Sun. Aug 25th, 2019

Becoming Mexican

Perhaps the #1 thing that most of my friends and acquaintances know about me is that I’m “Mexican but not really”. For the past decade, when I’ve introduced myself to people I’ve never really taken pride in being called Mexican. In case you need to hear it again: it’s a [fictitious] label that was imposed on me at birth and I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to get rid of it while simultaneously shunning the very concept of a nation-state. But 2018 was the year when I chose to try something new and embrace it. As many of you know, I spent the whole year preparing for the diplomatic service by learning everything about Mexico, travelling there in May and August, and eventually moving to Mexico City in October. Rather than telling you the not-so-riveting story of the exams I took, or turning this into a travel blog by mentioning the places I visited (which I might still write about later, lol), let me just skip to how things ended and tell you what I learned.

As you can probably tell, I did not make it into the diplomatic service. Before I got the results, my closest friend in Kansas asked me “How do you feel?”
My answer was quite typical:

“Well, honestly, I feel like I did really well, given that even the Ambassador who interviewed me told me that I had done well. But if there’s one thing I know about my life, it’s that there’s always a massive curve ball. So I feel like I might as well plan on not making it in.”

Call it “sending it out to the universe”, call it “inviting bad vibes”, call it what you will: after almost 3 decades on this Earth it’s hard to deny that I know how my life works. In the life of Ed, unexpected conflict/crisis is the overarching theme rather than the unexpected plot twist. Again, as I said on the previous post, I’m a natural tragedy chaser, and sometimes I don’t even realize it. Part of me wishes I could sit here and tell you that I consciously chose and choose to be this person, but the truth is that even though I get to play author and main character of my own life, sometimes the story seems to have a prearranged narrative. Seriously, at this point when I didn’t make it into the diplomatic service I was never crushed because I thought “well, of course that happened, it wouldn’t be the same story if there wasn’t a dramatic twist.”

Of course it was disappointing, and of course it hurt to a certain extent, but the third and final book that re-shaped my mind at 15 was Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind“. It taught me how to see the world in a Buddhist way and that “life is suffering”; the more/sooner we accept that, the easier it becomes to manage any conflict, trauma, or disappointment. So the reason why I can somewhat-coldly write these stories and tell you about all these ups and downs is because I’ve learned to take the objective perspective of a writer who sits here and tells you the subjective stories of a real-life character named Ed. It’s rather fun, actually.

So why didn’t I make it into the diplomatic service?

I hope the image on the left is not too small, but many people won’t be able to read it regardless because it’s in Spanish. It essentially shows the minimum scores that people needed to have in order to get in (pink part), and below that you can see the scores that I got (in purple). I was “average” on the psychological tests, which is to be expected from someone who doesn’t have the best profile to blindly follow orders from a national authority (even if it would be my job). I got a 9.75 in the English exam which is a bit hilarious because the exam consisted of me chatting with my American examiner about how she had been to Kansas but not Kansas City (she didn’t write a single note on her page). So you can tell how harshly they purposely grade everything when they took off .25 points just to be cool. The final two scores were the essay (6.13) and the interview (7.33) and I missed out on the minimum scores by .37 and .67 respectively. In order words, I was legitimately 1 point (1.04) away from making it in.

But here’s the real kicker: these minimum scores were determined after the test rather than being standard requirements.

We had been told that there were 65 vacancies to fill in the diplomatic service, but the list of candidates who made it consisted of only 39 people. In other words, 26 spots simply disappeared. Naturally there was some outrage, so the foreign ministry released a statement a few days later saying they had merely “promised up to 65 spots”. If you have any experience with legalistic politically-correct arguments, you can see how this is the easy way to weasel out without any solid reasons. That’s why they formulate things in this vague way from the start. But the table on the right shows you that since 1978 they have always taken in as many people as they promised (this is from a 2011 thesis I found, so that’s why we’re missing the most recent years). They might not always accept everyone that got into the final phase, but that’s because people dropped out or failed out of training. The second-to-last column (“3a Etapa”) shows you that in a lot of years they even took in more people than promised. So for 26/65 spots to magically disappear is just bizarre. If you want/need me to do the math for you, that’s 40% of the spots, which is damn near half. Of course anyone/everyone in my position of barely missing out was very likely to feel salty, but I even asked some friends who are already in the foreign service and they said this was unprecedented and fishy (no wonder the Ministry released that statement).

