So the Gringo decides he wants to move to a Latin American country. He gets so excited and is willing to walk away from his relative comforts in the US. ( I am not going to include the Canadians, British or any Europeans in this article, as I do not consider them to be gringos, nor do they complain nearly as much) Anywho, the excitement that one feels about leaving home can often cloud the realities of what they might be walking into. Which, for me was pure paradise! The only complaints I had was (at first) that it didn’t seem like any women wanted me because I was black with locs….Again I revert back to “Mejorar La Raza“- that ridiculously foolish theory that irritated me so. Besides that, I honestly didn’t see much difference with the Panamanian way of life from the African American way, which is pretty much all I was surrounded with until my journey to Panama. The real gringos did not share in my complaint, with one lowering of the sunglasses he could expose his highly sought after-luscious blue eyes to the local population of women of color, and more than not they went crazy for it. I had to worry about my my hair and skin color as a deterrent for finding work, it took me so long to find a job because of that. Most gringos didn’t have to worry about that, it seemed like regardless of skill or ability white men would be hired, as it gives your company a certain air of officiality. This might not be the case-but its how I saw it. While the gringo has the most upward mobility and easy access to the best women, real estate, and employment there are still things that he finds to complain about.
One of the biggest complaints that the Gringo has is something called “Gringo Pricing“….I think it is a real thing. I have never experienced it, even when I didn’t speak the language, but many white Americans and Canadians would tell me that prices were risen when it came to them, and I accept that as their honest to God truth. Another complaint is that the danger of getting robbed. I cannot take away from the dangers of a potential robbery, even though my year of living in one of the worst neighborhoods in Panama City it never happened to me. It is a real threat and happens all the time. One of the complaints that I just got so sick of hearing day in and day out is that of the poor customer service. Everyone at my job would talk about it, everyone in any high “gringo” area would talk about it, while I did experience it-I also spent enough time around REAL Panamanian people to understand why! And this post doesnt just apply to Panama, I mean I lived there so I have more reference. But I hear the same complaints in Costa Rica, Colombia many Latin American countries that have high gringo traffic.
The Haves in Panama…usually were not Panamanian. I came in direct contact with these people because I worked at an international english center. Most of them were living the life out there, they were either from US , Canada, Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, France, Brazil. They were the people that left their countries to form corporations or work in managerial positions. There were also many Panamanians that were working these positions and trying to learn english, but none, and I mean None of the Panamanians that had jobs in comfortable positions were working for national Panamanian corporations. See Here
The Have-nots The majority of the people in Panama working as unskilled laborers in National companies such as Pio Pio Titan Rodelaq Do It Center, these people are making next to pennies the minimum wage in Panama is $252.00 every month, when you couple that with the amount of people that have children its never enough to go around. It almost becomes a new modern form of debt slavery, just for the people to stay a float. Here is the the list of Salaries in Costa Rica, that way I cover two of the countries that I am most familiar with, and have a larger amount of American expats there.
It goes even beyond the low salaries in these countries, but in Panama specifically (when I was there in 2011-2012) the traffic was horrrrrennndous, I mean lots of times we just sat there in the heat not moving for hours.
Think of a single mother working long hours at a local hardware store, we will pick on the popular “Do it center” which is like a Home Depot of sorts here in Panama. She only earns about 400 dollars a month. Lets call her (Local A). Of course she has bills and bus fare to get to work, she has to buy clothes and food to feed her children, of whom she will rarely ever see because she has to wake up at about 5 in the morning to beat the traffic to get to work on time, then she leaves work at about 6. Because of that same crazy traffic coming home, she will not reach until about 7 or eight. That is a whole day that passes by without mother/child contact. Instead many times those children are being raised by a grandmother that is tired from already raising a generation of children, and may not put the same attention to this new group. This may lead to finding that love on the street which introduces gang activity into the argument, a whole other stress on the mother-but that is another post completely. What does this have to do with anything? I am merely trying to paint a picture of the everyday lives in these countries. A picture I know well, because these are the people that I lived with and associated with. Now that you can see from the average day to day perspective of (in this case) a Panamanian unskilled worker, lets enter the gringo.
The Gringo (Gringo B) sticks his chest out with American pride when he walks around in these countries. He owns the world and he knows it, he is untouchable and he wants things his way! He wants you to jump when he says jump! He wants you to do everything at his pace. He wants you to change your ways to suit him, and even though he places all these demands on you, he is expected to be accepted in your community as a normal member of society. He expects to see smiles and cheerfulness when he comes around or else he feels uncomfortable, and cannot for the life of him understand why anything less is acceptable. Now Gringo B meets Local A!!! He walks into the local Do it Center. He is looking for appliances, and is in a hurry. He is annoyed first that he is made to wait. His second wave of irritation comes when he realizes that Local A doesn’t speak any english (How could she!!!!!). Now he is forced to use the level one spanish that he has acquired during his 6 year stay in this beautiful latin nation lol. He then gets irritated with her because she doesnt get him what he wants, and is less than pleasant with him. He is furious, lol he wants to know who to complain to, and write letters to get that person removed.
In the eyes of Local B, she is passing time at the job trying to provide the little she can for her family in a land where it is becoming increasingly harder for her to stay afloat. It used to be that you could make a living. But an influx of gringos has risen the prices on most goods, and of course the salary does not rise with the inflation, and the locals begin to drown. This is particularly true in the country of Costa Rica, where gringos have made it impossible for the average Costa Rican to escape the vicious cycle of poverty. She may not be educated (Local B) but she is not stupid, she knows why everything is so expensive. She sees this person in front of her as one more challenge in her day, she wants to be home so that she can rear her family, she cracks a smile from time to time, to seem enthusiastic but it is never enough for the gringo. Now I must also say, this isn’t a generalization post. Not every gringo is this way by far! there were many hippy types that roughed it a hell of a lot more than I did. And definitely not all Locals in these latin countries display bad customer service practices to gringo customers, its probably only a minority that do. Of course I rarely got that, because I always emitted a glow of cultural understanding, I dived into the music and the history, and always had convos about those things. Because of that, I was accepted differently and treated not as an American, but more like a fun science project. I got smiles where many gringos got frowned upon.
The moral of the story is SHUT UP! if you don’t like the treatment leave the country. Or try to figure out what this is stemming from and learn, and maybe try to adjust YOUR behavior. Because contrary to what you may think…you don’t have the world in the palm of your hand, sorry if I may have offended anyone, but I must speak the truth. For now, I bid you adieu.