Travel, Racism and the Importance of Being Mexican

The Man of Wonders at Cat Ba Island, alternative to Halong Bay copy
The Man of Wonders at Cat Ba Island, alternative to Halong Bay

A friend of mine recently asked me by e-mail: “Hey Raphael, don’t you ever feel discriminated because of your nationality?”

After two years of traveling to 35 different countries I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, people around the world have a lot of prejudices but…in the end, people of my country are the ones who actually benefits the most from those prejudices.

SAY WHAT? Yes, there are many advantages of being a white American/British/Australian traveler. BUT…being Mexican? That’s the biggest advantage of them all and here’s six reasons why Mexicans have the advantage in terms of traveling abroad.

The Man of Wonders in Slovenia
Raphael Alexander Zoren, The Man of Wonders

6 reasons why Mexicans should travel abroad

1. We can easily blend in. Anywhere. I have been mistaken for a Moroccan, Indian, Italian, Philippine and even for an Arab! Our tropical copper-like skin and features make us undetectable to the broad eye of the locals, as long as we look brown and foreigner, it is almost impossible for people to pinpoint exactly our origins. A white person stands out while brown people like me can blend in quite easily! Warning: You might easily blend in at the Sahara desert but if you’re a Mexican at the Sonora desert, you can be certain that border patrol is going to catch up with you eventually! :(

2. We have no history of recent war with any other country. Outside of the brief time that Mexico helped the Allies in WW2, Mexico is seen in the international community as harmless…just like sea turtles! I mean, who in their right mind would hold a grudge against a sea turtle? If you’ve been to Iran you have probably seen a lot of “Death to America” signs and chants but how many “Death to Mexico” ones have you seen? We’re so insignificant in the political schemes of the world that we enjoy a good image everywhere! :D

The Man of Wonders visits Israel
The Man of Wonders visits Israel

3. Our main export is our culture and it truly shows. Upon hearing that I come from Mexico, the topic of conversation always focus on how amazing the food is, whether I know how to dance Salsa (I do…kind of) and, surprisingly, about the very good Mexican Telenovelas (soap operas) that are famous even in Slovenia. Yes, your typical Slovenian woman is a HUGE fan of whatever is happening to the poor Mexican maid who stars in the latest Telenovela. I seriously didn’t see THAT coming. :o

4. People envy our natural and perpetual tan. We don’t need to spend hours in the sun (or even worse, a tan bed) in order to have an attractive and sensual color.  Even in the coldest European Winter where everybody looks like a bland character of Twilight, we Mexicans manage to remain always in demand. Most white people want to get darker while some dark people want to get lighter. But Mexicans? We have the perfect balance and we cannot ask for anything more…okey, maybe a work visa to the USA. But other than that? We have it all! :)

The Man of Wonders at the Swiss Alps
The Man of Wonders at the Swiss Alps

5. We lack the capability of being racists. Literally. “Me? Racist? Dude, I’m Mexican!” In Mexico, as well as in most Latin American countries, it is very socially accepted to say phrases that might seem as racist to the observer eye but actually are just part of our culture, sure, calling our Korean neighbors “Chinitos” (little Chinese ones) and our dark-skinned friends “Negritos” might not be politically correct but nobody takes offense because we know that we all belong to some sort of minority, one way or another. We’re playfully offensive and people still love us for it! :o

6. We are a hot and scarce commodity. Everybody desires what they don’t have in their home countries. Americans go to Europe in order to hook up with Europeans while Europeans go anywhere in the world in order to avoid hooking up with said Americans. So, when a Mexican travels to Europe or Asia, he/she suddenly becomes the center of everybody’s attention. I cannot count the number of times that I’ve been invited to dinner by total strangers just because they liked my accent and wanted to know more about me. If you only had one night in town, would you rather hook up with someone different (and radically shorter!) or would you prefer to do it with someone who looks exactly like the rest of your countrymen? ;)

  • Disclaimer: Yes, I am totally aware that “Mexican” is not considered a race. By Mexican I mostly meant someone with mixed blood of Europeans and Indigenous people of the Americas, “Mestizos” as we call ourselves here.

