Ask a Mexican on Lying to the U.S. Government

Why do Mexicans make up such glaringly obvious lies? Like this galán who had his sister call me and said it was really him, with a cold. Or my friend who pretends to be traveling around the world but is really sending e-mails from his mother's home computer. Or the random person on the street who tells you he knows how to give you directions and then just makes them up. Do they have something against reality or do they really believe themselves on some level?

Clara la Dudosa

"There is nothing new about Mexico's tradition of lying, of course," wrote Andres Oppenheimer in his 1998 Bordering on Chaos: Guerrillas, Stockholders, Politicians and Mexico's Road to Prosperity. "Since as far as historians could remember, double talk and deceit had been part of Mexico's culture." This line has been used by Know-Nothings ever since as proof that Mexicans are never to be trusted — never mind that Oppenheimer is an elitist Argentine carajo. Mexicans lie for the same reason anyone makes mentiras: to protect oneself, to try to gain an advantage over someone else, and to ultimately come out on top. And if you think that's somehow a uniquely Mexican characteristic, then you must also believe President Obama when he says the guv'mint ain't spying on you or that he has the best interests of Mexicans in mind while deporting us in record numbers.

Hola! (Full disclosure: I am trying to move to Japan and have been studying the language for two years.) To my shame, when one of my Japanese associates posed the question "What do you think of when you hear the word 'immigrant'?" I first thought of a Mexican national in America illegally. I replied honestly and we entered a discussion about why that was. (It's in the news all the time — still no excuse but, hey, I'm human and subject to flaws on occasion.) After doing some research into the Mexican economy, it seems to be doing very well among Latin American countries, as far as unemployment rates and economic growth. I wonder: Are the benefits only going to a few at the top and large corporations, or are the wages paid pathetically low with no labor unions to negotiate for better pay? What is the main factor or factors that encourage people to risk so much to get here? Please forgive my ignorance on these matters and help me understand the larger picture.

Hoping to Become an Immigrant

Konichiwa! Although it seems self-evident why Mexicans continue to migrate to the United States — better opportunities, just like every immigrant group that has ever come here — what makes them sour on their patria is a little more telling. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that a third of Mexicans would migrate to the U.S. if they could — but whereas 60 percent said the economy is a big problem, 79 percent said crime is the country's biggest issue. Also beating the economy on the list of concerns were corrupt political leaders (72 percent), cartel violence (also 72), water and air pollution (70 and 69, respectively — and gabachos say Mexicans don't care about the environment!). Even corrupt police officers beat the economy as a topic of concern for Mexis. At this point in Mexico's history, it's time to push the reset button and start a revolution — or do what we've been doing and migrate to the U.S. Because why revolt in one country when you can do it in two?

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano