My first visit to Mexico City, way back in 2003, was an eye opener. The poverty really struck me. Sure, there is plenty of wealth too, but coming from the UK that didn’t ‘stand out’. Seeing beggars with mutilated limbs and open sores lying on the pavement, and kids begging for pesos in bare feet – that does stand out to a foreigner stepping off the plane. I’d seen worse poverty before, it has to be said. But it still hits you.
It can be a hard life for those born nearer the bottom of the ladder in DF, and I’m convinced that it’s only the traditional, strong family unit that prevents there being more unfortunate citizens begging on street corners for a few pesos. That, and the admirable work ethic of most Chilangos. I read a report not so long ago which claimed Mexicans are the hardest workers in the world. Which makes a bit of a mockery of their ‘lazy and feckless‘ reputation on this side of the Atlantic.
So what was I struck by upon my return to the *UK? Sure, there is poverty. Of sorts. Not the Mexican sort though. Plenty of people live from pay check to pay check. There are lots of people who are skint. But what struck me was how many people manage to waddle around Bournemouth slurping from a can of Special Brew before it’s even noon, later retreating to their taxpayer funded flats, safe in the knowledge that a fortnightly state hand out will keep them going and that the NHS will provide for their health care. Life in Mexico is too hard. In the UK it can most definitely be too easy.
Where’s the fine line between too hard and too easy? That’s Mission Impossible for any government I suspect. But both Mexico and the UK are currently moving towards it, albeit from different directions. It’ll probably still be a while before they meet. But I can’t help but feel Mexicans are the more admirable bunch. Along with their long hours, the Mexican has an astonishing ability to improvise, mend and make do, recycle and repair. Second hand goods keep their value much more as well.
There’s a lot to see on the streets of DF today that might well be a lot more common in the UK and US of tomorrow. That may not be such a bad thing. The video below is one of a series produced (I assume) by Creative Blends, who have a number of interesting videos offering a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Mexicans in the less glamourous parts of the city. You might need to click the Annotations button for English subtitles.
* My comparisons are from personal experience in DF and London/Bournemouth, and my personal experience doesn’t include living in the poorest areas of either country.