For many, Mexico remains a land of Pedro sleeping away his days leaning against an adobe hut, sombrero pulled low over his face, with a burro drowsing nearby. Apparently this is actually belived. An American woman of immoderate idiocy once asked me by email whether Mexico had paved roads.Such folk seem to have in mind, if mind they have, the Mexico of the age of Pancho Villa. As best I can tell, they have no ideas at all of the rest of Latin America.
For the record, a paved road in Mexico. The Baluarte Bridge, between Sinaloa and Durango. It is used exclusively for burro traffic.
In reality, a much neglected location, things are a tad different. The Mexican economy prospers. Per-capita GDP rises rapidly. Goldman-Sachs predicts that Mexico will be the world’s
seventh economy by 2020. I´ll believe it when I see it, but it´s not called Goldman because it doesn´t know about money. Poverty assuredly exists, but I am aware of no city that has achieved the dysfunction of Detroit, Newark, Camden, Birmingham, and so on. The birth rate is way down. Literacy is up. Shopping malls are indistinguishable from those in America. Old pot-holed roads exist next to new highways.
Mexico, as popularly conceived. Close enough for government work.
But Latin America is not just Mexico. There is an actual civilization south of Texas, a whole unsuspected world, and much of it is not remotely primitive. If you transported Buenos Aires to Italy, say, or to Spain, it would not seem out of place.
Buenos Aires. As the photo makes clear, Latin cities are dismal slums.
Vi and I have spent days walking the streets of Lima and Buenos Aires and found them to be modern, agreeable, and usually very pretty cities, highly civilized in a distinctly European way, and in general delightful. If one regards southern Europe as part of the First World, it is hard to see how Argentina, Chile, and Colombia can be excluded.
Bogota. An enlightening example of the civilizational incapacity of Latinos.
On the other hand, Bolivia is decidedly backward, often lacking roads of any kind, paved or not. Ecuador, while lovely and pleasant, is not quite midway between Bolivia and Argentina. Venezuela is nasty and dangerous. Latin America is not one place.
I belong to a list-serve of highly bright people, some of whose names you would know, who are serious academics and writers and such. They are intensely concerned with the idea of IQ. They assert that Hispanics have a mean IQ of 89, Mexicans in particular of 87, American blacks of 85, and regard the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations as demonstrating that GDP per capita depends on IQ. The idea is hardly implausible. It is hard to see how a population of low intelligence could build and run a modern city, for example.
A problem with this theory is that its proponents are attributing a result—economic success, level of civilization—in fact dependent on many variables to a single factor, IQ. It doesn´t work. For example, according to IQ and the Wealth, Italy has a mean IQ of 102, the US of 98, and yet the US has been greatly more profuse in its engendering of both money and extraordinary technology. The advanced countries of Latin America resemble Italy in such things as are visible from their cities. And of course if GDP per capita is a function of IQ, then the IQ of the Chinese must be rising at a hell of a rate. Perhaps their heads will explode.
Brazil, specifically Embraer, designs and builds these babies, and others, used by countless airlines. Building airliners is a characteristic of people of low IQ. The remains of such craft are often associated with Neanderthal burial grounds.
Curious. Checking the CIA Factbook, I find that the rate of literacy in Argentina is 97%, in Mexico, 86%, and in the United States, 99%. Though I don´tknow where the figures come from, or how literacy is defined, the first two seem plausible. However, the US Department of Education says that 14% percent of American adults are illiterate. Let’s see, 14 from 100 is…86.
I don´t vouch for the exactitude of these numbers, but they would seem to indicate that northward things are perhaps not as rosy as we would like our roses to be. And, having spent a lot of time on the ground southward, I note that are a lot more culture, civilization, brains, and talent in those climes than most Americans believe. I hesitate to suggest that we do anything so extreme as to pay attention. It´s because I believe in the sanctity of tradition.