by Eric Lucas
The market vendor handed me the sack of fresh-made potato chips she’d just hauled out of the fryer, and motioned that I should add a bit of salt and lime juice. I told her thanks in my serviceable Spanish (mil gracias, senora) and did as instructed. Then I gently lifted one chip from the sack and took an experimental bite. I’d never tasted made-on-the-spot potato chips until my wife and I wandered by this food cart in the market in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico.
Too bad that one potato chip had more mental acuity than some of our own countrymen. Don’t go to Mexico and spend your money, urge the Americans United to Halt Tourism in Mexico, on the novel theory that the way to discourage Mexican immigrants from coming here to earn money is for us to not go there and spend money.
“Do not give your tourist dollars to Mexico!” AUHTIM fliers growl.
Americans are infamous for witless ignorance (name another country that ever had a political party called the “Know-Nothings”), but this is a particularly egregious example of mush-for-brains activity. Campaigning to collapse one of the healthiest parts of the Mexican economy might not be the best way to discourage its citizens from seeking work elsewhere. Mexico gets 22 million visitors from the United States every year. Tourism is 8 percent of the country’s GDP. It amounts to more than $10 billion a year.
The sponsors of this boycott would actually accomplish more if they stopped driving around--Mexico is the number 3 source of petroleum for the US, at 1.1 million barrels a day--but they’ll give up their Dodge Rams and Jeep Cherokees when someone wraps their cold, dead fingers from around the wheel. Oh, and how are they going to keep selling American machine guns to Mexican drug runners if we curb their foreign exchange revenues?
Aside from the breathtaking stupidity of the idea, boycotting Mexico is yet another example of American bigotry masquerading as righteous populism. Are these cave people proposing we boycott travel to Cuba, Russia, China, Vietnam—all countries that have sent huge numbers of immigrants, legal and not, to the United States? And I presume their own ancestors have been here since they were chasing down mastodons on the Great Plains? Oops—that’s the Oglalla Sioux.
Now, joining in the know-nothing chorus is the danger choir. Don’t go to Mexico—it isn’t safe. Drug violence, kidnappings, rape, assault and other excesses. Why, in Mexico vicious contest promoters force innocent young American women to drink huge quantities of beer and strip off their T-shirts, when these girls really intended to go to church youth group camps and study Bible verses.
Actually, it’s safer there than here. For example, the murder rate in Mexico is about 11 per 100,000 people a year. In New Orleans, it’s almost seven times worse, 71 per 100,000. Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis—all have higher murder rates than Mexico.
I’ve been to Mexico more than 25 times, starting with boyhood trips with my family to the Yucatan, up to last year’s marvelous romantic getaways with my wife to peaceful beach resorts. I’ve encountered thousands of lovely people who are happy to share their colorful country with visitors. I’ve sampled handmade tortillas, listened to spicy ranchera music, marveled at the remnants of huge civilizations built while Europeans were flinging sewage out their front doors into the street. I’d much rather go dozens of places in Mexico than dozens of places in the United States, though there are certainly wonderful destinations here, too.
It’s tempting to say we should boycott the hometowns of these nativist US bigots, but that would disfavor some worthwhile places, such as Orange County, California and southern Arizona. So the best idea I have is to urge everyone to go to Mexico. While you’re there, drop a postcard in the mail to the folks behind this stupidity, the California Coalition for Immigration “Reform,” 5942 Edinger Avenue, Suite 113-117, Huntington Beach, CA 92649.
Dear Peabrains: Having a great time. Wish you were here!
Eric Lucas’s travel, business and natural history journalism concentrates on the meaning and purpose of travel and enterprise. His work appears in the Los Angeles Times, MSN.com, Boston Globe, Westways Magazine, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Western Journey, Michelin Maps & Guides, among others. He lives in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, where he grows and sells organic garlic.. He is an expert gardener, wilderness fisherman and downhill skier. To learn more, visit his website at: http://www.trailnot4sissies.com/.