All that glitters

Yesterday I saw a comment online from a person vacationing in Vallarta, who indicated that it seemed more “poverty stricken” than it appeared in the marketing materials.

It caught my eye because a friend and I had shared a laugh not too long ago about how they do tend to get the “good side” of buildings and attractions around here.

“That’s not what that looks like at all!!”

Ah, marketing. Makes everything shiny.

I remember having similar reactions to some of the things I saw when I moved here. This is not to say it isn’t a charming and picturesque town… it definitely is. But some things are not what we expect if we grew up in the ‘burbs of Anytown, USA. There is a grit to it that can be jarring, particularly if we’re mostly familiar with the brochure.

I’ve come to think that this immediate assessment of poverty is more a cultural thing than anything else. When you’re new here, it’s noticeable how unkempt a lot of things are. And the meaning we derive, our instant translation, is “poverty”. The cultural significance of dirt.

But the casual observer might see poverty where in fact great riches exist.

To an outsider, that door looks splintered and old and in need of a paint job. But the owner of that door actually doesn’t care what you think of their door. Not in the way the folks from Anytown are taught to care anyway. No, the owner of the door cares more about the family inside, they care about what’s behind the door.

Not shiny and impressive on the outside.

Tended to and cared for on the inside.

On their day off, Anytown is busy clipping hedges and mowing lawns and powerwashing front doors, so everyone around them will know that all is A-OK in the Smith household.

On their dia de descanso (day of rest), Vallarta is snuggled on the couch with their family or making breakfast together or going to the beach with friends or just sleeping late.

The idea of how free time should be spent, and where the daily focus should be, is different here. What constitutes a rich life, is different.

Maybe those battered doors are actually a sign of wealth.


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