the book I linked above. I sat in the Jardin for a while and watched people go by. I went out for one of the best meals of my entire life and listened to a sad guitarist play. My friend Susan and I went to a wonderful expat bar called 007 and danced to old Motown and listened to a great Colombian duo play thoroughly 21st century music. It rained and rained and then it was not quite morning and I got into a car with a careful, sweet driver and, 18 hours later, arrived back in my Asheville kitchen. I miss Mexico and I hope I go back!