What's Holding Mexico Down?

Dear Mexican, Mexico has vast natural resources, good climate, natural ports, supergenerous and good-looking neighbors, and plenty of laborers whom seem to be willing to do all sorts of crappy jobs. But instead of having a thriving economy and an embarrassment of abundance like us whiteys, Mexicans have rampant poverty, pervasive sexism and prejudice, grotesque corruption, and drug wars. Is it because Mexicans blew their dominant wad early with the Mayans and Aztecs? Or is there some cultural value that says you can only work hard north of the Rio Grande? Or maybe it's the filthy Spanish blood?Señor Whitey Gets It Done

Dear Gabacho, Your last point nails it. But before I explain how, refry this, America: when you get down to tachuelas de latón, Mexico really isn't that bad of a country. A 2006 World Bank study found it boasts the world's 14th-highest gross domestic product rating, ahead of countries such as Australia and Norway, and the United Nations' Human Development Index report for 2007 lists Mexico as 52nd among nations for standard of living—not the best slot, but good enough to rank as "High" on the HDI. And have you ever visited the Aztec pyramids? So inspiring! So why are there problems in Mexico? Same reason there are problems anywhere: a host of razones ranging from economics to geopolitics to religion and the penis size of males. Yet gabachos toss aside any consideration of such salient factors when focusing on Mexico—because of a visceral reaction to the Reconquista, sure, but I'd also argue due to the Black Legend, the train of Western thought that dates back to the Age of Discovery and views anything the Spaniards touched as cruel, ungodly, and forever a failure. So no matter how much Mexico improves, many gabachos will continue to dismiss Mexicans with the same vitriol their European ancestors flung against Imperial Spain—and if you don't think centuries-old historical events influence the present, go ask a Southerner about Sherman. You recently called Portuguese a "bastard" language. I'm currently studying Portuguese (I already took Spanish classes), and the similarities are greater than the differences. Can you tell us why the two languages developed differently? There doesn't seem to be any apparent reason as to why the two countries separated.Senhora Marilena

Dear Wannabe Portagee, No apparent reason? Puxa, menina! (Spanish translation: ¡Dios mio, muchacha!; English translation: Are you that dumb, woman?) Spanish and Portuguese, though sharing the common roots of Vulgar Latin and Mozarabic, began separating long before the languages we now call Spanish and Portuguese even existed. The land now occupied by Portugal was the last sliver of the Iberian Peninsula conquered by the Roman Empire, which called the territory Lusitania. The region developed differently from the rest of Rome's Iberian territories, and subsequent invasions by Germanic tribes and Moors culturally and linguistically influenced those proto-Portuguese in ways not felt by the provinces that eventually became Spain. More crucially, the Portuguese consolidated under one king in 1139, centuries before Spanish nobles booted out the Moors for bueno and the previously obscure dialect called Castilian lisped its way to become the language known as ethpañol. garellano@seattleweekly.com

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