Anyway, although this was a very surprising turn of events, I can’t really categorize it as a twist in the story line. Of course this anomaly happened the year I apply lol.

“Ok, let’s move on to a new story.”

Given that I had already bought my one-way ticket to Mexico ahead of time (to avoid astronomic last-minute prices if I made it in), my girlfriend and I decided that I should still use it. I could get settled in Mexico and she would join me after her contract in Bolivia ended. Perhaps the extra tragedy here is that I left when we were at perhaps one of the best points of our relationship. So knowing that the distance is what ultimately eroded the relationship does make me wonder where we’d be if we hadn’t done the distance. Anyway, that’s the topic of the next and final post, but I want to conclude this one by telling you exactly what I learned after living in Mexico from October until March.

I’ve taken plenty of photos with Ambassadors, but this guy, Carlos, in charge of Social Affairs in Bolivia is perhaps one of the only people I’d want to emulate because of his kindness and sense of service.

For better or worse, I am not, nor do I want to be Mexican. Of course I still use and refer to nationalities and be ‘Mexican’, but that’s for practical reasons and to avoid my usual rants. I attempted to join the diplomatic service as a means to a very specific end, so I promise you that had I managed to climb the ladder, my call to fame would have been as the diplomat who betrayed his country (and perhaps all countries) for the benefit of humanity. I might apply again in the future (for the same reasons, with the same objective), so if the foreign ministry and NSA are watching, this is their chance to put a red flag on my profile before I remove this post if/when I apply again. #livingDangerously

More importantly, the reason why I say that I am not Mexican is because I simply don’t feel like adapting to a number of things in Mexico City, nor do I want to go to another place in Mexico., so what’s the point of trying to adjust to places I don’t want to stay in? In CDMX, I was pick-pocketed within 2 weeks of arrival, I learned to shove people in return so I could get out of a crowded bus, I developed a cough that was either psychosomatic or caused by pollution (likely both), and most people that I know there have stories about being assaulted or robbed [by a stranger], or being harassed by police offers full of themselves and their ‘power’. What’s more is that I even lost a job offer for being “too proactive” and my cousins told me that “this is the way things are and you have to adapt”. So given that I know I cannot change these things within my lifetime, what’s the point of adapting to this culture? I would rather not be a part of it. And in case this isn’t clear: it’s not about Mexico, given that plenty of other big cities in India, China, the US, etc are similar. But if I wouldn’t choose those places, why would/should I choose Mexico simply because the lottery of birth assigned me to that team?

In 2018, I embraced my Mexican-ness and I put in a solid effort to become [more] Mexican. But after a few months and experiences, I can safely say that even if I could have committed to this endeavor in order to make it work, I’d rather not. I now know that being labelled as a Mexican is definitely not what I want, and if I was imposed this fictitious political label the day I was born, then it’s high time I get rid of it once and for all before my own children are cursed born with it thanks to their dad. If you want brutal honesty, on something I’ve never said out loud, I have to admit that I’m rather jealous of friends who were merely born European or who simply applied for it thanks to their grandparents: they/you spend your life taking for granted a right that many [allegedly equal] human have to spend their lives earning. It’s not your/their fault and it’s not my fault, but when you’re already on the privileged team then you can simply say that “life is not fair” focus on other things while others get a daily reminder of that reality. THAT is what makes me extremely passionate about world citizenship and why I will likely never drop it entirely. We are all equal, we all deserve an equal start/opportunity, so we all have the responsibility of fixing rather than passively accepting our privilege/disadvantage “because, well, life/theWorld is not fair”. We make it fair or unfair with our actions and inactions, whether you want to accept that or not (and this applies to sexism and others things as well).

But if I’m going to live in this insane world of ridiculous and classist ‘nationalities’, then I’m going to choose my team rather than passively accepting the one that I was drafted to in this rigged game: So I’ve decided I’m again moving back to Europe, this time for good.

But before that happens, I have one final post which caused a really good German friend of mine to say “I mean, you have to let yourself experience sadness; you can’t be so German-efficient at processing your emotions!

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