Greetings from Gringo Central

I WAS in the Dog House for the England-Senegal match.

It’s a pub in Roma Norte, one of the chintzier bits of Mexico City and on Sunday lunchtime it was rammed with Brits. 

“I never knew there were so many of the buggers,” I remarked to the only Mexican who wasn’t one of the bar staff. “Hay muchos,” he sighed. “There’s a lot of them. And today they’re all in here!” 

I thought Mexico City would be a safe getaway from World Cup fever but no such luck. Ingerluuuund had followed me here from London.

It turns out Roma and the neighbouring district of Condesa have become Gringo Central since the pandemic. An army of foreign millennials has moved in to take advantage of long distance out-of-office working and to blight the lives of the Mexicanos in the process.

You now hear more English than Spanish on the street and it’s easier to get a kambucha tea, whatever that is, than a cafe con leche with a mezcal livener.

One long term expat reckons it’ll need either a magnitude-8 quake or a kidnapping of foreigners in the main Zocalo square to shift the bastards.  

Most of the newcomers are from north of the border, although you spot the odd Brit or Aussie. The Mexicans have had trouble with invading Yanks ever since independence from Spain in 1810. I don’t know why they don’t just build a wall.

Having grabbed half the territory of historic Mexico in the 19th century, the Gringos planned to extend their territory all the way to Guatemala before settling on taking over much of the land and economy instead.

“Poor Mexico. So near to the United States, so far from God,” as the 19th century President Porfirio Diaz once lamented.

With the post-pandemic surge, it’s reckoned that there are now up to 1.8m US citizens living in Mexico, escaping the rat race at home while pushing up the local rents.

Many have opted for life in the capital, which is as safe as most US cities and isolated from the drug cartel slaughter that infects much of the provinces.

But the Mexicans are a forgiving lot, which perhaps comes from having so much practice at it. Foreigners were interfering in their lives for most of the 200 years since they dumped the Spanish.

It hasn’t just been the Gringos. In the 1860s, Napoleon III had the bright idea of creating a North American empire and conned a redundant Hapsburg archduke, Maximilian, to serve as Emperor of Mexico.

Max wasn’t a bad guy. He was a bit of a liberal actually, given his background. Trouble was, nobody had thought to tell the Mexicans he was coming.

He set up headquarters at Chapultepec Castle, 10 minutes west of the Dog House, with his equally aristocratic wife Carlota.

Things went bad from the start as Max faced armed revolts from nationalist reformists. He thought of fleeing but decided it wouldn’t look good for the Hapsburg name. The great reformist leader Benito Juarez eventually had him imprisoned and shot despite appeals from all the crowned heads of Europe.

Carlota accused everyone from Napoleon to the Pope for trying to have her poisoned, went mad, and stayed that way until her death in 1927.

Some Mexicans still have a soft spot for Maximilian, who was pursuing his study of butterflies until the day the executioner knocked. One leading Mexican intellectual (or that’s what he told me. It turned out he was a West Ham fan) said the country had suffered worse leaders than the gentle Austrian. 

So the lesson is: you’re welcome in Mexico but don’t get to thinking you’re Emperor material. Enjoy the football. And easy on the kambucha.

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