Agree? Disagree? Have you ever hooked up with a Mexican? Have you ever experienced racism while traveling? Let me know your opinion in the comments section!

The Man of Wonders at Cat Ba Island, alternative to Halong Bay copy
The Man of Wonders at Cat Ba Island, alternative to Halong Bay

74 Comments

  • Haha, I loved that first one. Can’t say I’ve seen any racism, if you’re out there travelling then you 99 per cent of the time you’re open the world anyway ;)

    This black guy in New York screamed at me one time ‘Cracker, you aint even look right!’ It was, hilarious. He was angry, haha

    • Yes, that’s one of my favorite parts about exploring a new country: The local people and their reactions to seeing someone like me. One day I did a small excursion with some friends to this little town of Pont-du-Château (population: 10,000) in France and the Shawarma-seller couldn’t believe the mix of races and nationalities that were in his shop! He even asked permission to take a photo of us!!!

  • Great post – an interesting perspective. I’ve never really experienced any hostile behaviour towards me because I’m British, even though we have been at war with most countries – I think I’d be more likely to experience unfriendliness for being English in parts of Scotland or Ireland.

    My favourite thing about being a Brit abroad is that everyone compliments my accent :D

  • It’s fantastic being an Irish person abroad as everyone wants to party with you ;) And I totally would have picked you over the other 3 guys ;)

  • Those are valid points! Love the sea turtle comparison, in fact that’s one of the reasons we are glad our son is Mexican (which makes us permanent residents, btw). :-D However, he doesn’t look like one, so he definitely will continue to stand out…
    A friend and former student of mine is an insanely good looking Mexican. I mean, the jaw dropping kind of handsome. (Like the guy in your picture, haha!) He, however, tells me that he gets discriminated a lot in Mexico, something I actually wanted to blog about but haven’t found the time yet. Now he lives in Germany and is having a hard time finding a job for especially people in Bavaria think he must be unreliable, after all, he’s Mexican. I feel so bad for him!
    I always hated being German. (Have a look at this post: http://expatiallymexico.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/forgive-me-i-am-german/ if you have time.) Germans have such a terrible reputation, not only because WWII, but come on, how many sexy German actors do you know? It always surprises me that Mexicans actually like Germans a lot. Well, after all, they are a bunch of friendly sea turtles!

    • Does Diane Kruger counts? I find it interesting that someone in Mexico would discriminate against your friend because of the fact that he’s good-looking! I would definitely love to read more about that! :o

      • Err, maybe I forgot to mention the most important thing: his beautiful bronze skin. Around here, people are of a darker skin tone, but according to M. that can cause a problem in other parts of Mexico. He is from D.F. and he told me that sometimes they won’t grant him access to fancy nightclubs, or one day he didn’t get served at a restaurant. Sounds absolutely unbelievable to me, but I don’t know M. as a guy who would exaggerate. Shocking, huh?

  • Raphael, nice post. You made me laugh more than once while I was reading it. As for tele novelas, Mexican tele novelas were huge in Croatia too. Turkish ones are popular these days.

  • ha ha, i volunteer in an after school writing program with a lot of Mexican kids Im bringing it for them to read tomorrow :)

  • In my home country [Malaysia], we have 2 terms referring to the Whites i.e. orang putih [white people] or Mat Salleh/Minah Salleh [guy and girl respectively].

    But the funny part is that, they don’t specifically refer to those Caucasians from UK/America as the Latin Americas are also referred to as such, even if the skin colour is a little bit darker than that of Caucasians and a little bit lighter than us, Asians.

