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Army brats in reverse: finding close relationships tough for long-haul expats

Jim Bowie

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When I first arrived, I was determined to make friends with people other than my group of foreign students. After all, I could hang out with other people from the United States in my own country; why would I want to do so here? Plus, my goal was to learn Spanish, and I wasn’t going to do it by just spending my time with people who spoke my language.

I approached this, however, assuming that Mexicans’ attitudes toward friendship and their relationships with friends were much the same as those in the U.S. They are not, and it’s caused me to do quite a bit of reflection on the differences between the two.

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I’m Mexican-American, bilingual, born in northern Mexico, raised in Texas and lived all over. My wife is from a small town in Michoacan and I have never felt like I belonged when I’m in her hometown. And I’m not the only one.  I’ve met persons who have lived there many years from other Mexican states and even from nearby towns and they’re always reminded that they’re not from there. Small towns can be very provincial.  They are very friendly, courteous, and of course very diplomatic in their manner of speaking but I know I will always be considered an outsider.

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I have heard a couple reports from mixed race couples. One was next door. He tall, blonde, from the Netherlands but a real jerk with lots of attitude. He met a Mexican young lady, had a pretty little girl with her, but refused to marry her. He also owned an apartment in Guadalajara, he was bilingual. When they walked the streets there, strangers would ask why are you stealing our Mexican girls.

Another was a friend of my Mother, living in Puerto Vallarta. Their son came down for a visit. He went to a mostly Mexican bar, and I guess was flirting with the ladies. You know how that goes, they flirt back as much as he was giving. When he left the bar, there were four Mexican men waiting for him and they gave him a severe beating. Leave our Mexican girls and women alone they warned.


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