Must Love Mexico…

mexico, musings

We, as Americans, have a distorted view of our Southern neighbor. Mind you it’s not just one Southern neighbor but a chain of diverse and exquisite countries. Culturally we lump them into a pile.

I read this quote from the late Anthony Bourdain that really struck me:

“Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes [and] look after our children…

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people — as we sure employ a lot of them . . .

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we,” as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them — and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films…

So why don’t we love Mexico?”

To Bourdain’s point on one hand we openly embrace tacos, tequila, and tortilla. We love wearing sombreros and mustaches on Cinco de Mayo. We love sugar skulls around Halloween. We love speaking Spanglish to movies and friends. We use wonky “Mexican” accents to mock and make humor. We don’t mind vacationing on their beaches and visiting their monuments.

Yet, when it comes to the people, we care less.

When it comes to the insensitive nature of our cherry picked love affair, we care less about the people and more about our personal advantages.

The fact that we are tearing families apart at the border is a prime example of this. Yet it breathes to deeper racist roots. It breathes of a deep history in this country of people being torn apart. Maybe the face was a slave master. Maybe the face was an oppressive native reeducation.

Today, the face is the newly implemented “no tolerance” policies for families seeking asylum, backed by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. Another outreach of a culture that prays on the vulnerable to make a point, to spin a political fire storm. It’s an act to discourage people from coming, an act that has likely not reached the hundreds of people fleeing for their lives across borders, thousands of miles north from the home they know.

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For decades undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and other Latin American countries, have been coming to this country. Once here they are often treated with distrust, hatred, and spitefulness. Yet, they are the ones that are picking our food, raising our children, building our homes, and they are active members of our society.

Around 50% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, their children are educated with “our” children, their children go onto college and build lucrative careers. In fact, there is ample evidence to show that immigrants maybe participate more in our economy than those that are native born or with native born parents.

Still, we have no problem kicking the most vulnerable when they are already down.

Documented immigrants, refugees (asylum seekers) included (like the ones being separated at the border) are also part of the fray.

We rarely differentiate in our attitude. The other question is, should it matter how these children and others got here if they are desperate? Should they be treated this poorly by border officials? Are they not all people?

Ignorance, hatred, and racism asks questions on “WHERE is someone from?” “Are you here legally?” “Why don’t you speak English?”. Often all brown people from another land are looked on as lesser, as a burden, as someone taking. Even though ample evidence shares a different story.

This attitude stretches far beyond how we see those in the Americas.


When we visit the southern land(s) we often stay on fenced resorts, only venturing into the unknown for shopping or monuments. We rarely delve beyond a veiled surface to understand whose land we walk on. I am also guilty of this.

When we visit Mexico we don’t bother much to speak Spanish, and we demand that others speak English. When they visit us, or move here, we use slurs and condemn. We expect, once again, for English to be used.

We don’t mind using the land, the inexpensive vacations, the tasty food. We don’t mind the cheap labor and the exploitative nature of Colonialism. It’s for the benefit of Americans, so it must be okay. Right?

Yet the problems that cause people to flee, and beg for sanctuary, are related to our own bad choices. We directly perpetuate the drug cartels power in Latin countries due to our consumption of illicit substances. Even our heroin problem can be traced to cartels losing out on cannabis profits and flooding the markets with cheap heroin.

Yet, even though we are active participants, and problem makers in the system, we close the door and pretend the desperate masses are just not there. We have done it for years, and as far back as 2013 we were housing children that were running from cartels independently. Yet, this new wave is meant to punish the most vulnerable, and exploit the voiceless for vile policies, all pawns in a political power struggle.

When we have a leader that speaks about these peoples with such distaste, it’s easy to see that this feeling has deeper roots than “just a few haters”. In fact, the leader of the United States actively campaigned on this hatred, and building a wall, and he fucking won over it. So is it honestly a surprise that he has no problem vilifying and traumatizing desperate families?


I end with this question: if you dealt with the horrors that many of those fleeing North do, would you stay put? Would you allow your child to be killed by a cartel? Would you stand by while your wife was threatened? Would you want your children to possibly end up in these cartels?

I guarantee most of you would run if given the chance, because the small glimmer of hope in a distant land, is far better than no hope at all.

mustLoveMexico

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The Cult of Bootstraps

musings

I am a strong believer in personal work and development. I am living proof that determination can actually attain goals and do things. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in 25 years of living, and 26 brings more goals. Yet, there is also a wall that exists that many of us hit and only a few can crawl over. I’m banging my head on that wall right now.

