Welcome to Beautiful Gringo!

I started Beautiful Gringo to document all the wonderful experiences I have had in Mexico over the past few decades, which are usually quite a contrast to how Mexico is depicted by politicians and the media in the US. It is true that Mexico has many of the same problems experienced by other modern nations in terms of economics, politics, population growth, limited resources, human trafficking, illicit drugs and violence. There are thousands of sites seemingly dedicated to documenting these problems, but the purpose of this site is to present an honest and realistic counterpoint to show what Mexico is really like, because it’s really wonderful!

Mexico is an amazing place, whether you appreciate its food, beaches, arts, culture(s), language(s), rich history, or ancient architectural treasures. It’s literally a place like no other! I have traveled from Baja California to Oaxaca, Quintana Roo to Jalisco, through Yucatan, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Querétaro, the state of México, Mexico City, and many places in between. I’ve passed through its cities, mountains, beaches, deserts, and farmlands. Over the course of many visits, I have made friends from all over Mexico, who always welcome me with warmth and kindness.

Yet, inevitably, year after year, we hear about US citizens robbed or attacked in Mexico. Politicians and the media deplore the mistreatment of dollar-bearing tourists, but conveniently ignore the reality that bad behavior often precedes bad experiences. I have witnessed ugly behavior by US tourists in Mexico: drunk spring breakers puking on sidewalks, fist fights, non-Spanish speakers loudly speaking English to Mexican restaurant or hotel workers, perhaps adding “o” after English words as if that somehow makes them Spanish, barely-concealed racism, and other kinds of abusive and demeaning behavior. These kinds of behavior are often painfully tolerated because of the cash US tourists bring with them to Mexico, but it is not appreciated, and eventually there is a backlash. This shouldn’t even come as a surprise.

So I have taken a different approach. For starters, I don’t spend much time in areas frequented by US tourists since the burden of association with their behaviors places me at risk at least as much as do unwise ignorant outbursts by US politicians. Instead, I seek out real experiences with ordinary people in Mexico. My favorite vacation spot is a mostly-Mexican vacation spot on the coast of Oaxaca where hardly anybody speaks English. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but the food is amazing, the people are friendly, and whenever I return I am welcomed and treated as family. It’s always worth the effort! Instead of saying no to and dismissing beach vendors, I strike up conversations with them and buy their products. Instead of haggling over the price, I just pay what they ask. Maybe I do get ripped off now and then, but the payoff in good will for treating people with dignity and respect is priceless. I treat the staff at hotels and restaurants with respect and kindness, neither being demanding nor failing to tip. I also strike up conversations with other vacationers, ask about their lives, their families, their passions and their interests. Often I get invited to join new friends for day trips to nearby spots I would have otherwise missed. And it might surprise you to find out that you don’t even have to speak great Spanish to have a great time in Mexico, but you should try, and you should do so respectfully. Mexican people are generally very polite and will more than meet you half way if you simply demonstrate some effort.

I enjoyed such rich experiences during my travels that I moved to Mexico in 2018, settling in Querétaro, where I teach English to Mexican professionals and travelers. This is the direct result of appeals by friends who begged me to teach them English. It was obvious to me that these friends would benefit tremendously learning just enough English to communicate better with tourists. Teaching English helped me qualify for a resident visa, so I am here legally working and contributing to the success of Mexico and its people. I have a wonderful life, rich in cultural experiences, enjoy working with my students, and learn something new almost every day.

In naming the site, I remembered a book I read in grade school, The Ugly American, by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. It is a cautionary tale written during the Cold War about the failures of US diplomacy as a result of oversimplification of the issues faced by Southeast Asian nations through the lens of the struggle between western democracy and Soviet communism. The Ugly American criticized the prevailing US diplomatic points of view toward language, culture, and assimilation (into Western culture) in Southeast Asia. It so impressed President John F. Kennedy that he sent copies of the book to each US Senator, and has had a long-lasting impact on US diplomacy.

So I dedicate this site to countering negative depictions of Mexico by politicians and the media, overcoming negative perceptions and mistrust, bridging cultural differences, and simply being a beautiful gringo instead of an ugly American. I truly believe that if you come to Mexico looking for trouble, you’ll surely find it. But if you come here with a smile and a gracious heart, you will having amazing experiences you’ll remember fondly for the rest of your life. Bienvenidos!

Kenny Landes

Living la buena vida these days in beautiful México, where I teach English to Mexican professionals and travelers. In my free time, I enjoy visiting ancient archeological sites, encountering in its rich and vibrant cultures, indulging on nutritious local cuisines, and visiting its many beautiful beaches, especially in Oaxaca! Ready to have some fun now? ¡Vámonos!