Sunday, September 10, 2017

Today I met an ordinary Mexican family

That doesn’t sound all that earth shaking to meet an ordinary Mexican family, but it’s actually not that common, especially for someone who is still language challenged. 
Most of the people we gringos interact with are other gringos. We tend to be retired people with lots of time and, generally, a bit of discretionary money. We flock to yoga, language classes, the plaza for coffee, restaurants, and all things artsy.

The Mexicans we meet tend to be service people … doctors, vets, lawyers, taxi drivers, gardeners, house keepers, restaurant servers, people who make clothes or furniture or fix things around the house. Almost everyone here except the very elderly are working, and in their leisure time, they hang out with friends and family.

But, today I met a real Mexican family and had a chance to hear a little about their lives. The parents are care-takers on an estate owned by some Tapatios (folks from Guadalajara) and they have four children. The parents are education-oriented and their two older children are attending university, studying nursing. This is a financial challenge for the entire family.

Their day begins at 4:00 a.m. in order to get the older kids on the hour-long bus ride to Guadalajara at 6:00 a.m. After taking classes all day, they will make the return trip home in order to help their parents, care for the younger kids, and do their homework. On Saturday, the family sells tacos and on Sunday, they run a cosmetics stand and take English classes. I didn’t get a chance to meet the mom because she was cooking for a party hosted by their employers.

The entire family is driven by their purpose of helping each child get an education so they can get good jobs. There is little in the way of a security net down here except family. These parents are exceptionally dedicated to educating their kids, and, so far, they are making it. However, they are on a thin edge and an unkind wind could easily blow them off track.

The family I met is not only an ordinary Mexican family, it is very much like families all over the world. Some have it easier; some have it harder. My family had it a little easier, but like most post-war families of the 50s and 60s, they knew education was the key to a better life. No one in my family finished high school let alone college. I was blessed to have parents who supported education, just as these kids are blessed to have the parents they have.

I was also blessed to grow up in an era when college was inexpensive and government helped with affordable college loans and the GI bill. As a country, we believed in the importance of education ... affordable education. Seeing this family today, struggling to help their children, makes me sad for the young people of this beautiful country who will not be able to afford an education for a better tomorrow. It also makes me sad for my own country which seems to have forgotten how important education is for our future.


  1. Yes, in the United States higher education used to be both costly and out of the reach of the masses. As discussed in John Gardner's book *Excellence.*

    Then the idea came along, "Why not make it easy for *everyone* to afford college ... by making college loans easy to obtain?"

    That did the trick in having college, and even graduate school, be widely available to the masses. But with a side cost:

    Students could go to school, on loans that were easily obtainable, but then they graduated with mountains of debt.

    It got to be so much debt, that the bankers lobbied congress to make education loans no longer able to be forgiven in bankruptcy. So all these students, following the pattern of their peers and graduating with mountains of debt, could no longer seek solutions from the bankruptcy court.

    And, as so many students have learned, obtaining a degree from a college by using your easily-available, non-bankruptable loans, is not a guarantee that you will ever in your lifetime find a job that will pay you enough to be able to repay all those loans.

    What will probably happen in the United States as more and more families recognize that the mere obtaining of a college degree is maybe not worth the cost of saddling yourself for decades with nonbankruptable debt, and no prospect of finding work that will pay enough to pay it off?

    I think more and more families will take up the pattern of the family that you met today: Recognize the value of higher education, and make current sacrifices to obtain it.

    But be very wary of taking on huge debts instead of making those current sacrifices today, like the family you wrote about today is doing.

    Because what is valuable on its own, is not necessarily so valuable if it comes with a price of a lifetime of indebted servitude. And especially if the degree they obtain does not connect them with work that will pay them enough to pay off the price of getting the degree in that way.

    Bravo to the family you met, for stepping into the pattern that I think will be one that more and more families in the United States will be stepping into themselves in the future.

    In this case, it would seem that in some ways the ordinary families of Mexico are the vanguard, leading the trend that the United States families are perhaps going to be the later-adopters in following.

  2. (I forgot to include one step of the process: As there became available more and more, almost unlimited, funds to spend on college education, the cost of college education began to soar.

    With all these funds so readily available to their students, why should colleges not allow their costs to go up accordingly?

    But the Mexican family is possibly avoiding those high costs, by paying with cash instead of loans. And the colleges are not able to raise their prices beyond what the cash-paying students can afford.

    Again, I think the Mexican family is the vanguard today, and more and more US families will be following the pattern of your Mexican family in the future. It will simply be a return to the way that college was priced and allocated out to students in the past. )

  3. Good points, Hugh. One other difference that I got to take advantage of was that, back then, college loans were low interest and could easily be repaid over time. Fortunately, today's community colleges are offering students at least a way to start their education journey.

  4. wonderful energy in the photo Joyce. I want to hear more details on what the Mexican government pays for (teachers) and what the families have to pay, (I have heard it is uniforms, shoes, books, materials, school fees...)to keep their children in schools on each level of education. And can connect us gringos who don't already know a family like the one you met with a student in need of funds in order to attend school.

  5. I hope to learn more of those details. A local sponsorship program for Lake Chapala students is Pathways ... more info at

  6. Sounds like this family is far from ordinary... but extraordinary!!!!!!
    Big love, Tracey~

  7. Tracey ... I agree both ordinary and extraordinary ... much like most folks I assume. hugs.

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