    And soap operas are famous here too! Haha. And of course, Chicharito! ;)

  • Stotally true! I spent the last year traveling the entire globe, let me just tell you- Mexicans in Asia are like WOW! The super hot commodity. There I was often mistaken with being half asian and half white, but with nicer skin color. And in Switzerland: you say your American you get an eye roll, but you say your Mexican, and they jump with exciting “get to know you” questions. Oh, and you get cheaper prices in the markets in Morocco too, cause according to the shop owner, we are very polite people, both from struggling countries. <3

    • I didn’t know that about Morocco, I must write it down for when I visit it! And yes, in Asia it is super-rare to find a Mexican, a friend of mine was studying in Shangai for one semester and told me how much the local girls were after him. I believed that he was just being himself and bragging about his prowess…until I visited China myself :o

  • Mestizos are D-bags. We talk about being whatever, a mix if you will, but lots of racism in southern Mexico, just like in Guatemala. Went in the laundromat and the guy heard my name was Domingo and laughed. Asked him what was so funny, “Domingo is an Indian name.” Didn’t sound too, “We’re all in this together”-ish to me. And my grandmother from Zacatecas used to say she missed her hometown with people of light skin and dark eyes and hair, not like those indians. I may not have traveled everywhere you have, I’ve seen the way indigenous folks are relegated to the background in places like Veracruz, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guate; and others go out of their way to conform or show they are assimilated with western notions of prosperity. You may try staying in on occasion and reading a book. Maybe some basic history of Mexico and some Octavio Paz.

    • Well, I totally respect your opinion and yes, in Mexico there IS racism against the Indigenous people of the Americas by both Mestizos and White Mexicans but it is extremely harmful to generalize that as the norm instead of the exception.

      And yes, It is sad to know that some Mestizos have totally forgotten about their roots and origins and choose to marginalize the Indigenous people as “outsiders” instead of realizing that we ALL have Indigenous blood in us.

      It really boils my blood whenever I see an obviously looking Mestizo calling somebody “Indio” because of the way he dresses/acts without realizing that they both have the exact same facial structure and skin color.

  • Loved this post, Raphael! I love being a German and being recognized as one on my travels. I’ve traveled to 23 countries and in each one we have an excelent reputation. People actually sit down with me as soon as they find out about my nationality trying to show off their German or what they know about my country. That’s so sweet! I once dated a mexican-american. Didn’t last too long yet it was a strange and wwonderful experience!

      • Sadly the name Negrito is no more. Just the other day I went to my ‘tiendita de la esquina’ and noticed that the powers that be at Bimbo have changed the name of said bread to ‘Nito’. Maybe they don’t want to be accused of racism like our National postal Service was with the whole Memin Pinguin controversy some years ago and Rev. Jesse Jackson threw that tantrum. Remember?

  • Really great post Raphael – so refreshing! I’ve been sitting here smiling and laughing for 10 minutes. The sea turtle reference totally nailed it! :) ~ All the best, Terri

  • Funny post! I can definitely relate to a couple of the points as a traveling Puerto Rican woman. Although, I must say when I was called negra in spain it was most definitely not a term of endearment. :-)

  • Hello!

    Its my first post here so i would like firstly to welcome and congratulate a blog. I am impressed!
    About racism in travel. Well you are right that being a tanned-brown skinned Mexican is an advantage because in many Middle Eastern or Asian countries people consider you as a soulmate, someone who “do not deserve for a cracker fine ;) “…

    Me I am from Poland and for me travel to many places as India or Egypt its a little bit complicated. Why? Because many German or French pay easy a huge Euro even do not realise that a local currency to Euro means nothing. In Poland, Bulgaria or Romania typical salary is a 300 Euro per month when in Germany nobody will go work less than 1000. As results many sellers in Egypt/India increase costs still cheap for western European but not cheap for me… Obviously they do not realise that not every white man is a “rich bwana, lord and master etc..”

    You have mentioned Iran…I have hitchhike to this land a few months ago and I would like to tell you that “down with USA” its only a view of the local establishment. Typical Iranian person really do like western world and USA – just look at how popular there is western TV(which in my opinion create negative steotype that every white woman is a cheap slut, but we also receive bad stereotypes about Muslims – terrorists).

