It is fascinating how cultural ideas and cultural figures transcend languages and bleed across borders.  Especially American culture.  Granted, other than Canada, Mexico is the US’s closest neighbor, and I’d venture to say that more Americans vacation in Mexico each year than they ever will Canada, but it is still a country and culture wildly different from my own.  – Different language; different dominant religion and a different approach to it; different attitudes about family; different money; different…nearly everything.

And yet, the average American knows almost nothing about the real Mexico.  We know the border, tequilla, tacos, and beach resorts, but that’s about all.  The average Mexican, on the other hand, knows quite a lot about America.  More about our politics, our economy, and our publicized culture.  Without Googling it, could you name the current president of Mexico?  Could you say what the Peso:Dollar exchange rate is?  Could you list more than 3 quintessentially Mexican film or music stars from this century?  Yeah… I didn’t think so.  Ask my students the same questions about America, though, and the answer would be much different.

The fact is, America’s culture is infiltrating everything around it, and I am reminded of it often.

Last week, the woman whose house I live in came into the kitchen where I was cooking.

“I heard a joke, but I can only say it in Spanish,” she told me.  “Listen.”

“Okay,” I said.

“President Obama came to Mexico to meet with Peña Nieto.  In the palace, Nieto asked, ‘Would you like a cafe, negro?’  Obama replied, ‘No thanks.  Would you like a cerveza, Indio?'” she giggled and continued in English, “It’s funny.  Tell your friends.  Your president is un negro, ours is un indio.  But is not very nice.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.  The play on words and the references to cafe negro, which is how “real men” drink their coffee in Mexico, and Indio, which is iconically Mexican, was funny.  Plus, my 70 year old landlady giggling while she told the joke was too rich for words.

All this year my older group of students has been enamored with the cows in the pasture next to the school.  It is quiet enough when our class starts at 7:00AM that we can hear them mooing to be fed and milked, and some mornings, when we’re working silently, we can even hear the milk hitting the bottom of the bucket as the farmer gets his day started.  Every month or so there has been a new baby calf in the field as well, and we’re all fond of watching them play in the grass.  The girls in my class have even named them: the newest little spotty one is Bobby.  And the all brown one?  Obama.

If you ever wondered whether or not America appears in the day-to-day minds of her neighbors, look no further than that one little brown cow.

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