New Years Day 2014 was different for us. We decided to take two of our daughters to Mexico to visit their grandparents. Now, this isn’t something new for most people (especially those living in beautiful SoCal), but this was definitely new and exciting for us. My husband has been there a few times, but our girls and I had never been out of the U.S. before, so this was an all new experience for us.
The decision was pretty last minute as we only decided a couple days prior to going. We went to bed at 9 pm on New Year’s Eve and woke up at 3 am on New Year’s Day to get on the road headed to Mexico by about 4:30 am (after a last minute stop before heading out of town at the trusty open-all-night Walmart).
My youngest was so excited that she woke up at about midnight and couldn’t go back to sleep. I think she heard our alarms going off and decided to come in to make sure we were rolling out of bed since we kept hitting the snooze button (we were tired!). The 2 ½ hour drive down to the border was quite uneventful (other than the motion sickness I got from going through the curves and turns on the mountain roads…). But, once we got to the border, we were all good. My in-laws met us at the border so we could park on the U.S. side and walk across. There was really no one around. It was so quiet.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect since I had never been before. I’ve heard hundreds of horror stories about going to Mexico, but I’ve never really had any describe Mexico before. And I specifically did not research where we were going because I didn’t want to have any preconceived notions of what to expect. It was certainly an adventure as we entered into Tecate, went to my in-laws home (which is absolutely beautiful), went to Rosarito to eat and do some shopping, and then go on a hunt for an open candy store, ice cream shop, and tamales. I was so thankful to have my in-laws there to navigate us through the towns, shops, language, and driving. It is an experience that I won’t ever forget.
This is what I learned about the culture in Mexico, based on my personal interpretations, experiences and observations:
Working hard for very little. The country, at least where we visited in Tecate and Rosarito, is not wealthy, but they work hard for the little money that they do earn. And they can hustle! While in Rosarito we did a little shopping. It was very similar to a swap meet setup here in the States. Everyone had their space where they setup shop and hustled as hard as they could to get every penny they could out of you. They pull customers into their shops with something that caught the customers’ eye that is displayed just outside the doorway of their area, and then if you look at the item a few seconds too long (or maybe it was the ‘I don’t know…that’s a bit more than I want to pay’ look on my face), the price all of a sudden drops (this happened a few times). Every time we turned a corner (and even when we went down to the beach) there was always someone asking if we wanted to buy something.
No desire to out-do each other. The homes look very similar. No matter the occupation (from fence-builder to firefighter to attorney), the homes and vehicles are similar. There is no need to out-do your neighbor in your personal possessions. Status is not built on personal possessions. Everyone is equal.
Simple living. The living is very simple. My in-law’s (with the help of my very helpful youngest daughter) made us all breakfast with 1 ½ potatoes, a few tortillas, some Peruvian beans, some homemade salsa (made that morning), and some fruit and almonds (in a delicious smoothie). They use every last drop of everything they can as to waste as little as possible.
Surroundings. I have been told that Tijuana is much dirtier than Tecate and Rosarito. I haven’t been there, so I can’t verify nor deny that statement. However, I did notice a certain hue during the half-hour ride from Tecate to Rosarito. It was one of trash, graffiti, abandoned buildings, desolation, and to me it felt like a depression. Tecate was pretty much shut down because it was a holiday, which they apparently take very seriously, and many businesses in Rosarito didn’t start opening until around 10 and 11 am, so maybe that’s why it felt the way it did to me. Maybe if more businesses had been open and the hustle and bustle a bit more prominent it wouldn’t have been as noticeable. Maybe.All-in-all I had a wonderful trip to see family and I have learned a great deal about the culture in Tacate and Rosarito, Mexico. I definitely want to go back when I can and continue exploring as I am sure that there are cultural differences in different parts of Mexico, as there are here in the States.