The reality is that outside factors play largely into whether or not someone will succeed in the way they want. These outside factors come in many forms. They’re income-based, education based, socio-economic based. Sometimes it comes down to sexism or racism. And even though we all want to believe that we have to tap into some type of well-spring that will fix our lives the reality is out of our control.

One applies for jobs they really want, one is maybe perfectly qualified and ready for the commitment. Your write a stellar resume and provide great references and update your website and you pray for the job. Yet 70 people apply 50 are just as qualified as you but 5 are more qualified and have more experience. Guess who gets the interview? Guess who stands out. Probably not you.

It raises the point that for every job in a certain field there are possibly hundreds trying to break into the field. Add onto it a later retirement for most people, which isn’t opening up jobs like it once did, and less jobs to go around in many industries and one is stuck in a bubble of underemployment.

For people in the millennial generation our wages are low and our potential to move ahead is harder. We buy homes less, because we can’t afford them. We’re loaded down with student debt, buying into the idea that our education was worth it. We don’t have benefits with many jobs we have, and we are having a harder time breaking into the fields we went to school for. If we ever get there. Many of us are still slinging pizza and selling clothes at Kohl’s to try and make it.

Many of us that went to school for a try at the middle class are facing an existence that has had wages stagnate for our lives and that of our boomer and gen-x parents. Add on the great recession which knocked a lot of people out of careers and into a downward spiral and we have a hot mess.

While I admire the idea of creating happiness and creating wealth in little things it’s also important to understand the crunch that basic survival takes on those living it. So much of one’s energy is placed in how to pay all the bills and come out with enough to buy food. A lot of energy is placed on figuring out summer camps and how to afford it and stressing about credit scores and if one can ever get ahead.

The increments are tough too, we might get a new job and make more, but then we lose our medicaid or other benefits such as income-based rent. So one has to earn significantly more to make a difference permanently in their lives. If you live somewhere like Fort Collins it’s even harder to pull ahead as the cost of living and cost of rent is harder to afford. 

The reality is that every single person living in the lower class or lower middle class, is literally pulling themselves up every single day by their bootstraps, just to get out of bed. The reality is that it is often so hard to want to even be alive. I believe this feeds into the drug epidemic and why so many people rely on medications of various kinds.

Much of this is compounded by a lack of well-paying and benefit-heavy jobs. Which I also understand. When a business is trying to employ people but it lacks significant profit it’s hard to pay raises and insurance and taxes and vacation and everything else. Sometimes companies can’t even fathom employing people full time, or only employ a few people full time for these reasons.

So what do we do? As the gap between rich and poor grows so wide.

A few ideas that would help would be single-payer healthcare for everyone, education for everyone, improved high school education that is heavy on teaching valuable skills, more corporate taxation and oversight, and more programs to even the playing field. Of course this comes down to taxation and taxing either everyone equally, say 20%, or a higher tax rate for those that earn more.

Historically, the United States had it’s largest economic boom in the post WWII years as a result of higher taxation and more education with the G.I. Bill. We also held onto manufacturing jobs and “built” the United States and much of the world. While globalization has changed much of where we manufacture, we also have opportunities to create more equality and affluence. Perhaps those that worked on the oil rigs could be recruited to work with renewable energy sources?

Much of this starts as early as high school and is a goal of lifetime improvements and learning. It also has to be backed by money going to actually helping teachers and educators and not for-profit systems. We also could take a look at higher education and why the hell it has skyrocketed (administration costs) at such a horrifying rate.

While I respect the idea of self-improvement and fighting for what you want, there is also a lot to be said for the people that can’t afford to meet their basic needs. It’s expensive to survive and to have kids and when a family can barely pay their bills month to month, it’s hard to see where the next spa day and yoga retreat are coming to calm the mind.

There are little things every day that improve one’s mindset when facing hard odds, but at the end of the day we must ask if this is the continued existence we want and want for our children, or are we going to fight to make sure everyone has more opportunities?

Watch these for more information:

Gentrification in Fort Collins

musings

If you talk to long-time residents or past residents of the bay area in San Francisco you hear a lot of the same stories. Those that stayed and were able to support their families had to acclimate or start something with the big players of the area. Or to put is simply, they got high paying jobs, we’re able to afford the expensive housing, and are likely thriving in the culture there because they can afford it.Those that couldn’t afford the changes in rent are now being pushed to the burbs, if not the street and it’s creating a lot of friction.

