Attitde is a strange thing. It can change my hopes, fears, anxieties. The first time I came to San Miguel ( this is my third time) I was terrified to walk around the streets at night. Even jumping into a cab was a scary thing. I fumbled with my keys and it seemed to take an excruciating time to unlock the door. Nothing scary ever happened to me. Last year I even walked home from a concert after dark. I couldn’t get a cab and the closer I got to home the sillier it seemed to hail one. I remained cautious and once again I never had a problem. This year I find the broken bottles and barrbed wire strips on top of walls and the barred windows everywhere rather oppressive. When I was in Canada the only thing I heard on the news about Mexico were stories of killings by drug war lords. Here I never hear any such thing. Is San Miguel sitting in some sort of magic bubble? There are many very interesting lectures, lessons, programs, volunteer opportunities geared to every interest. The level of intellectual and cultural activity is astonishingly high. Almost all English speakers at least greet each other and very often they strike up,a conversation. There’s an easy openness on the street in the day.
Now what are the Mexicans doing? Many are working in service industries in hotels, restaurants, as cleaners, taxi drivers catering to these nice liberal Gringos and Gringas. I only get glimpses of the ordinary life of school teachers, bank employees, craftspeople as they drive around or buy vegetables in the big Tuesday market.
There is a lot of money in San Miguel, both Mexican and foreign. There is poverty too. There are enough begging children and grandmothers to make me get a handful of change to dip into when my “Northern Guilt” gets to me.
Is is this the reason for the fortress mentality? Are we afraid that poor people will steal from us? Strange that the easy openness of the day disappears at night. Well, we have bars and barbed wire, broken bottles on top of walls. Of course, bars keep people out, but they keep others in too. All a question of attitude, I guess.