The Mysterious Allure Of Mexico
By Alejandro Grattan-Domingez

      We all know the drill: it’s the weather, the inexpensive living, and the friendly people. So goes the usual pep talk as to why people come from all over the world to settle in Mexico. But the superb climate can almost be matched elsewhere, and the cost of living is no longer so inexpensive; indeed, certain areas of south Texas are now cheaper. That leaves the warmth of the Mexican people, but are not the locals in Ireland (for instance) just as foreigner-friendly?
      I have been in and out of Mexico for most of my life, and would have had all the consciousness of a pet rock not to have formed a few conclusions by now as to what (perhaps subconsciously) attracts people to this country. There are several possibilities, but paramount among them, I believe, is what most of us perceive as the chance to reinvent ourselves.
      Hold on, I’m not talking about embellishing our past achievements, like so many feckless fools do who grant themselves “promotions” as they cross the border. It is human nature to fudge a bit, but one must maintain at least some semblance of congruity. A sergeant can—with little threat of being committed to a mental institution or fear of being stoned in the Ajijic square—assume the rank of a lieutenant; but when one goes from private to former Army Chief of Staff, the white-coated gents with the butterfly nets can’t be far behind.
      The same holds true of those previously in other lines of work. One local actress has boasted of personally winning four Academy Awards (that’s right, four—which puts this braggart in the same exalted league as Katherine Hepburn!), yet somehow none of this is on the official record. Such stretches of the truth are not only pathetic but stupid. In this day of the Internet, almost anything can be checked out—especially something as public as show business.
      But back to reinventing ourselves in Mexico. We come here hoping to be more than we have ever been; more creative, curious, compassionate, courageous, mentally alert, physically vigorous, and adventurous. In short, more alive. Someone once said of Mexico that it’s a technicolor country in a largely black and white world—a country where nothing is ever forgotten and anything is possible. A film director friend of mine called Mexico “a Huston picture, written by Steinbeck and starring Humphrey Bogart.” That’s good enough for me!
      Here, indeed, it seems possible to become the person you always wanted to be, the one who never quite got the chance or the time (or both) to realize all of his potential, and now does. Perhaps Mexico is not alone in casting out this finely-webbed net, though as one who has lived in Colombia, Venezuela, Denmark and in five different states in the U.S., never have I seen this magic at work anywhere else; can one imagine the same allure drawing foreigners to England, Germany, New Jersey?
      This magic is at the heart of what has always been my favorite movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The film, for those who have never seen it, concerns a motley trio of prospectors who go up into the mountains of Mexico in search of gold. They find, then lose the gold, but the two men who survive the adventure nevertheless ride away greatly enriched—for they have gained something more precious than gold. They have discovered the best parts of themselves. The film is set in 1925, but its timeless message continues to play out every day in every part of this, our beloved adopted country of Mexico.