The author recently had a chance to visit both Arizona, where Mexicans are dreaded by many of that state’s citizens and Mexico itself, where being Mexican is nearly universally popular.
Mexicans work hard. In fact, Mexico is the hardest working country in the world. This was brought home to me personally while I was sitting in a non-working fashion at a restaurant in Cabo San Lucas waiting for a yellowfin tuna I had personally freed from its mortal cares in the previous day of non-work to be cooked for me. I fell into a conversation with Carlos, the restaurant’s manager, between the series of cell phone calls he was taking in both English and rapid-fire Spanish. When I asked him where he had learned his unaccented English, he retreated behind the counter and popped on the Packer’s cap he keeps there. He had been raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin and still remembered his life there wistfully. He said he would return there in a heartbeat, if it was possible. I was astonished, as any normal American accustomed to thinking of Green Bay as a land of frozen football idiots would be. Why would you exchange the sensuous breezes and thronging hordes of scantily-dressed tourist women in Cabo for life in the capital of the American tundra?
You work too hard here, he replied, and make too little money. As if to prove his point, his other cell phone rang and he had to get busy at his second, completely unrelated job, selling ecology tours to American tourists. Not that he limited that practice to ecology tours; he also had boats available for diving, fishing, cruising or merely hauling visitors out to Los Arcos to sunbathe on the final few feet of California sand at Land’s End. When I left his restaurant, he still had a phone to each ear.
Mexicans do not merely work hard, they work at everything. Ask Carlos or anyone else at the marina in Cabo for any service and they will be happy to get it for you. No one ever tells you that it’s not in their job description or to consult a specialist. Anything from a round of golf to a new condominium to an evening’s entertainment by one of Baja’s working girls can be obtained from any busboy at any cantina.
In contrast, many Arizonans do not work at all. They have retired to the state from places like Green Bay. They are surprised to find themselves surrounded by Hispanics, as that was not mentioned to them as a feature of the state by their real-estate agents when they were sold their new homes, even though Arizona has been home to a sizable number of Mexicans and Mexican Americans since it was merely an underpopulated, peacefully smoldering corner of outback America instead of the bustling, sun and gun-crazed bastion of xenophobia it has become.
The recent graying of the Grand Canyon State struck me when I stopped at a fast food joint off a highway exit I had passed many times in previous trips. It had always consisted of one single rusty gas station. This time through, it had blossomed into an entire community with houses, a motel and a shopping district. The crowd at the fast food joint, besides me, consisted of oldsters with Northern accents gathered around the tables drinking senior coffees brewed for them by Mexican employees
This parceling out of the state to people who never want to lift a snow shovel again has had some predictable results. It has lead to an explosion in the number of billboards with realtor’s faces on them, which led this observer to wonder Why don’t any physically attractive people sell real estate? Like car salesman, real estate agents tend towards the flap-eared and the gap-toothed, but they insist on plastering their pictures everywhere, or pitching themselves on TV. I can only think of two possible explanations for this phenomenon, the first of which is that potential buyers, having been inured to the agent’s appearance by seeing his or her picture on every panel truck and memo pad in the immediate vicinity of the house he or she will attempt to sell them, will not start giggling at the salesperson the moment they meet. The second is that the buyer will happily overpay for his or her purchase, thinking that the agent will at least use some of the profit for cosmetic surgery.
Despite the best efforts of its real estate agents, large parts of the state appear to remain unsold, but Arizona is nonetheless rapidly catching up to Florida in the number of white-haired citizens who own 1991 Buick RoadMasters with fifteen thousand original miles on them and who stop at every green light they see. More importantly, though, Arizona is filling up with people who think Arizona residency should be restricted to people who can’t pronounce the Spanish names of the streets they live on correctly. This may one day lead to the sad situation of seniors having to make their own coffees, or the ironic one of retirees clamoring for more immigrants to be permitted to enter so that they can brew senior joe.
Whether Arizona ever gets comfortable in its own, half-Mexican skin or not, at least the state could be reasonable enough let Carlos in. No reason not to. He’s just passing through, Packer’s cap in hand, on his way to Wisconsin.