The thing is that Homelessness, and those experiencing it, is not higher in places like San Francisco, but reflective of other communities and areas in the United States. Including my city, Fort Collins.

The difference may be largely in tourism and visibility. In San Francisco affluence and poverty sit next to each other, and it’s very visible to visitors to the city. For those in Fort Collins experiencing homelessness, they are often hidden. They stay with family, sleep in cars, or find places in wooded areas to camp, rest, or simply sit. Fort Collins, significantly smaller in size, has the ability to also discourage camping, while a city of San Francisco’s size would lack some of those same resources and also hidden locations.

Regardless of visibility, the problem is similar. As tech companies move in, and rent increases, it becomes increasingly harder for people to make it. Fort Collins, and Colorado, has had a boom in the number of people moving to the state, along with an increase in the cost of living. Due to the legalization of marijuana and the business that has developed from it, the popularity of Colorado has also increased. Then compound it with its natural beauty, progressive views, and friendly people….you see the appeal of moving here.

It’s also much cheaper here than in many parts of California, and  other coastal areas such as New York so it’s appealing as a relocation option.

Except many of those that have lived in Colorado for their whole lives or have been here for more than a decade are feeling the crunch of trying to survive.

I’m not excluded from this.

When I started college in 2011 I could easily find places to rent in Denver for $400 or less. I actually had the ability to choose an apartment, near downtown and close to my school for $600/month and it was luxurious for my needs. Today, 2016, similar apartments in that area rent for upwards of $1200 a month. Meaning the cost has doubled, but income hasn’t.

Fort Collins isn’t looking much different, when I moved here in 2012 we could easily find 2-bedroom condos and homes for rent for well under $1000/month. Today we would be lucky to find anything for less than $1200/month and most likely would pay $1500 or more. We’re not even near major metro lines, businesses, or airports. Instead we’re an odd suburb-like city that mostly functions on its own and for a select clientele.

To break down the issue, it’s that there is no minimum wage specific for Fort Collins or Denver, but rather a state-version that is a whole $8.31, if you aren’t a tipped worker. Federal minimum wage is $7.24, so we’re a little better, but not much.

According to Huff Post in a May 2016 article ( a year earlier it was $19.89), one would need to make $21.21/hour just to make rent. At the moment I make about half that.

To be self-sufficient in Larimer County Colorado, meaning to earn enough to live comfortably, not rely on income-based housing etc. A family of four would need to make over $72,000 annually and this is BEFORE DEBT, so if you have student loans, increase by your monthly payment.

This breaks down to $17.01/hour for 40 hours a week for EACH adult, if you have a 2-parent household. As a single parent you need to make about $30.68/hour or over $64,000 annually.

This also reflects on the cost of homes and who can afford them. My fiance and I earn too little to qualify for a loan big enough to actually purchase anything in Fort Collins that is worth living in. Anything “cheap” enough is a mobile home, a condo with limits on the loans it qualifies for, and maybe a plot of land. It’s a dream I have always had, and one that is probably less and less of a reality.

The extra fun part is when you don’t earn enough to afford everything, but you earn too much to continue qualifying for things like medicaid, food stamps, and income-based housing. Which ultimately means your extra dollars are then used to help you barely get by.

And it’s not just the public feeling fenced in, but small businesses struggle as rent prices rise and wealthy startups are able to move in. Including my favorite asian imports store that is now a tattoo parlour. BECAUSE in Fort Collins, a tattoo business has become more profitable than groceries, clothing and knick-knacks. It’s more popular among the affluent college students as well.

That is when you wish and pray and meditate and apply and get extra credits etc. etc. for that better job that is not guaranteed and not available and you slowly the the existential dread…

Anyway, this is a blog, and somewhat opinion, but the reality is that Colorado is in a position that something has to change or we will be reaching crisis levels in need, and ability to get by. Maybe rent-caps are the answer, and cities investing in more affordable housing and maybe increasing the minimum wage, along with single-payer healthcare.

Which would mean that we could afford to live in a location that we want to live. It would also mean that our taxes guaranteed a health safety net, for everyone, no excuses.

If we paid for university people like me wouldn’t have a request of $700/month debt payment I can’t pay. Maybe we could also make sure our universities were teaching the best level of education to make sure they were educating for real jobs and opportunities.

Perfection is impossible, but we’re so far behind the rest of the developed world as a nation, that we need to figure out some priorities and act on them or we will lack the ability to ever catch up.

END