Saturday, January 21, 2012

Four Meridas

Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid? Do you remember the song, "One of these is not the same."? You were supposed to find which one was not like the others. I can still sing parts of the song and I am in my 40's. Below is an example.


I commend you if you could endure all 1:20 of that. The point being that one is not like the other three. Well in Merida, you could demographically divide this city and state into 4 groups of people. And none of them are like the others. All four are different. Here you have:
  • Spaniards (Mexicans) - often referred to as whites by the Mayans. They could pass for whites with darker hair. They look and carry themselves like Americans until you hear them open their mouths and speak Yucatecan Spanish. They have sharp Spanish European features. They are often well educated, have children that are sometimes born with blond hair, and they rarely mix with others.
  • Mayans - They are deeply Mayan and often are Asian in appearance. I would estimate that they compose at least 70% of the population of the state at this time. They are physically short and stocky people and most of them are blue collar in their occupations. Flip flops, shorts and t-shirts can be their normal attire. Some dress very nicely as they are coming into the 21st century culture. In many of the rural areas around the state they comprise probably 99% of the population in small towns and at times do not even speak Spanish. They speak Mayan or at least Mayan at home and Spanish when expected to in public. In Merida they all speak Spanish.
  • Mexicans (from around Mexico). Even if they are rich Spanish heritage they are rarely accepted by Yucatecos (Spaniard whites or Mayans). I can not tell you the number of times I have been told over the past 2 years by Mexicans from other parts of the country that they are not accepted here by the locals. Yet their numbers are increasing dramatically and if the native Meridian population doesn't watch out they will one day be a majority of the people living in Merida. They are coming from every state in this country, escaping to Merida to flee the social instability that is growing around their nation (drug violence and corruption).
  • Expats - If you read my previous post on The Number of Expats in Merida you know there are probably only around 5,000 Canadians and Americans that live here year round. You can probably estimate that their are another 10, 15 or 20 thousand people from other Latin American countries that live here. I am guessing on that one but expats are definitely a minority in this city. The expats from Canada and the U.S. are small but somewhat well organized. Yolisto is a good place to check out in case you have not already found it.
Their are very clear cut lines between most of these groups. Mayans rarely align with Spaniards even though they are both Mexicans. Spaniards and Mayans don't accept Mexicans from other parts of the country very often even though all of them are Mexicans. All of these groups, for the most part, are not accepting of expats any more than they have to be.

I am not implying that they hate expats, though some do. They are just not going to go out of their way to connect with you. If they do it can most often mean that they are looking for something...a job, financial help, ....something. They think all Americans are rich. You can tell them you are not but they don't believe it. By their standards you are. Otherwise why would you be here. That is their logic.

I have seen exceptions to what I just said. Some of the people I care about most in this world are Yucatecos living here. My wife and I love a number of people from here. Great people. Some of them are Mexicans from Mexico city or other parts of the country. I have met some incredibly intelligent and warm people of Mayan decent. Some of the expats living here are extremely giving, sacrificial and generous. It is just that, as a general rule, their are clear cut lines among these groups. They are all not the same. All are clearly different and the majority of some of the first two groups are extremely prejudiced towards everyone not of their kind.

It is almost like a Yucateco fraternity of sorts and the people most often on the short end of that stick are the Mexicans from other parts of Mexico, the expats, or those that don't have money. You need to be aware of that when coming here.


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