Thursday, May 3, 2012

Have and have nots, a world of contrasts

Mexico City is huge.  HUGE.  It comes as no surprise that in a city so large, there are people so different from each other that you question if you are in the same city still or not.

*Knowing* of the HUGE income gap and *witnessing* the evidence of it are two completely different experiences.  No matter how many places I go and witness people hardly getting by, or not getting by, I never get used to it.  It tears at your heart and the faces of these people struggling become slightly etched in your memory.

Yesterday while running errands in our SUV, we pulled up to a stoplight with a family waiting for the next round of cars.  The father had a cup in one hand and a lighter in another.  He took a swig of the liquid, lifted his face in the air, and spewed the liquid while holding the lighter in front of his mouth.

 This photo is from the wikipedia page on fire breathing.  Even had I had my camera on me, I wouldn't have been able to bring myself to take a photo.  What it would have captured was the man's toothless smile of thanks when cars rolled down the window to hand his wife a peso or two.  Or the way his wife carried their infant child, not quite walking yet, in her arms in a dirt soaked rebozo.  Or the way the wife didnt make eye contact with anyone at all. Or how stark the differences were in the people in the cars, and the man on the street breathing fire to feed his family.  The car next to us was a brand new BMW of some sort, with a man in a suit at the wheel.  In front of us, an Audi. 

On the street, a family so desperate for money to survive that they will do anything to make it.  People performing at stoplights is fairly common here.  People sell snacks, drinks, cigarrettes, car shades, anything.  People dress as clowns, play musical instruments, wash windows.  There is a particular corner on our way  downtown that always has Guatemalans asking for money, holding up their Guatemalan IDs or currency as "proof" that they aren't from here.  And they always say they are on the way to the US, just need a little money to make it the rest of the way.  Yesterday was the first time I saw a fire breather, and I can't shake the memory.

The only thing separating me from this family?  Where I was born, what family I was born into, and the oppurtunities I was given as a child. There are simply not enough jobs to go around, and those who have experience, education, and money are given the first pick.  Those without all of the above?

Breathe fire to feed their families.

And the children born into these families?

I don't want to think about it.


  1. If anything, moving to Mexico has opened my eyes tremendously to how fortunate I am. I am in a small town where the poverty is there, but isn't as obvious as in a big city with beggers in the street.

    We go to Aguascalientes quite a bit and seeing the mothers with the small children on the street corner is heartbreaking. Not only the moms, but most of them. We give everytime that we can. It is impossible to help everyone, but, if my husband doesn't have change, I have him hand them a 20 peso bill. We have more than enough, so we should be more than willing to help out.

    It is hard to forget. But, it is a way to make you realize how lucky you are.

  2. I had that same thought when I visited Mexico and saw some similar things. It is hard to see (I'm sure more for you in your case, since you live there, you see it more often), but it is an eye opening experience that we should consider our selves lucky for being exposed too. I know that if I would have never met my husband or had the chance to visit Mexico, I would still be living blindly, in my small little happy world. It puts things into perspective. You were right when you said the only thing seperating us from a similar life is where we were born and the opportunities we were given. There are so many people who do not realize this. There are so many people who could use an eye opening experience like the one we have had. I know I was one of the people long ago. Great post.

  3. I certainly dont have any answers but i believe the first step is acknowledging the problem. Thank you for reminding us to open our eyes, remember how fortunate we are, and reach out to those who have less.
    PS love the new header!

  4. I completly agree.
    In contrast , I used to live in the homeless Capitol of USA , good ole sunny year round Los Angeles, where every single corner is a person begging, normally said person is wearing clean clothes, shoes, has a backpack , a sign, written in clear English, and on average that person is white and young and able bodied. !!!!
    After being in many countries where actual poverty ( not laziness) is a fact of life. And people do what ? They work there butts off! They just don't stand there grinning with entitlement.
    I see hope and a fierce sense of pride when I see the street workers in Mexico, they have such a sense of optimism about them, even in the worst circumstances.
    It makes me want to get out of the car and slap them when I am in Los Angeles.
    And in DF I give them all I can, proud for them that they are survivors , that they have not given up.