Our vacation to Cabo San Lucas this week as a family was a fun filled, eventful one. We always enjoy our time away as a family primarily because it is our intent as parents to teach our sons as much about other people and cultures as possible. Why? Because we believe that exposure to the cultures and peoples of the world provides all of us with a greater understanding and acceptance of our similarities as well as our differences.
There are deep-seated assumptions about the people of Mexico that I have witnessed throughout my life while growing up here in Utah. A great many of those assumptions are mean-spirited, biased, oppositional and downright insensitive to the great people of that country and those of Mexican descent who are living here in the United States. One issue in particular that has been extremely controversial in the political sphere is illegal immigration, which, though it does not solely single out Mexican citizens as the primary culprits, holds a long standing stigma and an implication that it is people from Mexico that are the main culprits because of the relative accessibility to our country from our southern borders. It is a hot topic for many reasons and it is made hotter by the resentments and animosities that many harbor towards the people of Mexico.
I have only been to a few Mexican border towns and even fewer cities in Mexico’s interior. It is fair to say that the majority of my travel to Mexico has been to its resort towns where tourists are treated with an equal amount of tolerance and disregard but almost always with respect. I find it peculiar and unnerving that tourists (by ‘tourists’ I’m generally speaking of Americans), through general observation and a lot of assumptions, are generally ignorant, annoying and insufferable when they are in a foreign country. I add my name to that list and don’t excuse my own behavior at times towards Mexico and its people.
Misunderstandings have a way of festering for some people but we need only take a look beyond our own limited view of things to see the same things from a different perspective.
Take for example the roaming vendors we encountered while on Santa Maria Beach and on the beach just below our hotel. I admire these people for their sheer determination and perseverance to beat the odds and eek out a living. They trudge along the sand in their white trousers and tops, a brimmed hat on their heads to shield their faces from the sun as they hawk their handmade wares to sunbathers and revelers alike. To most they are just part of the local experience. To others, they are a major annoyance and a distraction from an otherwise idyllic setting. You hear it in the offhanded remarks and the snide dismissals of tourists lathering their skin with sun screen before jumping into the pristine water.
I did not mind the vendors at all because I saw in them the same things I saw in my Samoan ancestors. They are working hard to make a living any way that they possibly can. A long day in the sun is their sacrifice to ensure that there is food and shelter for their family. Their resolve to make a living makes me grateful for all that I have been blessed with in my life and it gives me an admiration for their will to survive despite having the odds being stacked up against them.
Life in Mexico is a harsh reality that I am unaccustomed to even after traveling to so many poor, lowly places in the world. Yet the people in Cabo San Lucas greet each day with a smile and a gleam in their eyes that shows a sincere desire to make your stay in their town a pleasant one. There are no illusions – tourism is their bread and butter and they have done everything to make sure that they preserve this growing and sustainable way of life. But with that hope comes a sense that they are proud of what they have built there; they are eager to please and there is a genuine feeling of gratitude and satisfaction in doing a good job for their customers/visitors.
Transportation on the trip was, to say the least, interesting. I confess, I did not want my family to ride the local bus for this reason – I had no idea how safe it would be for them. My head has been filled with so many Mexican horror stories that I was afraid for their safety and to a lesser degree my own – I’m human. My fears were compounded by my already overwhelming nervousness from dealing with public transportation in the past; in the United States no less! But my experience with the lovely, helpful, courteous people of Cabo San Lucas and its surrounding towns has given me a much better appreciation for the good people there and a greater understanding for my failings as a member of the human race. To myself I said, “Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!”
We rode the bus everywhere during our vacation and my prior misgivings were unfounded – the public bus system was safer, cheaper and much more enjoyable than haggling with rental car agents at Cabo San Lucas International Airport. The bus drivers were helpful, the buses were clean and besides being economical it was very convenient because there seemed to be a bus driving past every ten minutes and the drivers stopped whenever you needed them to. As an added bonus, our route took us through towns were abject poverty was evident, giving my sons a better understanding of the life that they have been fortunate to live. We may not have a lot, but we definitely have enough to be grateful for.
Your experience with Mexico and its people may be entirely different from my own. None of us view the world through the same lens. Each of us has an opinion. My opinion of Mexico and its citizens is one of respect and admiration. There are bad apples in every bunch and Mexico is no different. There are a few of its citizens that tarnish the reputation of many. But for the most part I have been exposed primarily to a hard-working, family-oriented people who desire what we all do and that is a better life and an enduring hope that it can only get better.
Our stay in Cabo was an enjoyable one, but it was an educational one as well. We learned many valuable things about the place, the people and about ourselves.