Americans and by “Americans” I mean primarily White Americans, are known far and wide for being travelers that are rude, disrespectful, arrogant know-it-alls who stroll into countries, don’t speak the local language, and criticize the country for not having whatever creature comfort they want, throughout their stay. They talk to the local staff any ole way. Not all of them but a significant enough amount that they have a reputation all over the world. I have personally seen it over and over again everywhere I have been, it ain’t pretty.
So my Dear Black People: As you solo travel and seek relocation abroad in countries in Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere – Don’t be an Ugly American.
I am now going to speaks specifically to my brothers and sisters visiting the beautiful country of Mexico right now during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Many are going down en masse to Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Some are considering permanent relocation there to escape racism and oppression in the United States and realize a happier and more joyful existence.
To all of you I say:
Be careful to not behave like an oppressor when you yourself are running away from oppression. Respect the local customs culture and especially the people.
I have just returned from Part 1 of my visit to Mexico as I research relocation aka Blaxit there. I visited Tulum and Playa del Carmen. There are burgeoning black communities in both locations and I am happy to say that for the most part, I saw us being our usual kind, open, giving, and loving selves. But there were some instances where I noticed some of us not being as polite and considerate of the locals as we could and should be.
I expect “Karen and Kevin” to be Karen and Kevin but my brothers and sisters – as in all things we have to be better.
Whether you are on vacation, or you are relocating or have relocated to Mexico (or elsewhere) always remember that YOU are a visitor. You are not a citizen, your rights and privileges are not the same as local Mexicans.
And frankly, if you want all the comforts of America like fast and timely service and 16 different types of milk or creamer, and kale and grits then you may need to stay in America and keep your creature comforts with a big fat side of racism, oppression, and hate.
Yes, it’s hot. Yes, you may see a roach, lizard or gecko and even a snake. Jungle shit comes out of the jungle and many places you are visiting are in the Jungle (Tulum) or Jungle-Adjacent (Playa del Carmen). Deal with it or go home and stay home. But last I checked you will see roaches, snakes, and dare I say – a random gecko and iguana in America too. Ask Florida, Texas, and California (and many other States).
Be respectful to the locals. Be kind. Yes, your USD and passport are powerful but you know what is more powerful? Grace, compassion, and humility. Learn some basic Spanish phrases. Learn to say “Please”, “Thank you”, “You’re welcome” and “May I have?” Smile and tip the wait staff at least 10%.
It really goes a long way. Frankly, you have no right to expect ANYONE to speak anything other than Spanish to you because you are in their country, not yours so be nice when you run into locals who look at you like you’re odd and say “No Habla ingles.”
COVID-19 has not gone away – please wear a mask when you are inside of buildings, and walking on the street if the local ordinance requires it. And please note: it is YOUR job to find out what the local law requires. Perhaps you might want to learn how to ask your cab driver in Spanish to be sure. Again, care enough to keep the local staff safe from your germs while they serve you. The U.S.A. still has more COVID cases than any country in the world. It is still amazing to me that Mexico and any other country are letting our germ-ridden selves into their country because you all know that if the shoe was on the other foot the United States would not be as hospitable. Yes, I know it’s about economics and they need tourist dollars but we should still be grateful, respectful, and kind.
Do NOT litter. Find a trash can for your trash. Clean up after yourself when you can so that others don’t have to come into close contact with your germs at this time.
Martin Luther King, Jr had a Dream.
Well, I have a Dream that Black American travelers will gain the reputation of not being anything like our White counterparts. That we will become known collectively for visiting or relocating to a country and being respectful, kind, considerate visitors that tip well, have a willingness to learn and understand the culture, language, and history of the countries we visit especially those that provide us with low-cost and beautiful vacation, retirement and ex-pat living. Let’s do the work. Let’s be better. Hell, in this one thing – let’s be best!