    One of my ex teacher said “Travel teach ONLY these guys who wanna educate themself”. Someone who is dumb and narrow minded can visit milion places in the world and still share stereotypes and generalising. E.g in many Asian countries there is a fashion for lightening skin creams. An European skinhead says “look at! All Asia consider us white people as a master race!”. Obviously its a false because European during sunbathing do not wanna become as Arabs or Indians! Same Asian people as Thais or Vietnamese are proud of their identity…

    Regards!

  • Chingón ser mexicano ! No hay de otra ! Me encantó tu artículo. Y lamentablemente no nos damos cuenta de las maravillosas cualidades de nuestro país hasta que salimos de él. Típico que viajas y todo el mundo te pregunta … Are you from México?, So what are you doing here if you live in one of the most beautiful places on earth?!! Saludos !

      • Did you know that
        Mexico is the 6th country in the world with most designated world heritage
        sites? With 32 places to visit, is located in the list after Italy, Spain,
        China, Germany, France and the India respectively, as well as the first on the
        American continent. Good luck on your trip and please… DO NEVER STOP WRITTING ! :)

  • Hola Raphael,
    I really enjoyed the comparison between Mexicans and sea turtles. I never would have put the two together, but it works!
    When I’m done conquering SE Asia, I want to go to Mexico! Are you going to be there any time soon?

  • Really interesting! But I have to disagree on something, not all Mexicans have the tanned-skin color, I look caucasian? and I am Mexican I have green eyes and people NEVER believe me Im Mexican. I’ve been asked if I was American, French or even Danish once. I had the opportunity of living in China for six months in Beijing and traveled a little bit around and I met people from all over the world, and well they never believed I was a Mexican BUT! they DO love Mexicans because of how we are, how we treat people, our FOOD everybody knows tacos haha and burritos are quite famous too. And of course our accent.. people always asked me how to say something in Spanish or try to learn basic phrases which made me feel very happy. Also Im very happy to say that everybody knows Mexico, there wasnt a single person that didnt know where Mexico was I mean yes we’re neighbour with the US but still it turns out we are very popular! I like that you mentioned that we’re a peaceful country Sometimes I cant seem to get a culture that has always been at war in some way or another, like the US or other middle eastern countries because we dont have that Thank God. So even though I might look like one of the Twilight characters I never had a problem with being discriminated or any racism problems but I believe its because I was a Mexican, I have seen sometimes Americans being discriminated by being Americans.. So as Mexicans we should be really proud of our culture and heritage.

    • An Australian friend of mine who has black skin gets that all time: “I’m Australian” “Yes, but where are you REALLY from?”.

      It’s kind of bad that people associate nationality with ethnicity so in their minds all Mexicans are brown copper skinned and they cannot understand how there are black, white, brown, yellow, purple and green Mexicans living in our amazing country :D

  • Dude try being a Mexican thats guera! Its a constant reminder of how I don’t look Mexican! People point it out too! I love my culture but we are a multitude of colors there.

    • Being a blonde in Mexico is definitely hard since most sellers will try to scam you and quote a tourist price. A friend of mine has to wear a Mexican football jersey each time she wants to buy souvenirs in Cancun!

      • Lol not surprised. People always bash Mexicans but when they find out I am I get the you don’t look Mexican bs. I’m like you don’t know much about my people then. I have a mix of dark and light people in my family and my grandma was an Indian but I didn’t get the dark skin. Family is from Jalisco which is known for having the light skinned Mexicans. But thanks for the laugh I enjoyed the article.

  • Oh Dios! Es tan cierto todo!!!! cuando me vine a Rumania a vivir, no podía superar que el 80 por ciento de las rumanas hablan español por las TELENOVELAS!!!! esta increible tu articulo :)

  • Chevere post Raphael!,

    This article of yours really had me laughing for a good minute. I totally agree with you, plus I totally have a couple more things to add. Being Mexican myself, it’s happened to me that people don’t know where my accent is from.

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