Chapter 49: South of the Border, Down Mexico Way

I do get around for a little boy from Danville, Virginia…

I’ve been places I love, like London and Paris, and places that I probably never would have gone- at least at the time I went- without my job sending me there.  Places like Mexico City.  And Johannesburg, South Africa in 1997 right after the end of Apartheid when the country was much more in turmoil than it is now.

South Africa was my first trip out of the country.  I’ll never forget getting off the plane, after 20 or so hours, to the chaos of the Johannesburg airport.  I was traveling alone and it was the first time I ever saw soldiers with machine guns patrolling a public place.  Since 9/11 that is much more common place than it was then…

I firmly believe there is nothing like travel to really educate a person and make them think.  That is if you are open to the experience and actually meet the locals.  I don’t mean travel to places like Branson or Myrtle Beach or Resorts.  That kind of travel is just another way to hide from people who are different from you.

I left last Sunday for Mexico City- with a great deal of trepidation.  I’ve been to Mexico twice before this trip and, no matter how careful I was, I became deathly ill both times.

This time I survived with my health intact and that gave me a better chance to focus and process Mexico City.

I stayed at the W Hotel.  I’ve never seen a hotel anywhere work so hard to be hip.  It was all done in a very modern design in all black, white  and red.  Mostly Black and Red. The hallways were all black.  Walls, floor, ceiling.  All Black.  With a thin line of red neon like a chair rail.  The room numbers were spray painted on the floor in front of your room in white.  German techno music blasting everywhere.  It was not conducive to  peaceful slumber.  I felt like I was trapped in a horror whorehouse when I got off the elevator on my floor…

The bathroom was the real trip.  It was gigantic.  It took up about a third of the room.  It had one of those showers that were like rain from above and two other jets shooting at you mid body and face level.  You couldn’t turn them off.  Most inconvenient in a city where you can’t drink the water or get it in your mouth while showering…

And the bathroom had a hammock in it.  Yes, a hammock.  I’m still trying to figure that one out….

But I must say the service was fabulous.  They never missed my wake up call and gladly followed up with a second call 15 minutes later.  By a real person.  As soon as I hung up the phone from the second call, the waiter always knocked at my door with my English Breakfast Tea and fresh, hot croissant.  Free of charge.  Try getting that kind of punctual, free, gracious service at an American hotel.

The first night back in the States in Phoenix, they lost my room service order and it took over an hour to get my meal.  That would never have happened in Mexico.  Or probably anywhere else but the USA.

One of the things that struck me was how friendly and nice everyone in Mexico was.  And warm.  Everywhere we went, the service was impeccable.  And this was in a poor country under siege by drug wars.

At the office I heard people speaking of robbery, kidnapping and murder as just an everyday fact of life.  But they didn’t want pity or let it interfere with going on with their lives.  It was just a part of their lives they had adjusted to….

What struck me most was the gap between the rich and the poor.  We were definitely in the best part of town.  There was a Hugo Boss store right across from the hotel.  And a Porsche dealership.  But there were armed guards and gates everywhere.  They always have at least one guard with a submachine gun at our office there.  Other armed guards patrolled both the office and the hotel.

We had our own van transportation as the cabs and public transportation aren’t safe in Mexico City.  Especially for foreigners.  Too much chance of getting kidnapped and held for ransom or being robbed.

I guess my thought- and fear- was how long before this comes to the USA?  This fear is not based on fear of immigration.  I welcome immigrants.

My fear is that it will be driven by the growing divide between the Rich and the Poor.  I can see it happening here.

When a few have so much, but most have so little, no one is really safe.

That’s the thought I brought back from Mexico this time….

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