This Is Mexico . . ..

I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for four days now, and have only now had the time and ability to write a short post. I had intended to write a cheerful and upbeat post about how great Puerto Vallarta is, but made the mistake of checking my email first.

In my inbox were emails from several people who had sent me links to the latest news on the verdict in the Luis Ramirez case, which I’d blogged about since Ramirez, a Mexican, was beaten to death in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. On a July night last year, he was walking home with a teenaged girl when he encountered a group of teenaged boys in a park. Words were exchanged—not a few of them racist insults hurled in Ramirez’s direction—and the situation escalated into an all-out fistfight that ended with Luis Ramirex laying on the ground unconscious and foaming at the mouth. He died in hospital two days later from severe head injuries sustained during the fight.

The jury was tasked with, among other things, sorting out who exactly delivered the blow that killed Luis, since at least three of the teens fought with him directly. They found the accused not guilty of all but the least serious charge: simple assault. I understand that sometimes, people make mistakes. But some mistakes are more serious than others. For example, someone might make the mistake of drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car. If they make it home safely, fine. But if they accidentally run over a pedestrian and kill him, they do not get off simply because they made a mistake. Yet here we have a case in which a human being’s life was taken by people using their fists and feet as weapons, yet they got off scott free.

So, as I sit here watching the orange sun set over a glassy bay, I find myself writing a very different post from the one I had intended. I wanted to write about how amazing Puerto Vallarta is. Every single person I have met here has been nothing but wonderful: warm, hospitable, generous, and good-humored. It was everywhere around me, once I left the taxi-and-package-tour-hustle-and-bustle of the airport. This was what I had planned to write about . . . before I checked my email. Now, the kindness and warmth of the Mexicans I’ve met stands out even more starkly when viewed against the backdrop of the Luis Ramirez case: I cannot imagine a situation in which six Mexican teenagers would find cause to make a disparaging remark towards me or any of the people I’m here with, let alone attack any of us so viciously as to leave us brain-damaged and dying in a park.

I know I’m here as a tourist and that tourist dollars are the lifeblood of the local economy. But I’m also here as a foreigner. I look physically different from every single Mexican I’ve seen, and my Spanish is far from good enough to allow me to pass. Yet nobody has yelled a racial slur in my direction, and nobody has told me—out of contempt or frustration—to learn Spanish. And, while I’m sure Puerto Vallarta has its share of crime both petty and violent, I haven’t found myself in a situation in which I’m made to feel uncomfortable or threatened because of my skin color, hair texture, or non-flueny in the local language.

After all, despite the obvious benefits tourists bring to the towns along Mexico’s coasts, there is more than enough reason for Mexicans to be hostile towards me. I’m a foreigner, a tourist, and an American. There is a long history of tension between our two countries, and I’m sure some tourists and foreigners comport themselves in a less-than-decent way with the locals. But none of this has been enough—in my admittedly limited time in Mexico—to cause the locals to treat me with suspicion, scorn, resentment, or outright hostility. When I attempt to communicate in my piss-poor Spanish, they listen patiently, correct me when I ask for correction and, when I eventually give up and ask if they speak English, graciously switch to fluent or near-perfect English.

I imagine that, had the teenagers who were found not guilty of beating Luis Ramirez to death ever found themselves in Mexico, they would have met the same reception as me and my fellow travelers. I imagine that Brian Scully too—the one who made the comment that started the fight and who yelled racial epithets while his friends were beating Luis Ramirez—would have been treated with nothing but kindness, warmth, and good humor.

Tragically, the reception Luis Ramirez got in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania was markedly different from the one I am getting from his compatriots in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In fact, his experience could not have been more different, a difference made even more grotesque by the fact that his attackers were ultimately found to be not responsible for his death.


2 thoughts on “This Is Mexico . . ..

  1. OH caroline, caroline, caroline…People are People…Your rationalizing something so Heinous and Insidious as the Crime that these three ‘thugs’ committed and in a ’round-about’ manner begging our sympathy for ‘Them’! That’s ‘Stinkin-Thinkin’-and You’re WRONG in any attempt to Justify this Barbaric and INHUMANE Act of Degradation…Ulti-
    mately those who Committed this Atrocity against another HUMAN Will Get Their ‘JUST-desserts’-Sooner or later-All Egregious Acts such as these are
    ‘Repayed in-FULL’ …The ‘Trial’ We now know-was
    ‘BOGUS’ and a Mockery of Justice—As for the Police
    involved in the Complicit ‘Cover-Up’-I hope for their sake-they are astute enough to Pick Out a ‘Boyfriend’
    -before the ‘boyfriend’ picks THEM…Cons ‘love-a man in Uniform-they ‘love-em’ better -out of it!!!


  2. You know me, always the devil’s advocate (damn that “devil” is sounding a little harsh as I’m just reading Malcolm X) …but I just can’t stand when people (or you) paint such a rosy one sided picture. I think first and foremost– you have the money. They don’t. You also have the English.

    Different countries. Different issues. Different concepts of race. Different needs.

    Also, as you pointed out– You’re a tourist. Immigrants or perceived immigrants (particularly visible minorities) have a whole different ballgame to contend with. Historically speaking, none of them have ever fared particularly well by the host society. White, black, or brown. (The whites in this country just had the advantage of blending in with the majority faster).

    A quick search on the web showed that Mexico has about twice the murder rate per capita than the United States.

    I think it sucks that Luis’s attackers weren’t found guilty. But I’m not surprised. However, I do feel (although cannot argue with authority) that this is not a phenomenon unique to the U.S. Generally speaking as a minority in any society one is going to have less justice. Just about every week there was another case in the Thai news of a westerner or expat being murdered; rarely did anything get done about it. Particularly when the police were involved (which they often were).

    I don’t know enough about the U.S. justice system, but at least those boys were put on trial.

    bring it on………:)


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